Lilith Fair comes to the Washington, D.C., area on Tuesday as the tour finishes its revival after an 11-year hiatus featuring artists from previous years as well as some fresh faces.
Lilith Fair started in 1997, led by Sarah McLachlan because she’d become frustrated with concert promoters and radio stations that refused to feature two female musicians together. In its first year, Lilith Fair earned $16 million, making it the top-grossing touring festival at the time.
“The first time around, we had a great time,” said Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls in an interview with the Blade this week. “It’s always fun to do stuff on Lilith with a bunch of different artists.”
The Indigo Girls, who have been a part of Lilith on each tour, return to the tour for the last three dates. They were on the lineup for more, including a stop in Atlanta, but many dates were canceled.
“I don’t want to gush too much, but for us it’s like summer camp,” Ray said. “We get to go hear a bunch of music we’ve never heard and party with people we love and have a great audience. You just can’t go wrong.”
While touring with Lilith Fair, the Indigo Girls have met and collaborated with many different artists, especially while performing “Closer to Fine,” which Ray said often draws other artists to the stage to sing with them.
“Meeting Chrissy Hines was a really big deal, I was a huge Pretenders fan,” said Ray of one of her favorite Lilith moments.
Other returning acts include Sheryl Crow and Suzanne Vega. The members of Courtyard Hounds have also been a part of Lilith previously as members of the Dixie Chicks. Some of the newer faces on tour this year include Selena Gomez, Colbie Caillat and Janelle Monáe.
“My favorite thing is to see people that I’ve just never really heard of,” said Ray. “I go watch them and get to hear new music.”
Coming off the release of a live two-CD set, “Staring Down the Brilliant Dream,” the girls are excited to perform again according to Ray.
“Staring Down the Brilliant Dream” is a compilation of live recordings from shows spanning from 2006 to 2009, hand picked by the Indigo Girls with the help of Brian Speiser.
“We didn’t start out thinking, ‘hey, we need to put these specific songs on the record,’” said Ray. “We just said, let’s listen to everything we have and see what sounds good.”
The set has 31 tracks including “The Wood Song,” “Got Out the Map,” a cover of “Wild Horses,” and probably the best known Indigo Girls’ song, “Closer to Fine.”
“We tried to make it a balance between me and Emily’s songs,” said Ray about the final song choices, “and a balance of playing with the band and playing acoustically.”
There is even one song, “Ozilline,” that was recorded in D.C., at Wolf Trap with Brandi Carlile.
“Wolf Trap’s one of our favorite places to play historically,” said Ray. “So it was good to be able to get something from that.”
There are a few songs Ray would have liked to include on the album, but they just did not have a good live recording.
“One song that I really wanted to get a good recording of was ‘Fleet of Hope,’ a song by Emily,” said Ray.
The song is on their most recent studio album, “Poseidon and the Bitter Bug,” which was released in 2009.
“Our newest record, we haven’t toured it for as long, obviously, as the other stuff,” Ray said. “We didn’t have as many recordings of it.”
The Indigo Girls have another studio album coming out soon — a holiday record.
“There are a few original songs on it and the rest of them are different holiday songs. There’s a Hanukkah song, Christmas songs, and some, just kind of, secular, winter songs,” said Ray.
The record was recorded back in May in Nashville with a bluegrass band, giving it more of a country feel.
“It’s got that totally down home acoustic vibe,” said Ray.
The Indigo Girls are currently writing songs while on tour for another album.