by Steve Hochman
LA Times Sunday, 8-18-96 "Pop Eye"
To some, the main stage lineup of the just concluded Lollapalooza '96 resembled a rock 'n' roll version of the little rascals' old He-Man Womun Haters Club - ie. "No Gurlz allowed". The roster, headed by Metallica, Soundgarden, Ramones and Rancid, was Y chromosome all the way.
Sarah McLachlan thinks it's payback time.
The Canadian singer-songwriter is finalizing plans for a festival tour next summer devoted entirely to female performers. Called Lilith Fair - the name refers to the mythical figure who, according to various legends, was dumped by Adam when he took up with Eve - the tour is being booked for North American dates next July and August.
McLachlan and her Vancouver-based manager, Terry McBride, have made preliminary overtures to an array of performers, including Joni Mitchell, Emmylou Harris, Suzanne Vega, Natalie Merchant and neneh Cherry, with encouraging responses so far, though no firm commitments at this early date. Other names on the wish list include Tori Amos, Tracy Chapman, Annie Lennox and rock band Veruca Salt - though many of the biggest name artists might only join in for a week or two, or selected dates.
"I'm even going to ask Madonna," McLachlan says. "I want to have the whole range of music made by women - not just singer-songwriters, but Rock and R&B as well."
McBride, also president of Netwerk Records, explains, "The roots of this stem from a couple years ago when we first put a female opening act on tour with Sarah and some promoters said, 'You can't have two female artists. It won't work.' That kind of statement is the last thing you can say to Sarah. So after being told that, she made sure that something like nine out of the last ten support acts we've had have been female. And it worked fine."
Mitchell's co-manager, Sam Feldman, says that, while the artist's schedule for next summer is still being worked out, Lilith "will interest her, for sure... This idea is a good one."
The concept had a test run with shows featuring McLachlan, Vega, and Paula Cole recently in Burbank and Berkeley, each selling 5,000 tickets with little promotion. And on Sept. 14, McLauchlan will officially unveil the Lilith Fair name with a show featuring Harris, Cole and Lisa Loeb at Vancouver's 10,000 capacity Natt Baily Amphitheatre.
But will it work on the scale of a touring festival - especially in a market jammed by such other established festivals as Lollapalooza and HORDE?
"I don't really know, but it's worth a try," McLachlan says.
Gary Bongiovanni, editor in chief of the concert trade publication Pollstar, agrees.
"It's anybody's guess as to how big it could be commercially," he says. "But it's very nice to have some fresh ideas in the marketplace."
That, says McBride, is exactly the point.
"I would love to see, for example, Emmylou Harris and Neneh Cherry on the same stage," he says. "It's not the kind of thing promoters and record executives think of, but the people will get it."