The Sexist

Lilith Fair Is Coming to D.C. Is It Going to Suck?

Lilith Fair—everyone's favorite all-female music festival of the late '90s—is coming back next year, and it's slated to make a stop in Washington, D.C. I am torn.

On the one hand, it was great to see so many successful female musicians all sharing one stage—the original 1997 line-up included Sarah McLachlan, Meredith Brooks, Paula Cole, Shawn Colvin, Natalie Merchant, Joan Osborne, and Jewel. On the other hand, who the fuck wants to listen to that shit?

Lilith Fair was never an event for people who happened to end up catching Sarah McLachlan in concert once—that can be excused. This was an event for people who wanted to shell out cash to listen to Sarah McLaughlin and thirty of her closest musical artists play for hours and hours and hours—sometimes simultaneously. On multiple stages. And the sheer intensity of the folk-rock therein is straining my ability to type without using italics.

To be fair: Lilith Fair also hosted some pretty fucking cool artists over the years—artists like Missy Elliot, Queen Latifah, Tegan and Sara, Liz Phair, and some group called Medieval Baebes, which has got to be awesome. The new tour has yet to announce any touring artists, but it's likely that in 2010, Lilith Fair will go a bit lighter on the adult contemporary than it did ten years ago. I see that the new tour Web site is already revising history a bit to emphasize Lilith Fair artists who have retained popularity—like Christina Aguilera, who played just a couple of dates in Lilith Fair in 1999, but is now second on the list of the tour's big-name alums. Personally, I'm really hoping that Lilith Fair will be able to pull this one out: It will recruit a bunch of awesome female artists, help some up-and-coming female musicians find an audience, and raise a ton of money for women's charities.

But what if it doesn't? What if Lilith Fair can't recover from its reputation as a jasmine-scented, hippie-dippy folk-fest featuring Jewel? After all, Sarah McLachlan is still organizing this thing, and since she just put out a new album single titled "One Dream," I'm not sure that her career has exactly evolved with the times. But the question isn't whether Lilith Fair has got its pulse on 2010 musical tastes. The question is whether today's most exciting female artists will even agree to play at Lilith Fair. Are we going to get Lady Gaga, or are we going to get Evanescence?

While we're waiting to find out, I dare you to watch every single one of these videos from 1997 Lilith Fair contributors. If you want to get the real festival feel, put them all on and listen to them simultaneously.

Sarah McLachlan, "I Will Remember You"


Paula Cole, "Where Have All the Cowboys Gone"


Meredith Brooks, "Bitch"


Jewel, "You Were Meant For Me"


Joan Osborne, "One of Us"


Shawn Colvin, "Sunny Came Home" (Actually a performance at 1997's Lilith Fair!)


Natalie Merchant, "Carnival"


Photo by radiobread, Creative Commons License

  • Former Staffer

    Wait...isn't an all female music festival inherently sexist? AND "who wants to listen to that shit?"

    Amanda, two brilliant quotes in two days. You're awesome.

  • jules

    oh my god amanda...this musical compilation is what 16-year-old me played on repeat, in my bedroom with a bunch of scented candles writing bad poetry!

    yeah i think i'll be skipping this.

  • monkeyrotica

    It'll be worse than Eva Braun.

  • Valerie

    you don't know what you are talking about...Sarah McLachlan didn't put out a new "album" called "One Dream." It is a song inspired by the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, her home town.

    This article sucks.

  • Amanda Hess

    Thanks for the heads up, Valerie. I've updated the post. (My opinion on Sarah McLachlan stands, however).

  • Andrew Beaujon

    All these songs are really good! ADMIT IT.

  • JasonM

    Amanda Hess wrote:
    "The question is whether today’s most exciting female artists will even agree to play at Lilith Fair Are we going to get Lady Gaga, or are we going to get Evanescence?"

    Who wants to listen to that shit either? If those are two of "today's most exciting female artists" the world is in trouble.

  • Amanda Hess

    Ew. please do not imply that I am into Evanescence.

