Wednesday, April 1, 2009

In Defense of Chicks With Guitars

The last couple of years I’ve become a big fan of the “chicks with guitars” genre of music; it could also probably be classified as indie or folk rock. This type of music is a key component of the lesbian culture. Artists like Indigo Girls, Brandi Carlile, Melissa Etheridge, Tracy Chapman, Ani Difranco, and Tegan and Sara are just some of the names in this genre. Walking into one of these artists’ concerts, it would be evident right away that this music is part of the lesbian counter culture.

Last year I went to an Indigo Girls and Brandie Carlile concert in Austin. It was full of girls wearing American Eagle boy’s shorts and t-shirts, some with backwards or tilted hats and tennis shoes holding their girlfriends’ hand. Anyone just walking in to watch some live music that night would have been thoroughly confused and misplaced. This music serves an important purpose of making a common thread and meeting place of members of this counter culture. Someone who is questioning their sexual orientation who in other times in history may have been unable to connect with the lesbian community could now easily find a concert in their community to get connected with others and figure out their feelings. The lyrics obviously talk about lesbian relationships; it’s exciting to hear songs that actually relate to your own life and relationships. Asking someone about certain artists is almost like a code to ask if she’s gay. When you ask someone, “do you listen to Ani?”, it’s like asking are you familiar with the lesbian counter-culture because someone listening to this type of music is necessarily exposed to it.

These songs normally have political messages that are in line with the general liberal attitude of the lesbian community, including the environment, LGBT issues, and general human rights issues. Indigo Girls even have an activism tab on their webpage. This music is more of an art form/activist tool than just a flippant form of entertainment. Songs range from political critiques to anecdotal retellings of relationships. Ani Difranco is famous for her unique, highly-opinionated lyrics and style. In her song Fuel, her nonconformist style is evident: “except all the radios agree with all the TVs, and all the magazines agree with all the radios, and I keep hearing that same damn song everywhere I go…” This music sends a message and unites a group of people.
Obviously, the overlooked genre of music of indie rock is so much more than just a little known form of music. It is the background to the lesbian counter-culture.


  1. This is actually one of my favorite sub-genres. While I don't connect with some of the content, I almost always enjoy the vocals.

    That said, there are a lot of artists that create a sort of countercultural cult around them. Do you think that the Indigo Girls or someone else will ever create a following outside of the lesbian culture in a similar way to Morrissey's following in the Latino community?

    Who is that photo of?

  2. I don't really see anyone in the chicks with guitars genre creating a big following outside of the lesbian community; maybe some different types of people here and there, but not a large following because people are afraid of what's different. So, they stay away from groups and their interests that they don't fit into.

    The picture is of Brandi Carlile.

  3. So I have heard of some of theses artists, I even have a couple songs from some of them. And here is the most interesting reason why, these artists were used in the tv show, Grey's Anatomy. I really enjoy listening to music that is used within a show to learn what the song is really about and these are some of the artists I have happened upon while searching through show music. I was not aware of their orientation actually at all, and learning about it is really awesome.