Looking back At Lilith

By Carol Anne Szel

With a real heart and lots of soul, the women of Lilith overcame the economic woes that took down most summer tours this year, and hit 23 cities with over 90 artists participating in what is billed as “The Celebration of Women in Music.”

In keeping with its tradition of touring for a cause, dating back to the first Lilith Fair in 1997 — which ran for two tours to in ’98 and ’99 — they raised more than a half-million dollars this summer 2010 tour, which was donated to local and national organizations throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Business and numbers put to the side, Lilith Fair is about fun.  A gathering of people to enjoy a day of good music.  Walking through the parking lot felt like a true festive setting, mellow and fun as lawn chairs lined the cars in empty parking spots, coolers, food, smiles.  Entering the gates to the actual ticketed grounds on this sunny day were vendors and music from the two side-stages set up, rotating acts throughout the afternoon. Next to the ABC music stage was the open air Lilipad Village, a wonderful touch to the Fair with informational tents that, honest to say, were definitely geared towards women, a book store, and tons and tons of giveaways. This was truly a place to let go of the confines of a usual day long festival of music, it was an interactive gathering of empowering and enlightening experiences.

Just before the main stage started going at 5, the ladies of Lilith were brought into the VIP Media tent to mingle and answer questions. Taking the name Lilith from the medieval Jewish legend that it was the name of Adam’s first wife, Sarah McLachlan was first to respond to the question of more Lilith Fairs to come.  “Yes, there will be two more years,” she answered smiling.  Co-founding the tour in ’97 along with Terry McBride, Marty Diamond, and Dan Fraser, McLachlan turned her wrist up and grinned “It’s about having fun.  It’s all about having fun.  I’m going to get it tattooed right here.”

And with original Lilith artists making the rounds on one of the stops along the way this summer were names like Sheryl Crow, Indigo Girls, Erykah Badu and Emmylou Harris, some notables to take the stage this time around were Mary J. Blige, Heart, Colbie Caillat and Miranda Lambert, and more.

As is the dilemma facing many working mothers in these times, female musicians are no exception.  Taking a couple of years off from the music industry as a whole, Sarah McLachlan talks about her situation as she tells, “I had two kids which takes up a whole lot of time and I had the luxurious opportunity to just slow down and be a mom.  Kept my toe in the music water, I did a Greatest Hits and a Christmas record, but I really just took a few years to just watch my girls grow up.”

And with her latest album, “Laws of Illusion” just out,  McLachlan explains, “I’m doing an Australian tour in October and some North American dates in November, December.  And maybe some more North American dates in the spring too. They sort of keep coming.”

She continues, “It’s tricky because I’ve got two kids, and one is in school.  So we’re trying to figure out how to navigate whether or not I take her to school or try to do it around vacation and holidays.  It doesn’t always pan out as perfectly as you like.  And I hate being away from them.  But so far so good. “

This day, the main stage lineup was stellar.  In addition to McLachlan and Indigo’s, we had Suzanne Vega, Serena Ryder, Jill Hennessy, Daniella Cotton, Beth Orton, and Sara Barielles.  The surprise performance of the evening, hands down, had to be Barielles, who took possession of the stage and the crowd with her innocent yet arresting presence and vocal prowess.  She was fresh, played piano and guitar, and in addition to her own work, covered a fun version of Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It).” This is definitely one artist to watch out for with a very promising future.

In the spirit of the changing role of women in society, speaking out, and ever evolving over these last decades, Indigo Girls’ Amy Ray points out, “I only feel like we were part of a group of people who went before us and were the pioneers.”  She goes on to explain, “The Roaches, namely. Joan Baez, we toured with her a lot. And I think that Emily (Sailers) and I, we just started when we were 16 and just sort of went through the ranks of different things you do. We didn’t really know as we were going to politicized all the time.  We just got educated as we went. There are always people before you making the path. And there are people that are coming after you that are teaching you too.  So even with Sarah, there are people coming up right after us that we feel like we are reading in interviews and we are learning what they are saying.”

As for the importance of this festival of women, Amy shares, “That is why Lilith is so great as well.  Because this is a place where we are meeting a lot of our peers that we do not know.  We can say, well what did you do about this? What do you think about this?  And it’s not always about being a woman. But it’s just about the idea of empowering yourself. And be in the industry that’s more educated, and free.”

Chiming in, singer Jill Hennessy agrees. “I was just thinking you know about the people that come before and the people that come after.  Women in music and how we all learn from each other, which is a really amazing thing. What I’ve learned is we wouldn’t know who we are or what we’re doing if we didn’t have other people to mirror ourselves. And we became really amazing mirrors for each other. So this is such a joy,” she affirms about Lilith Fair.  “This is really special, because it’s just a joyous vibe here with people supporting each other.  It’s really inspiring and it’s given me a lot of confidence too.”

But the fair is about the music.  Aside from the aforementioned Barielles, the Indigo Girl were a very pleasant surprise.  Without a deep familiarity of their music,  the Indigo Girls proved to have an amazing stage presence, and got the crowd on their feet singing with their enthusiasm and clear, crisp vocals along with great guitar playing and musicality.

The star of the evening, was obviously and most definitely Sarah McLachlan.  With lights out, the energy of the audience filled the beautiful night air, as Sarah appeared on stage and simply slid onto her seat in front of a stunning grand piano.  What was the seemingly fit anticipated song for later in the set,  she sang the first words of her hit “Angel,” which brought a sense of revelry in the silent and riveted audience.

Ending with all musicians on stage sharing vocals on the Springsteen classic “Because The Night,” the cheering crowd seemed enthused, recharged, and happy with a wonderful day of the party of female musicians.

As Lilith is looked back on now as a true celebration of women coming together in a sharing of music, an example of harmony, pardon the pun, in a music industry that now more than ever focuses on an often make-or-break situation a competition of numbers equaling success.

Veteran rocker Suzanne Vega puts it best, “There have been so many women musicians that people never knew about. Never known about or signed because people didn’t notice them or they felt perhaps, and I’m not saying what they said was wrong, I’m just saying that there have been a lot of female musicians that have been forgotten over the years.”  Summing the adventure best, Vega concludes,  “I think there’s this very rich thing with women who have been making music since there has been music.  So I think we’re here with Lilith to celebrate that.”

©All Photos By Carol Anne Szel – Rights Reserved


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One thought on “Looking back At Lilith

  1. beautifully written review for a festival that was enjoyable and fun, despite the loss of Carly Simon

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