The Associated Press

NEW YORK (June 14) - For the past few years, singer Sarah McLachlan has noticed something missing from the Lollapalooza festival - about half the human species.

The annual summer concert tour, which last year headlined Metallica, had become such a testosterone-fueled event that McLachlan and her managers vowed to create an alternative. The result, Lilith Fair, is the most intriguing show on this summer's circuit.

All of the acts performing on Lilith Fair's three stages are women or are dominated by women, such as the Cardigans.

The revolving list of artists for the 32-date tour, which starts July 5 in the Pacific Northwest in Washington, includes Tracy Chapman, Suzanne Vega, Jewel, Indigo Girls, Cassandra Wilson, Shawn Colvin, Sheryl Crow, Paula Cole, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Emmylou Harris and Juliana Hatfield.

McLachlan, who will perform at all of the shows, organized Lilith Fair partly for selfish reasons: She wanted to see many of these women perform herself.

"There are a lot of incredible performers out there who happen to be women," she said. "I admire and respect their music and I never get to see them play live, which to me is by far the most exciting way to hear music."

A few years ago, McLachlan recalled getting heat from some promoters when she wanted to tour the United States with an opening act of Cole, now riding high with her hit, "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone?" They told her audiences wouldn't want to see two women on the same bill.

That doesn't seem to be a problem anymore. Mitch Slater, concert promoter and president of Delsener/Slater Enterprises, said it's likely Lilith Fair's two performances in the New York area will sell out.

Those kind of successful tours during the clogged summer season are prized by promoters, who remember last year's desultory march of has-been 1970s bands rattling around half-filled amphitheaters.

This year, there may be an overdose of what is usually considered a good thing for consumers: festivals that bring several acts together on one bill.

Festivals on the road include the H.O.R.D.E. tour, with Neil Young and Beck; the Budweiser Superfest, with Mary J. Blige and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony; the Ozzfest, with Ozzy Osbourne and Marilyn Manson; the Warped Tour, with Social Distortion and Mighty Bosstones; and the House of Blues' Smokin' Grooves Tour, with Erykah Badu and George Clinton. There are also separate blues, country and Christian festivals on the road.

Lollapalooza, the tour that started it all, is just one of the crowd this year with its lineup of Snoop Doggy Dogg, Tool and Prodigy.

Some promoters are worried about festivals seemingly slapped together with no real purpose or star power, collecting acts that couldn't draw much on their own. Two potential losers: the Skoal Music ROAR Tour, with Iggy Pop and Sponge, and the Furthur Festival, with ex-Grateful Dead members and Bruce Hornsby.

"We've overexposed ourselves as an industry with festivals," Slater said.

Making things worse from a promoter's perspective is the growth of festivals sponsored by radio stations. Influential stations in big cities can easily draw many big-name acts, and they're more interested in promoting themselves than running ads for competing festivals, he said.

Gary Bongiovanni, editor of the concert trade publication Pollstar, said festivals have been imitated because they are so successful and offer good value.

"I don't know if these festivals are competing head to head for the same audiences," he said. "I don't see tremendous overlap between them."

The biggest act on the road this summer is U2, whose "Popmart" tour has been a spotty success. U2 is the first act to primarily tour stadiums in this country since 1994, when acts like the Rolling Stones, Pink Floyd and Billy Joel and Elton John filled the huge venues, Bongiovanni said.

Except for the Stones, who are returning to the road later this year, not many acts can command that big stage anymore.

A double bill with Counting Crows and the Wallflowers is expected to be popular this summer. No Doubt, 311, Tina Turner and the Dave Matthews Band are also big sellers. Blues Traveler, which invented the H.O.R.D.E. tour, abandons it this summer to go out on their own.

Aerosmith, the Allman Brothers Band, Bush, John Mellencamp and Bryan Adams are also on the road. Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire, Alan Jackson and Vince Gill are among the country artists touring.

Veterans like James Taylor, Chicago and the Beach Boys will perform, although the ranks of '70s artists seem to have thinned a bit. Slater will try bucking the trend with cheese: He's producing a "'70s Music Explosion" package with the Village People, KC & the Sunshine Band, Kool & the Gang and others.

Still, McLachlan's "Lilith Fair" looks to be one of the hottest tickets. The Canadian singer tried out the concept on a handful of dates last year and was encouraged by the response. She even saw some men in the audience.

"Maybe they got ... dragged there by their girlfriends," she said. "But they were there regardless and they had smiles on their faces."

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