Amy Ray, the Organ | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Amy Ray, the Organ 

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If you say somebody's new album is way more gay than the last one, it's hardly ever a compliment. But Indigo Girl AMY RAY has dedicated her second solo disc, Prom (Daemon), entirely to questions of queer identity--and this record isn't just gay, it's fiercely, fantastically gay. It's about the drama and tumult of high school and coming out, and its narratives are set in rural and suburban Georgia, deep in the Bible Belt, at about the time Ray first fell in love with another woman. Over punked-up bar-band riffs and sweet-toned, melodic fuzz blasts that recall the Breeders, she sings in fearless first person about her life and her friends' lives, sometimes speaking as a teenager and sometimes as her 41-year-old self, looking back with all the compassion and love she's learned. "Rural Faggot" is a warmhearted anthem for some of her young neighbors in Georgia, who use homophobia to mask their confusion: "By this time next year / You'll know you're queer / It'll all be OK / It'll all be clear / You'll run away from home / But not to be alone." On her previous solo outing, Stag, Ray got help from the Butchies, but for Prom she's backed by both the Birmingham garage band Nineteen Forty-Five and a cast of dyke-punk icons, including guitarist Donna Dresch and bassist Jody Bleyle (from Team Dresch) and drummer Kate Schellenbach (from Luscious Jackson). For this show Ray will be backed by Bleyle, drummer Will Lochamy of Nineteen Forty-Five, and Les Nuby of Verbena on guitar.

Lots of people seem to have decided that THE ORGAN is all about the 80s: this dude-free quintet from Vancouver has attracted an unceasing stream of Smiths and New Order comparisons since releasing its debut full-length, Grab That Gun (Mint), late last year. (The band's current release is a seven-inch on Go Metric with one new song, "Let the Bells Ring.") Ashley Webber's nimble bass lines do sound a little like Peter Hook's, and guitarist Deborah Cohen is big into the popular death-disco combo of delay pedal and minimalist skronking--but unlike more fashionable revivalists (Radio 4, Interpol, the Killers), the Organ doesn't just jumble cynically deployed signifiers (skinny ties, art-school polemics, pre-Prozac journal entries, guys in eyeliner). These ladies actually have solid songs and a mature, democratic sound, with no one element carrying the show--and no one nostalgic reference can sum up what they do.

Ray headlines, the Reputation plays fourth, and the Organ plays third; the Reptoids and 8 Inch Betsy open. This show is part of Estrojam; for a complete schedule see page 22. Thu 9/22, 6 PM, Bottom Lounge, 3206 N. Wilton, 773-975-0505 or 866-468-3401, $14, 18+.

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