July 1997, I went to the Gorge, in George, with my girl tribe, to see this historical musical event. An amazing show, with many other new singer/song writers, on other venue stages, some who would rise through the musical ranks over the next two decades.
Before Lilith Fair began, the most well-known female-driven music festival had been the Michigan Womyn’s Festival, a radical-feminist gathering. So Lilith’s 35-city tour, featuring Sarah McLachlan, Sheryl Crow, Tracey Chapman, Jewel, and more than 60 other female acts, was unprecedented. At the first show in George, Washington, Lilith drew 27,500 fans (most of them women), a few vocal critics, and an SNL parody featuring a character named Cinder Calhoun singing a song called “Sausage of Pain.”
And this is how the show began:
“JUST A SECOND, just a second now,” said Canadian performer Kinnie Starr as she abruptly swung her electric guitar down and stepped off the tiny Borders stage on the opening day of the Lilith Fair. “I know what I’ll do instead of play a song.
Does anyone here know who Lilith was?”
A pubescent girl with short blond hair trotted up to the mike and recited the feminist catechism: “Lilith was Adam’s first wife… I think.” The audience chuckled and Starr encouraged the speaker on. “She refused to be below him, in both ways,” the girl said with a knowing grin, “mentally and physically. So she got kicked out of Eden.”
A few months earlier, I saw Sarah McLachlan and Paula Cole at a theater downtown. She mentioned how hard it was to put the tour together, given promoters didn’t think it would be profitable with two women headliners only. She did it anyway! And it was much more than profitable. When listening to today’s music, it is very clear they rule the airwaves, giving credit to those who paved the way. However, male promoters still rule the circuits….one promoter, Sharon Osborne, would like to see this re-imagined and put a challenge out for some “big name performer” to take the helm, again, and make it happen. At today’s Coachella festival, female headliner acts are lacking.
Getting back to “Lilith”, the time is ripe for her to re-emerge.
What do you know of her?
Did you attend any of the concerts twenty years ago? What are your memories?
I’ve included a brief glimpse of how it came about twenty years ago, this summer, with the performers and other trivia you may find interesting. Below is a link with interviews of some of the original troupe, including its founder Sarah McLachlan.
JULY 5, 2017
Imagine many of the country’s most influential women all gathered together to stand up for gender equality on a national stage. There are stars performing before a massive crowd, Planned Parenthood booths (along with protesters), and reporters from news outlets analyzing what this event says about the state of women’s rights. Sounds like a scene from the Women’s March on Washington—but it actually occurred 20 years ago this summer with the debut of Lilith Fair, a music festival designed to give women the same lucrative touring gigs as men. Cofounded by singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan, this multicity tour broke new ground, from the all-female talent lineup that promoters said would never work, to the controversies it ignited in the media about race and feminism. Here McLachlan and some of her fellow Lilith performers talk candidly about a cultural movement lauded by fans for its feminist ideals and lambasted by critics for its lack of diversity. And a new generation of performers reflect on the legacy of Lilith Fair and why their own fight for equality in the music industry continues.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lilith_Fair, for full line-up
In 1996, Canadian Sarah McLachlan became frustrated with concert promoters and radio stations that refused to feature two female musicians in a row. Bucking conventional industry wisdom, she booked a successful tour for herself and Paula Cole. At least one of their appearances together — in McLachlan’s home town, on September 14, 1996 — went by the name “Lilith Fair” and included performances by McLachlan, Cole, Lisa Loeb and Michelle McAdorey, formerly of Crash Vegas.
Main stage artists
- Sarah McLachlan
- Sheryl Crow
- Tracy Chapman
- Paula Cole
- Suzanne Vega,
- Mary Chapin Carpenter
- Fiona Apple
- Joan Osborne
- The Cardigans
- Emmylou Harris
- Lisa Loeb
- Indigo Girls
- Shawn Colvin
- Meredith Brooks
- Tracy Bonham
- India Arie
- Natalie Merchant