  • Comrade Al Gonzales

    All the other similar fests - Van's, Lolla, Oz fest, etc. - featured men. Lilith was the only one to feature women.

    I'd much rather see any of the artists you have above - & thanks for posting the video links - than any of the typical acts at the typical fests featuring men.

    & "Lady" Gaga? Please - there's no talent whatsoever in that person.

    If you hate folk music, fine, just say that. The approach you take - denigrating folk artists while pumping up acts from other music areas - is duplicitous.

  • Kat

    Uh whatever, original Lilith Fair was amazing -- I may have gone for the Jewel (I was like 11), but I stayed for the Erykah Badu. My Lilith Fair sampler CDs and experiences (my dad took me twice) actually got me into some really awesome, nonfolksy music, and got me out of listening to the top 40 station, so hopefully they will be able to get some sweet, lady-fronted indie bands on the side stages.

    I really really don't want it to suck!

  • Julie Sunday

    i went to lilith fair in maybe 1999 at merriweather; i only remember missy elliot. i admit to being a fan of sarah maclachlan back then (i still have one of her albums on my ipod, as i am occasionally reminded w/shuffle) but i bailed before she even came onstage. i can't remember who else played though.
    i think that this kind of thing is good for young women, since female acts hardly ever get any presence at most music festivals. i predict norah jones. maybe the gossip, if they're really lucky? CSS? do the bands have to be all female or just have female leadership?

  • http://n/a Joseph Kenner

    OK. I'm a male, so I'm not in the Litith Fair's target audience, and I won't be going, since I'm not in the D.C. area and don't generally have the time or money to go to concerts that are in my area.

    However, that said, I have to defend what I know of the Music, which is not much, but some. I had one CD of a two CD set, which I enjoyed. The music was good, the singers were good, and incidentally, the music was non-political.

    Maybe, since it's supposed to be a feminist thing, you feel that your being told you have to like it. Well, you can share the politics of some of the bands and the organizers, and just ignore it. I agree with the politics of the guys who do South Park, but find the show unfunny, so I don't watch it.

  • Tony Wu

    I realize musical tastes change, but I honestly fail to see what makes Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Britney Spears, Colbie Caillat, or any of the top charting female musicians today superior to Sarah McLaughlan, Paula Cole, Meredith Brooks, Joan Osbourne, Natalie Merchant, or Shawn Colvin. Sarah McLaughlin sold 40 million albums in her day. The only difference is that the former group is more contemporary to 2009. Which is a big difference if you want to host a successful concert- but not a reason to needlessly put down the 1997 lineup.

    The only reservation I have is what Joseph writes above. It would be more of a breakthrough to see more women acts in mainstream music festivals, than to be ghettoized in one where men "aren't the target audience." It should just be women making good (or at least fun) music.

  • Barry Southerland

    I wrote about the return of Lilith Fair in my blog and am happy to see its return depending on the lineup. A lot of women have recorded and released some awesome recordings since the last Lilith Fair and a lot of them released awesome records during the era of Lilith Fair but weren't included the first time around (PJ Harvey, Portishead) especially in the Rock and Alternative genres.

    That's the new version needs is Rock. Women like to rock too. It's not all acoustic guitars. Artists like Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Coathangers represent the awesomeness of women who rock. Also, the modern female singer-songwriter has branched far beyond the areas of Jewel and Indigo Girls. Now, there's Rachael Yamagata and Neko Case.

    Go with these artists and leave Lady GaGa at home. Sure musicial tastes change but show the young girls of America how to make awesome, credible music not flavor of the week, over-produced, auto-tuned Pop music. I may not be into Indigo Girls but at least they have musical integrity which is something I doubt Miley Cyrus has.

    Lilith Fair 2010 can be and should be, for all purposes, really amazing. It just takes a nice, balanced lineup. Given the current landscape for women in music, that should easy...or one would think.

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  • Tee

    Lilith Fair is for hippies and lesbians that don't shave their legs. It's close in comparison to Michigan's Women's Festival! Pathetic, sexist and smells of some serious BO!