Sarah Has Cause To Celebrate
by Denise Keeley
Lilith Fair, Sarah McLachlan's humble notion of getting myriad accomplished female musicians together for a series of shows, is a celebration of women, not an exclusion of men. McLachlan says, through a sigh, how those involved have "had to continually go back to that over and over and over again, and defend ourselves."
More maddening than having to repeatedly defend Lilith's premise are pieces of writing that distort McLachlan's well-intentioned concept into unrecognizable melodrama. "I'm actually pissed off at the TIME magazine piece. Its's fucking, bull-shit sensationalistic journalism that has nothing to do with what were trying to say": the headline reads "The Gals Takeover." McLachlan continues, "It's corny, it's sensationalistic, it's marginalizing. It's frustrating when you try so hard to make a point and then to have the media go "Oh ya ya ya" and then just print their bullshit sensationalistic headlines cause that makes good copy."
When McLachlan decided to make Lilith fair a reality, she "talked to (her) managers about it and they were really excited." Lilith symbolically represents the biblical character, Adam's first wife, who was essentially "the world's first feminist," says McLachlan. "She was made of the same stuff as Adam was, or so the story goes. He wanted to dominate her and she said, "No, I'm sorry. We were created equally and I should expect you to treat me as such.' He said, 'Not a chance, I'm better then you.' Lilith replied with, "I'm sorry, see you later' and left him. Adam whined and tried to get her back but she wouldn't go back. So, I guess had to make the subservient Eve." How strange most people associate Adam with Eve, and not Lilith. Sarah explains the oddity with "Well, that because Eve is such an easy scapegoat for all the blame of everything that's ever gone wrong in our world, no one talks about Lilith."
Since July 5th, Lilith Fair's travelling band-wagon has traversed most of the United States, from Seattle to Houston and up through Detroit. McLachlan, who headlines the tour, speaks to me from Motor City. So far, she earnestly admits the shows have been "fantastic". The entire festival amounts to 7 weeks, including 37 shows in 35 cities. McLachlan is "having a really good time being back on the road. After the exhausting two-and-a-half year Fumbling Towards Ecstasy tour, she does "not plan to do that again." Sarah will tour with Surfacing, her most recent and most autobiographical album to date-when Lilith's itinerary concludes. "I'll go nine months and see if I can handle any more than that."
Sarah momentarily breaks from our interview to join the production office chatter, where there is a mention of cappuchino. I hear, "Oh, would you make me one?" And then, "Never mind. Thank you though. I shouldn't be having it anyway." Does Sarah need to guard her vocal chords? "Oh, god, yeah", she says. Coffee is disallowed because she needs a dash of milk, and "Milk is a killer" for the singing voice. Lots of water. Lots of Gatorade.
Many friendships are forming among Lilith Fair's artists. McLachlan "knew very few of them" prior to the July 5. "I knew Paula (Cole) quite well, Suzanne Vega, and Tara McLean" who, like McLachlan, is signed to Vancouver's Nettwork Records. "The headliners are all females and obviously their are plenty of males in the bands", she says. Three stages host activites at once, where "the C Stage is more of an acoustic" arrangement, the B stage is either acoustic or electric and "the main stage is generally full band." Also included in the bill are Indigo Girls, Jewel, Shawn Colvin, Meredith Brooks, Wild Strawberries, Dayna Manning, and Lhasa.
The female quota construct in the music industry is a bone of contention for McLachlan et al and "continues to be a frustrating thing that we (female artists) are marginalized and all lumped together." McLachlan encounters antagonism from time to time from those who say this is exaclty what Liltih Fair is doing. "But, I don't agree with that 'cause were not sticking one kind of music on the festival and calling it a folk festival or a certain kind of music. It's a celebration of music-it's a celebration of women in music. It's very diverse."
McLachlan is from Halifax, Nova Scotia but has chosen to nest with new husband/drummer, Ashwin Sood, on Canada's opposite coast, in the beautiful West Vancouver. Sarah and Ashwin have been friends and bandmates for more than 6 years. "One night we kissed and that was it. Lots of guilt and freaking out, and then defintely I knew, pretty quickly."
Lilith will not be side-tripped to Halifax because "We would probably lose close to $300,000 getting there and coming back because there's no place to stay in between where we could play. It's a day to get there from anywhere and a day to get back from anywhere. That's two show dates we can't play. We'd probably get 3,000 people maximum, so we'd lose about $150,000 to $200,000 the day of the show. This kind of thing is very expensive to put on." McLachlan's crew alone amounts to 70 people.
Sarah's ideas of creativity were formed long before she went to Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. "NSCAD pissed me off more than anything else because I wanted to go into it to make a living and they're so dead-set against that there, There's a real snobbery. God forbid if you make money. If you make money, you've sold out. So, don't think about that, just make art... which is good, you know, cause you do it for the right reasons. I understand that. But, the bottom line is, you want to try and find something that is commercially viable so you can make a living." Sarah's artwork is on display inside her album covers and she paints off and on-one or two a year - with oil, but is most comfortable with pen and ink.
Unlike McLachlan's previous lyric-filled albums: Fumbling Towards Ecstasy (1993), Solace (1991), and Touch (1988), Surfacing does not include any more than a few choice verses and beautiful artistry for each of Ms. McLachlan's madrigals. "It leaves more chance. I kind of like that people maybe don't get every lyric, and they make up their own." Lyrics come to Sarah through "long hard hours of work" as well as whenever she hears a "really great line" out and about in daily life.
McLachlan will perform four new songs at Lilith as Surfacing was released 10 days post Lilith's July 5 commencement. "People aren't yet familiar with those songs, and we're headlining at the end of a very long day where people have been sitting in the hot sun and generally drinking. And you have to band them over the head. You can't play a bunch of new material or you'll lose them."
Speaking of "new", McLachlan has recently shed her signature mane of curls for a funky new 'do. As a child, little Sarah was often teased about her chestnut locks. In fact, one recurring scenario from the past was just put to rest. "Someone passed an e-mail on to me of a guy who read an article about how I felt I was picked on as a kid. The very ring-leader, in his e-mail, said "You know I just wanted to tell you the reason we called you Medusa was not because you were ugly but because of your long curly hair. We teased this guy mercilessly because he had a crush on you.' "This guy was an asshole to me, giggles Sarah. "He jut wanted to say 'You may not believe this but were proud of you.' It totally warmed my heart. It was really nice because he was aware that he was a real shit.
McLachlan's future includes spending more off-road time with husband, Sood, at their new home, and starting a family. "I'll start with one. But, once I have one I'll want a hundred of them."
Lilith Fair? "The whole event has been empowering. Just being able to spend time with a lot of beautiful, strong women is alaways a great thing. It's a great atmosphere and it is very nurturing."
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