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The XX Chromosome takes the Stage

by: Timothy Finn


    Even the most popular novelties in pop music have a shelf life of about nine months, so you might figure that the second Lilith Fair would be less of an attraction than the first.

   Then again, maybe the popularity of the 1997 fair, one of the year's most successful tours (it grossed $16.5 million), had more to do with the talent it showcased than with its maiden principle: There's no better chromosome better than an X chromosome.

This year's festival has grown from 37 to 57 shows and is expected to do even better than last year's. Maybe it's because the 1998 lineup is more diverse and star-studded than last year's, which was a relatively homogenized blend of melodic pop-folk singers/ songwriters.

The nearly 40 new artists will make Lilith much more diverse, ethnically and stylistically: women like Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott, Queen Latifah, and Erykah Badu (hip-hop), Neneh Cherry (jazz/hiphop) Me'Shell Ndegeocello (funk,rock,hiphop), Beth Orton (techno-folk), Emmylou Harris (country), and Luscious Jackson (pop funk/hiphop).

    "We've gotten bigger, and bigger is better - primarily because it increases the money that will go to charities," McLachlan said. "We have grown, but primarily in the amount of corporate sponsorship we'll get and in the number of shows we'll do.

    "Because of the venues where the festival goes, our space is restricted We can't add any more stages, and we don't want to cut into each artist's performing time. So to allow 40 more artists in the show, we've added 20 shows. Everyone will join the tour for about two weeks, except Bonnie Raitt and Natalie Merchant, who will do about 20 shows each."

    Last year's tour raised $75,000 for local and national charities, McLachlan said. Like last year, $1 from each ticket sold this year will go to a local women's shelter. McLachlan said she expected this year's tour to raise about $1.5 million, thanks in big part to the 10 corporate sponsors.

    "The most gratifying part of every stop is handing over a check for $20,000 to a women's shelter and hearing how important that donation is to them," she said. "The festival is about more than just music. We give organizations like Life Beat (an AIDS awareness group) and Planned Parenthood space to set up booths and inform people without preaching, I might add. I really like being able to provide those platforms."

    Whether or not it'll still be a charm, McLachlan is already committed to a third Lilith Fair.

    "We started this with a three-year plan," she said "and we'll carry that through and then reassess things. Maybe we'll put it to bed for a year, or maybe we'll start something altogether new. Whatever we do, I want Lilith to remain fresh."

    Nearly a year to the date after the first Lilith Fair began - a year nearly filled from start to finish with touring - McLachlan said she was eager to get the second fair on the road (it opened June 19 in Portland, Ore.)

   "I had the entire month of May off, so I'm ready," she said. "Lilith is like summer camp."

    Who, then, is the poison ivy hiding in the woods?

    "Sorry, but - the  media," she said laughing. "Most of the press we got last year was positive. But there were lots of times, especially at some of the press conferences we held before the shows, where the media focused hard on the negative, on what the fair wasn't. And I spent a lot of time trying to justify the who thing. We kept repeating ourselves: 'No, it's not perfect and not everyone is going to like this. But ...'

    "Some people had a hard time accepting that thing s were going well and (that) the fair was a big success. So they looked hard for flaws and problems."
    And having discarded a stereotype it never wanted, Lilith II can focus on living up to something it inherited from its predecessor: a lofty reputation.