We take a look at the summer's hottest shows, from Lilith Fair to Lollapalooza

By EW Staff
Updated May 09, 1997 at 04:00 AM EDT



Sis-tahhhs are doin’ it for themsel

Hold on, now, there’ll be none of that. Lilith Fair — the summer music festival that happens to have an all-women bill (or all-female frontpeople, anyway) — isn’t necessarily about female empowerment, let alone gynocentric political statements. If anything, suggests founder/headliner Sarah McLachlan, think of it as a redress for the last few years’ worth of Lollapalooza lineups.

”I went to Lollapalooza a couple of years ago when Sinead [O’Connor] was on it. That was a really good one,” says the Canadian songstress. ”It was the next year that it became the male-fest. My friends were saying they were frustrated — they like the guys fine, but they wanted to see some girl acts there — so I thought, Wouldn’t it be great to offer an alternative?” She insists Lilith Fair isn’t intended to be counter-exclusionary: ”It’s simply to celebrate the fact that there’s a lot of great music out there that’s female…oriented,” she says slyly.

Lilith got an unofficial tryout last summer when McLachlan set up distaff bills in four U.S. cities with Suzanne Vega, Paula Cole, Patti Smith, Aimee Mann, and Lisa Loeb. These went over so swimmingly that she set her manager and agents to work on a full tour for ’97, due to kick off July 5 at the Gorge in Washington State and continue with about 35 gigs through August. Unlike Lollapalooza and H.O.R.D.E., Lilith has no fixed lineup beyond McLachlan’s nightly set; other acts will show up anywhere from two dates to three weeks.

Among the confirmed main-stagers: Sheryl Crow, the Cardigans, Fiona Apple, Jewel, Tracy Chapman, Shawn Colvin, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Indigo Girls, and returnees Vega, Cole, and Loeb. Lilith’s second stage will spotlight lesser-known acts, most of whom haven’t yet been booked. ”A lot of the main-stage acts are fairly soft,” says McLachlan, ”so we’re trying to make the B stage aggressive. I don’t want it to be a folk festival, you know?”

It wasn’t that long ago that a ”women’s music” festival had connotations of Holly Near and Cris Williamson as likely headliners and the very real prospect of seeing the word womyn on a banner somewhere. But despite a name derived from arcane mythology (in Hebrew folklore, Lilith was Adam’s first wife, who refused to lie beneath him), Lilith Fair isn’t likely to be mistaken for a Wiccan fertility rite. McLachlan’s brainchild is as mainstream as it gets, reflecting the first period in rock history in which female performers face little conscious marginalization.

”At radio, three years ago, when Tori Amos’ record and mine came out around the same time, it was like, ‘We added Tori this week, so we can’t add you,’ or vice versa,” recalls McLachlan, who’s racing to complete her third album before Lilith launches. ”It pitted us against each other; it was ridiculous. I think they’ve come round to realizing they can’t ignore it. There’s a lot of great music out there, and it’s selling, so they better get with the program. People aren’t gonna be terrified by hearing two women back-to-back and change the station.”