Grrls Just Wanna Have Fun
You don't need testosterone to have a great time--or do you? Our bold correspondant attends Lilith Fair to find out.
By Joey Cody
AUGUST 16, 1999: Nearly ballistic with a massive chip on my shoulder, something had to give. My increasing annoyance with men, usually fairly benign and fleeting, was threatening to crush everything in its path. The final straw was finding out a male acquaintance had been throwing our pool games.
But where does an average Jo like me, with a nasty build-up of angst, seek refuge from testosterone-induced idiocy? Why that nomadic nirvana known as Lilith Fair, of course. So, while riotous frat boys and pyro groupie girls whooped it up at Woodstock, I headed south, to the Land of A Thousand Peachtrees, for some bonding with blissed-out feministas. Yes, I fled to the bosom of Lilith, everywoman's favorite rebel babe, to stick it to The Man.
Sarah McLachlan has denied that Lilith is about men bashing. "I don't think people want to hear that, though," she says. "To the hard-core feminist, Lilith is pathetic. And to some it's, 'Oh, you want to cut my dick off?'" She can't win. All she was doing was giving some artists she liked a chance to play. Her efforts have kept great bands from ending up media casualties: fluffy titty acts or typecast lezzie groups. It couldn't help but become a statement. We all want to play with the backhoes in the sandbox without being dismissed with a Barbie and a smile. Thank god artists like Sarah have taken matters, ahem, into their own hands. I couldn't wait to see her.
So I hitched a ride on Star 93.1's party bus to follow my bliss. Ah, the bus. The air conditioner conspired against us, the video went haywire, and the driver got lost. But everything turned out copacetic, thanks to benevolent hosts who kept us quenched and fed.
The bus boys looked baffled and wary, not certain what they were getting into. Oh sure, there'd be chicks making out and that's always cool, but would the few brave men daring to desecrate the proceedings be horsewhipped? Burned in effigy?
We finally arrived at the Lakewood Amphitheatre in Atlanta and, much to my dismay, the park was filled with many more Britney Spears, Blossoms, and June Cleavers than Janeane Garofalos, Germaine Greers, and Ellen DeGenereses. The few stray men melted into the background. Most of them were trying to look down with it but ended up looking, you know, the way you looked the first time you walked back to the Trump's drag show.
A pair of bubbly teens from the bus (I'll call them Desdemona and Cassiopeia), invited me to tag along. Desi was an old pro at this Lilith thing, although she expressed squeamishness at the trend towards open couples. "GrrOsss!" Cassie spat at the sight of a shaven-headed vixen holding hands with a girlfriend so overpierced she looked like a colander. "They're lesbians," she whispered to me conspiratorially. (I know. I was shocked, too.) Evidently, at least in the South, Lilith has only recently become a love-in. I decided it was time to take my leave of the otherwise very sweet Des and Cass.
At the gate, I snagged some loot: a new music sampler and a Tara Somebodyorother tape. My first stop was the Biore booth where I pocketed a facial cleansing cloth and a bitchin' "Girls Rule" tattoo. I also sampled the educational wares at the breast cancer booth, fondling, er, I mean, examining a silicone breast embedded with four hidden lumps. I located all four, and nabbed some nifty earplugs. Then it was off to grope the togs at a hippie shoppe, where the batik prints went at a sisterly 150 percent markup.
Everything felt so sanitized, commercialized. Even the Glad Rags, a tent hocking au naturel menstrual care systems, felt anesthetized of passion and purpose. The Lakewood had become a marketing paradise, a little Disneyish Midol-Land.
Oh brother. Instead of a good shot of estrogen, I was inundated with trappings of capitalism. We weren't clad in gauzy gowns, feeding each other ambrosia and grapes. Six-dollar corndogs were our victuals. Nor was dandelion wine served by sylphs in crystal goblets. None other than Coors Lite was the intoxicant of choice.
Where were the hemp peddlers, for Mary Jane's sake? The tattoo and henna shack? I was supposed to get in touch with my inner goddess, my lunar chica. How could I possibly even begin without getting my pubic hair braided and my pudendi majora pierced?
It was still too sweltering for outright gaiety when I wandered past the Village Stage, but Soul Miner's Daughter kicked things off nicely, making hips swirl and sweat fly. Later on, Stage 2 was a sorry lot. I was thrilled to hear that Kacy Crowley and Jennifer Kimball played on other dates, but couldn't help but pout that out of the 110 artists playing Lilith, only three really appealed to me enough to attend this one. The rest were just some Ani and Jewel wannabes with a few diluted melodies. Yawn.
Overheard everywhere were the incredibly spiritual conversations of the style police comparing cryptic tattoos and funky hairdos. It was like the Utne Reader doing a 10 Best Dressed List: "Wow. This babe really shouldn't have her brow pierced. She just doesn't have the arch for it, and it's like, so Lerner's." "Yah, she's cute, but, like, that Phish tattoo has got to go."
"Whoa, I should really shave my toes," I noted at one particularly introspective moment. I was seeking chthonic wisdom, not fashion tips, and I searched around for some woolly-pitted, Haight-Ashbury gals.
