My Seven Hours With Lilith

A chromosome-challenged critic gets in touch with his feminine side.

It's 3:20 p.m. on August 23, and within seconds of arriving at Fiddler's Green, where the Lilith Fair is taking place, the phrase "odd man out" leaps to mind. There are women everywhere--women alone, women in pairs, women in clusters--and although I'm hardly the only person in the area who urinates standing up, I'm clearly in the minority. Thank goodness my wife, Deb, is with me to provide cover. That way, at least, I'll seem like a supportive spouse, not an enemy spy.

Inside the amphitheater itself, the sound level is oddly low. Fiddler's is more than half full, but those present are chatting cordially, as if they were black-tie guests at a Greenpeace fundraiser. The tunes being played through onstage speakers don't shout, either; a Cloroxed cover of "Baby, Now That I've Found You" (a 1968 hit for the Foundations) whispers like background music at a health-food restaurant. Confused, I check the schedule I was given with my ticket and discover that the main stage doesn't kick off for almost an hour but that Mary Lou Lord should be getting ready to perform on the so-called B-stage. Within minutes we find her alone with her acoustic guitar, strumming for an exceptionally amiable crowd that sits cross-legged on the asphalt in front of her. Again, the volume is far from high. I've been a stickler for wearing earplugs at concerts ever since a Guns N' Roses gig earlier this decade that caused my ears to ring for three days afterward. But for Lord's showcase, they're about as useful as a vegetarian cookbook at Ted Nugent's house.

After Lord wraps up, we move past a collection of booths run by consciousness-raising organizations such as Planned Parenthood and toward the Village Stage, where the next act, Jepp, is just getting under way. The group, which consists of two men backing up a female vocalist, appears beneath a canopy emblazoned with the Levi's logo--one of many corporate symbols on view in the vicinity. There are also booths for Tower Records, Kodak, VH1, Excite, the American Basketball League and, inevitably, Starbucks. Obviously, the captains of industry have figured out that sisterhood sells. Even a table raising money for the Breast Cancer Fund has a connection to big industry; the folks there are selling raffle tickets to win a VW Beetle that just happens to be adjacent to a booth for (you guessed it) Volkswagen. In an effort to make the prize car Lilith-friendly, the VW workers have placed buckets filled with daisies around it.

The Jepp set is a bit noisier than Lord's, thanks to the presence of an electric guitar, but it's still not what you'd call deafening. At one point the singer wonders aloud if it's okay for her to tell a dirty joke. After the members of her audience (again sitting cross-legged) give their approval, she asks, "If abortion is killing a child, does that mean a guy having a wank is committing genocide?" Then she asks her guitarist to turn up his amp and tells the throng, "Let's dance!" Not a single person does, but they all smile pleasantly as they watch her doing so. Geez, these people are so polite.

At 4:20 on the dot, Lisa Loeb traipses onto the main stage, which is flanked by twin murals featuring a nude woman with a rounded abdominal area--all the better to accentuate Womb Power, my dear. Loeb subsequently shares an anecdote about finding the Lilith Fair CD at a Starbucks and noticing that the first cut on it was hers: "I said, 'Cool.' Well, I didn't actually say cool. But I thought it." (The song she plays afterward is called "Truthfully.") While sitting through this Dr. Laura moment, I look at my watch expecting to find proof that hours have gone by, but it's only been eight minutes. I look at Deb, who's passing the time by reading an educational brochure. Rock on, goddess.

How boring is it? Beach balls begin bouncing around the amphitheater, but the security guards, who at most shows waste no time seizing and deflating them, either don't notice or don't care. Most ticket-buyers are similarly uninterested, but a little boy in a Shawn Kemp jersey (a politically incorrect choice for Lilith Fair if there ever was one) is overjoyed: He's so excited to have something to do that people around him start shagging balls for him. I subsequently bat one ball back into the crowd, prompting Deb to say, "How appropriate--you hit it like a girl."

As Loeb and her all-male backing band finish up, we head toward the B-stage. On the way, I scope out the Lilith Centre, a booth where you can buy a Lilith Fair commemorative book for $21, a tome titled Daughters of the Moon, Sisters of the Sun for $22, and packages of incense and the like sold under the moniker "Lilith Scents." McLachlan merchandise is also on display there, but there's much more of it at Murmurs, which is run by the Sarah McLachlan Fan Club. McLachlan shirts, McLachlan posters, McLachlan photographs, McLachlan postcards, McLachlan eighteen-month calendars, McLachlan knapsacks and McLachlan heart-shaped necklaces are on the block, and business is brisk.

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