Fans of the Indigo Girls have but a few days wait to catch a live performance from the band at Deer Lake Park.
The American folk-rock duo of Amy Ray and Emily Saliers will headline the Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival on Saturday, Aug. 11, to a crowd of about 5,000.
Since they started playing guitar and singing together in high school three decades ago, Ray and Saliers have blended their voices on stage and in studio to each build a solid career in the music industry.
Together, they have released 15 full albums, including the latest, Beauty Queen Sister, which they're promoting this year with a North American tour.
Playing with a full symphony at some stops is a new experience for the Girls, said Ray, but after so many years of playing together, it's a good way to raise the bar.
"I think it's good to scare yourself a little bit all the time," Ray said. "And have to rise to the occasion and work at something, because when you do it for such a long time, I guess you just want to have things kind of shake you up, you know?"
Though it won't be a full symphony on stage with them at the Blues Fest, the Indigo Girls will have as their backup band The Shadowboxers, which Ray calls "a crosspollination of rock and soul."
To keep their music fresh and their working relationship running smoothly, Ray says performing with new acts is helpful, but it's been even more important for both she and Saliers to simply keep challenging each other and maintain a high level of respect for each other.
Throughout their college years, they kept coming back to performing together as the Indigo Girls, and after finishing college, they had to decide whether or not to make music their main thing.
For Ray, it was not a difficult decision.
"It wasn't because it was money or whether it was realistic or practical, it was just like, this is the best thing in the world, and I want to keep doing it, kind of feeling," she said.
Having a deep passion for music is what allows a musician to create a successful career, rather than become a one-hit wonder, she noted.
"You can be super gifted and super strategic and be like, 'I'm going to make it as a pop star,' and maybe you'll succeed. But I think the thing that keeps you there is a long haul, and to really be a lifer and to always do it, it's something about passion, even for people like Justin Bieber. Either he's going to be a child singer and go do something else later, or he'll have a passion for it and this will be all he does. It's about your passion for it and about whether you get better or not."
Even though she knew music was her true calling, Ray went to college to study English and religion after high school, and planned on becoming a teacher if her music career didn't take off.
If she hadn't discovered her passion for music, she says she'd probably be teaching or working with youth in some capacity. "I loved my teachers, and I feel that teaching is just such a service to the world," she said. "So I'd want to be doing something that is truly doing something to help people."
Her connection to her community is still a big part of her life.
When she's not on stage or in the studio, Ray spends a lot of time at her home in rural Georgia, where she lives with her partner and their cats and dogs. The language of her lyrics, she says, is influenced by the culture of the place she comes from; the people and the lifestyle of the South.
Growing up in a conservative town in a conservative family, she said, was an experience that has deeply influenced her music and her understanding of humanity.
"I like to be around people that come from a different perspective than me," she said. "I just really like that dialogue, and that challenge and that difference of opinion, and having to work things out, not looking at political polarization as a stumbling block but something to learn from, instead of it being this thing where I feel so down because everyone hates me because I'm gay, or something like that. Instead, I want to work for change in the community."
For Ray, Canada and the Vancouver atmosphere, especially, offer an appreciated change of scenery.
"I love Vancouver, and I love the way people think in Vancouver. I get my fuel to carry on from cities like that," she said.
It has been about four years since the Indigo Girls have played in the Lower Mainland, and Ray says she is looking forward to the show here.
The Indigo Girls will play a mix of new music and old classics, and, of course, the '89 hit Closer to Fine.
"We always play that, 'cause it's so fun and everybody sings along and it's different every time," she said.
Before the Indigo Girls take the stage, festival-goers will also hear blues guitarist Jimmie Vaughn, older brother of the late Stevie Ray Vaughn; Mamadu and Mariam, a duo from Mali; American blues/jazz artist Kelly Joe Phelps; singer/songwriter, rapper and bassist Meshell Ndegeocello; as well as Canadian bands The Deep Dark Woods, the Washboard Union and No Sinner.
Gates open at 12: 30 p.m. and the show starts at 2 p.m. The west gate closes at 6 p.m. and the main gate closes at 9 p.m.
Parking near Deer Lake Park is limited during the festival, therefore organizers encourage ticket holders to use alternative modes of transportation such as taxis, carpools, bicycles and public transit. There are bike racks on site, and there is a free shuttle bus service available from the BCIT campus (pay-parking in effect).
Organizers also encourage anyone interested in purchasing tickets to review the guidelines on the festival website: www.burnabybluesfestival.com.
The Burnaby Blues and Roots Festival is produced by the City of Burnaby and the Shadbolt Centre for the Arts.
Advance single tickets are $70, and a pack of four is $200. On the day of the festival, single tickets will be available for $75. Children aged 12-and-under get in free with an adult.
For more information and tickets, call the box office at 604-205-3000, or visit www.burnabybluesfestival.com.