Well, be careful what you wish for. At the RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) booth, a graying Dead Head sidled up to me. "Yurrrr haayer is just like that guurl's on Feliciteeeee," she slurred, pawing me none too tenderly. Ew. I was getting picked up at the women's abuse network, for the lova Pete.
I certainly don't mean to condemn the entirety of gay attendees as lascivious, leering sharks, but it really was such a club vibe, like watching horny husbands at Michael's on ladies' nite. It seemed the majority wasn't there for the music. They were there for the cruise. Either that, or a slumber party where Veronica was painting her nails, giggling about the foxy new English teacher, and waiting for Betty to call and ask her to the prom. Now don't get me wrong. These Lilith fans were no shrinking violets. But neither were they the righteous, Miracle Bra-burning rabble-rousers I was pining for. Ironically, whatever didn't sport a major masculine vibe triggered my gag reflex for all that is pink and puerile. There was no middle ground. I was either over-butched or over-femmed.
And I was getting cranky. Time for the Main Stage to bring da noise. Mya hip-hopped around and copped tunes until Dido came on with a couple cool ditties. Then Me'Shell Ndegeocello served up some Funk Lite, but none of it really revved me up.
So, I took a stroll to the ladies' room, and was irked to find that, typically, concert-goers were beleaguered by shortsighted coordinators. I mean, come on. Who didn't anticipate the women's bathroom being plagued with a line like Jericho? My desperate mantra as I wait in line? "I am a goddess, I am Goddess...I am...God, I gotta pee!"
Finally incensed, we stormed the men's restrooms like an Amazonian horde, transforming them into steam baths as the day wore on. There was mud and paper and women kissing everywhere. It was donethe sacred urinals transformed into a sapphic Sodom and Gomorrah.
Finally, The Indigo Girls plugged in, and we roared. Sinead, in town recording and in full priestly regalia, surprised us by joining Amy and Emily on one number. Later, Sarah joined the Girls on a sweet rendition of "Love's Recovery." I was delighted. Farragut High doesn't know what it missed.
i say let's put on some tunes
The rain had begun to come down in sheets. Bolts of lightning drew shrieks from the drenched hill behind us. But they stuck it out, making a happy little Slip 'N' Slide at the top.
By the time Sheryl Crow sauntered across t he stage upholstered into black leather pants, we were ready to rock. She had just returned from the war-torn Woodstock and was still rankled. "It's so nice to be back!" proclaimed Sheryl, hugging Sarah and sending a bevy of teen revelers into joyful squeals.
In the midst of the show, I caught sight of a beautiful girl, shaped like an avocado, twirling in ecstasy. I looked at her lovely, plump face glowing with ethereal Sarah-ness, and realized what it was all about. As we waited with bated breath for our Sarah, I gazed at the resplendent banner of a beckoning Lilith presiding over the revelry like a radiant Lady of Guadalupe.
A guy friend recently defensively commented to me, "Hey, I like Sarah...she's hot!" And well, she is hot, but duh. You just don't, can't know, unless you've ever blubbered hopelessly into your pillow, clutching your hands over your world-weary chest and broken heart, playing Fumbling Towards Ecstasy over and over and over, until the tears just won't come and your neighbors just can't take it anymore. Or sung and screamed at the top of your lungs in some secret midnight swimming hole that you're not sharing with anyone else, ever (except maybe Sarah). This is why we love her. Her voice goes right through our very skins and into our deepest heart.
After all the bullshit I've heard
When She finally appeared, we were beside ourselves, and cheered with pride when she dissed the heinous Woodstock. "Our mudslide is one of peace and love," she grinned, and began to croon. She was well worth the wait, if not hard to see from the glare off her sequined pants. (I was hoping for a little more trademark incandescence instead.) Plus, her delicate keening and heartbreaking murmurs didn't quite reach me in that setting. I was a little let down.
It's too bad that, outside of the main lineup, I found the tour as a whole lacking. During the finale, I kept wishing most of the artists on stage were past Lilith guests. It would be great if someone like Jonatha Brooke or PJ Harvey had 'sold out' enough to play a Lilith. I was also disappointed that Sarah evidently hasn't had a bigger hand in the complete orchestration of Lilith. Or was I more upset that perhaps she did have more control over venue and vendors, and this was all my favorite crunchy girl's doing? But I find it hard to believe Ms. McLachlan advocates crass consumerism, or a steady diet of pork by-products and beer. I'm glad Sarah, savvy and talented though she may be, is getting out while the gettin's goodbefore her lovely Lilith becomes a watered-down parody of the energy of women's music.
But what else was it missing? Aside from the lack of multiculturalism (Lilith was surprisingly devoid of color), I had to conclude that it was, quite simply, men. That's right. Turns out I needed some masculine edge to complete it after all. Not to say Lilith wasn't a great idea, just that for any truly eclectic music lover, a solely female show is missing, well, the yang.
So the Faire Lilith didn't exactly cure me, but it certainly invigorated my appreciation for our cosmic juxtaposition and balance with rockin' males. Man, I love bein' a girl. If liberation and womanly music haven't inspired me and granted me the right to buy groovy shoes at discount prices and toss back a boilermaker with the boys, who needs it? I like to think Sarah, in all her granola glory, would agree.
Blessed be, my sisters.
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