Copyright 1999 New Haven Advocate

New Haven Advocate

August 12, 1999

LENGTH: 598 words


HEADLINE: Happenstance

BYLINE: Christopher Arnott



Fair Whether

The Lilith Fair reportedly toyed with adding some male-fronted acts to its festival. The organizers had already begun to ignore their more publicly stated mandate: to foster bands that weren't getting a proper hearing due to admittedly discouraging booking and promotional practices in the music industry.

Do the Pretenders or Sheryl Crow or one-megahit-wonder Lisa Loeb really need help reaching a wider audience? Even Lilith founder Sarah McLachlan, whose fans filled theaters nationally before she began the festival, is now a stadium- (or at least Oakdale-) sized presence, with or without extra festival packaging.

This leaves Lilith's much-mocked yet noble female-friendly underpinnings as its raison d'etre. You could see it in the info booths that taught you about chlamydia or about "Women in Debt" aspects of the international movement to retire Third World debts. You could see it in fashion boutiques and other capitalistic concerns that clogged the thoroughfare, or in demographically apt samples of fruit-sweet Arbor Mist wines and Bioré facial cleansers.

And you could see it in the restrooms, where streams, so to speak, of women rushed into toilet facilities clearly marked (and simultaneously used by) "Men." We counted over a dozen women entering one such room before we realized that standing there doing what could easily be misconstrued as loutish "girlwatching" was not in the spirit of Lilith. From that lobby outpost we also noticed local rocker Johnny McCarthy of Groove Fiction Sex Ceremony being unceremoniously evicted from Meadows by two security guards and a bouncer, Sex rearing its ugly head in another direction.

The Pretenders' Chrissie Hynde explained to the mainstage audience why the band hadn't appeared on previous Lilith tours. "You have to take a test ... and we've always failed the questionnaire. This year we answered it correctly. There was one question: 'What do you call that useless bit of skin at the end of a penis?'

"That's right... A man!" The woman sitting next to us responded with glee, then turned to soothe our wounded male ego: "I have to clap, because I'm a woman. Besides, it's funny."

Much of the entertainment this year was equally pat. One glorious exception was Aimee Mann, whose following has not diminished during her well-publicized record company battles. For her brief set at the outdoor Second Stage, she was backed by former Grays and Michael Penn guitarist, and longtime Aimee sideMann Buddy Judge (who drummed on an upturned plastic carton for one song) and Chamberlin champion Patrick Warren, a Lilith veteran from Fiona Apple's 1997 appearances. Three of Mann's seven live numbers were new, and other fresh material was on sale: an anticipatory EP promoting her forthcoming self-distributed third solo album (visit for info). High expectations, met and exceeded.

Founding Lilith ubiquity McLachlan joined both Lisa Loeb and The Pretenders onstage. Chrissie Hynde had earlier joked, "Hey, where's all the flowy dresses I've been promised?" McLachlan fulfilled that promise, though she later changed out of her quaint quasi-Indian-print dress (the type you might find at Group W Bench or Dava locally) into sequined blue slacks and a white tank top for her own show-closing set. The finale involved a McLachlan encore with backing vocals from Sheryl Crow and classical motifs from Crow's band's cellist and violinist. Followed by members from many of the eight-hour fair's acts in a rousing cover of "I Shall Be Released." As distinct from the rest-room crashers, who shall be relieved.