Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Fear God. Trust Jesus. Repent or parish. Just some low-key signs that protestors held as I walked into the Shoreline Amphitheatre in San Fran, where the Lilith Fair revival tour landed last month. For those unfamiliar with Lilith, it’s a concert tour founded by Sarah McLachlan in 1997 to honor female musicians and a portion of its proceeds are donated to female-oriented causes. Lilith ran for a two-year stint until 1999, during which it raised $10M for women’s charities in North America. It’s little wonder, then, that the megaphone-bearing bible-readers showed up to denounce its revival in the gay capital of America – the event screamed “Lesbians, come hither!”, which they did. Thousands of tattooed couples flocked to the outdoor event, picnic baskets in hand, ready for some good lady rock after a 12-year Lilith hiatus.
Musicians performed on three stages from all afternoon until almost midnight. On the main stage: Colbie Caillat, The Bangles, Miranda Lambert, Heart, and finally, the bearer of the Fair, Sarah McLachlan. On the less gargantuan stages: A Fine Frenzy, The Submarines, Susan Justice, Kitten, Ann Atomic and Terra Naomi.
Main stage highlights for me included Sarah, whose throaty voice used to blare from my older sister’s room during her broody, high school phase, and 70s rock band Heart. Lead vocalist Ann Wilson is larger than she once was, but she’s just as fierce. (I’m almost 40 years her junior and I felt my eardrums going numb during her performance). When she sang Alone (revived lately by Glee and So You Think You Can Dance) from their ’87 album Bad Animals, I got teary-eyed. Both Heart and The Bangles plugged their new albums, but I’m pretty sure people were just craving more nostalgia.
Less thrilling was Miranda Lambert, a Texan country babe who called herself a “redneck” and sang a ditty about moving closer to a place where she could buy beer. “Let me warn you, San Fran,” she said to her fans, “I’m damn good with a shotgun.” Maybe the liberal ladies in the audience were too buzzed on overpriced beer to care, but I seriously thought she was going to get stoned, and not in the good, hippie way.
A Fine Frenzy’s Alison Sudol stood out among the second group. She lulled and energized all in the same quick set, singing pain ballads like Almost Lover and Silent War, but also beating her tambourine to newer, summery tunes that before long had people up off their beach towels. “What a magnificent day, isn’t it?” she said, charmingly. Sudol paired her long, fire-engine hair with an azure mini-frock and dark red boots, so I couldn’t decide whether she looked more like a superhero or the biblical demon herself. Either way, the 25-year-old vixen didn't seem human.
If Lilith Fair is about female empowerment, then it worked. I left having witnessed not only an array of talented artists, but unprecedented courtesy from festival-goers, who begged pardon as they crawled over one another, and picked up trash when others forgot. I wonder if I’d see the same thing at a Goliath Fair.