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Volume 91, Issue 10
Friday, September 12, 1997
God said "Let there be rock"
all photos by Carey Weinberg/The Gazette
Clockwise from top: Roberta Carta Harrison of the Wild Strawberries, Jewel, Meredith Brooks, Indigo Girls.
By Lisa Weaver and Carey Weinberg
Music promoters have finally discovered a way to gain large-scale exposure and profit for their artists: package the performers into a touring festival, complete with a catchy logo, tour merchandise, corporate sponsorship and "alternative" things that kids love tattooing, body piercing and x-treme sports. The summer of '97 saw this familiar framework put to what some consider good use a touring festival featuring good music performed by women.
Sarah McLachlan was the brainchild of the event, dubbed "Lilith Fair," named after the famed mythical woman who refused to serve under Adam both psychologically and physically.
The fair has received a lot of media attention because of its all-female lineup. Although it was intentionally formed that way, McLachlan has expressed disappointment in the coverage of the event which almost always stressed the gender of the performers and not their talent.
The lineup was not completely female, as some of the bands, such as the Wild Strawberries, included men. The revolving schedule of acts allowed more performers to be included in the festival, as McLachlan received over 700 submissions from established and unsigned performers for the second stage. Performers for the only Ontario date in Toronto included the Indigo Girls, Jewel, Shawn Colvin, Meredith Brooks, Lhasa, the Wild Strawberries and Dayna Manning.
McLachlan's fair also supported women in the social sphere, as money was donated from each ticket to various charities, such as women's shelters and planned parenthood groups.
When asked about the plans for the future of Lilith Fair, McLachlan states she has no intention of changing the all-female structure. "Don't fix it when it's not broken," she laughed. She does intend for the meantime, however, to make the event an annual occurrence, adding more Canadian dates and some in Europe and Australia in the future.
Hopefully next year Lilith Fair will gain the positive media attention it should have drawn in the first place, which Sarah McLachlan wished it would. "I look forward to the time when we're just called musicians," she smiles, "not female musicians."
Unfortunately, modern female performers are going through a tough phase where gender scrutiny will supersede their musicianship for awhile. Pioneer women rockers like Chrissie Hynde and Patti Smith were anomalies in the industry and although they may have paved the way, there is still a whole mess of roadwork to be done.
Now, with a group of about 10 mega-females in the rock world, all the new lady artists ultimately get compared to this narrow base of influences. How many times can we hear the criticism "She sounds too much like Alanis" before we lose our lunch.
There will come a time when the rock world will be proliferated with women to the point where gender will not be a matter of consequence. In the meantime, comparisons to Sarah McLachlan or No Doubt will have to be tolerated a little while longer for upcoming female performers.
THE SHOW: Rain, rain, did not go away. Regrettably, the side stages had to be merged with the main stage, which took some of the fair atmosphere away. Under ordinary circumstances this would be acceptable, but (and this is a big but) due to the outrageous cost of concerts our hearts go out to the performers and fans, but our fists go up to the people raking in the bucks 'rain or shine.' The Fair could easily be referred to as Lilith Fast, since it cost $9 for a drink and a medium bag of popcorn. Pawning merchandise to eat did not seem like a worthwhile venture.
The show must and did go on, beginning with baby-on-tour Dayna Manning, who sang her folk brand of music with a powerful voice and a healthy amount of modesty. Her voice and braces-filled smile gleamed through her shyness and the rain.
Meridith Brooks, one of the prime candidates for the 'she sounds like Alanis' complaint of the year, played with high energy and big presence to a receptive crowd.
Audience members at this show differed from most in that they did not seem to be dressing to impress. There was a slight hint of mary jane in the air and people looked like they were in their cottage clothing. Also, there were no mosh pits.
The Indigo Girls played a couple of their big songs and their own brand of sweet harmony which got the crowd singing along. Sarah McLachlan joined in for a song which garnered tremendous applause.
Jewel sang her soft, successful songs (which are apparently starting to go to her head) which was good, but a tad monotonous and boring.
Without any doubt, McLachlan was the highlight of the night. She just looked so confident that she beamed. And yet with all her confidence and radiance she still remains humble which is such a delicious change from most burgeoning rock Gods.
Make no bones about it, Sarah McLachlan is a rock God(ess). Her most recent album debuted at number one in Canada and number two in the U.S.. To listen to 16,000 people sing a full verse and chorus of "Ice Cream" is a testament to her status in the divine musical hierarchy. A hierarchy of musicians not female musicians.
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Copyright © The Gazette 1997