In Defense Of: The New Lilith Tour

by Dakin Hardwick on July 1, 2010

Once upon a time, in the late 90’s, a struggling singer-songwriter was finding it difficult to get her music heard. She was too edgy for Adult Contemporary radio, but too light for Alternative Rock radio. She also noticed that both of these genres were awfully male-centric. So, her solution was to find a group of like-minded female musicians and take them on the road with her. The basic idea is that there is strength in numbers, and with the marketing push of several artists, it could be good for everyone, much like Lollapalooza managed to accomplish in the early 90’s. That artist was Sarah McLachlan, and the tour was called The Lilith Fair, named after Adam’s first wife.

The tour managed to do as they wished. It was very successful, and ran for three years. It also helped move McLachlan from cult icon to bonafide star. It’s power helped inspire a loose alliance of radio stations throughout the nation, the focus of which was female centered music (Alice Radio), and became an important part of our culture.

Even as the tour became more eclectic over the years, with The Dixie Chicks, Morcheeba, Erykah Badu, and Liz Phair traveling in its final year, there was the inevitable backlash. People had decided that it was a festival devoted to mellow folk singers, and it couldn’t shake that reputation. So they gave it a rest. Then, in 2010, McLachlan decided it was time to restart the brand.

The question remains, is this tour still relevant? 2009’s two break out stars were two very vibrant women: Taylor Swift and Lady GaGa. Although things aren’t perfect, the gender divide in pop music is less severe than it was in 1997, partially thanks to Lilith’s initial influence. I actually think that the 2010 tour is moreso a celebration of progress, not created out of need, but out of joy.

The biggest issue is still the stereotype. Yes, there are, indeed, a few syrupy singer-songwriters littered throughout the tour. I’m not going to deny the fact that, if you specifically have an aversion to girls with an acoustic guitar, there might be a few things that will be a bit too painful for you.  But for every one of those, there are several acts that aren’t.

They made the tour into something a little different this year, as well. Instead of having a singular traveling roadshow, we ended up with several shows all throughout the country with completely different lineups from the others, almost like each town gets its own miniature one-day music festival. I know it can be disappointing when you look at the bill and see the extended list of everybody playing, because you will be missing out on someone that you would like to see, but if you get past who you aren’t getting, nearly every city has a pretty amazing and eclectic group of musicians that you don’t often get to see live.

Since we are, indeed, a Bay Area music site, I will use our local stop as an example. Appearing at The Shoreline Amphitheater on July 5th, we have Terra Naomi, a personal friend and collaborator of Spinning Platters favorite Jay Brannan, British pop sensation, and heir apparent to Kate Bush’s throne, Marina & The Diamonds, Miranda Lambert, a rare country singer that has managed to stay edgy and pure while still gaining success on mainstream country radio, as well as modern rock pioneers Heart and The Bangles.

None of these acts are part of the Lilith stereotype. In other cities we have Rihanna, Emmylou Harris, and Metric sharing a stage. It’s a great idea, and a wonderful way to find new things.

So, while you are still thinking about this, have a listen to Barracuda, and you will then decide that you need to go to this show:

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Jason LeRoy July 1, 2010 at 9:58 am

Well-said. Although anyone who actually thinks a Lilith Fair revival needs to have its existence “defended” should get their hair pulled (by me!). While the original Lilith sprung from the brief (and beautiful) moment in time when girl singer/songwriters were actually marketable and playable on Top 40 radio, the new line-up proves that even though that moment has long since passed, amazing and diverse female artists have continued to flourish.


Gordon Elgart July 1, 2010 at 10:57 am

What’s indefensible about the new Lilith tour is their marketing. From dropping the word “Fair” from the name of it, to not having an honest-to-goodness HEADLINER, to misunderstanding the basics of “under-promise and over-deliver,” they crapped the bed on this one. Shows have been getting canceled without much advance notice under mysterious circumstances (Tweeted by the bands but ignored on the website), and generally the whole business venture has been a failure.

Still, if I end up going, I’ll be excited to see the artists playing. It’s just a shame the people in charge are so clueless about how to sell tickets in today’s marketplace.


Ben July 1, 2010 at 12:50 pm

I remember going to the first Lilith Fair. The venue had reassigned one of the 4 rest room stations from males–>females. Oddly enough, this still wasn’t adequate, as the male:female ratio attending that show was perhaps 1:5 or more. Consequently, both the men and the women were queued up for bathroom breaks throughout the day. ; P


Ben July 2, 2010 at 8:33 am

Wow, that was spooky. Yesterday I read this post and checked the Lilith lineup for Raleigh.

Today, as Gordon predicted, Lilith canceled the Raleigh show.

Just as well. Sarah Mc and Indigos are worth seeing, but hadn’t heard of the rest. And no Metric?


Tony July 6, 2010 at 8:06 am

Marina is the heir apparent to Kate Bush ????


Marie Carney July 6, 2010 at 8:33 pm

I don’t get it either… Gordon?


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