Friday, while Rocks Off was enjoying a blissful if soggy day off, Lilith Fair canceled the final ten dates of this year's summer resurrection, including all three scheduled Texas stops. The news was hardly shocking: One headliner, Norah Jones, had already bailed, and The New York Times reported the festival was having trouble selling tickets almost two weeks ago. And thus the last leg of the female-oriented festival became the latest casualty in what is shaping up to be one of North America's most anemic summer concert seasons to date.
Sorry, "most challenging" concert seasons, as the festival's co-founder Terry McBride called it in the press release. Rocks Off isn't shedding a whole lot of tears about the cancellation, to be honest.
We have nothing against Jones and co-headliner/founder Sarah McLachlan per se, but we can see why people weren't exactly clamoring to buy tickets. Jones was just here in March and will be back for Austin City Limits in October, and McLachlan has been a cipher for so long that most people these days probably know her from those cloyingly awful animal-rescue TV commercials. As for headliner No. 3, Texan Miranda Lambert, we have a hunch she'll be back in these parts soon enough.
Further down the bill, Rocks Off would have liked to have seen sometime Dixie Chicks Martie Maguire and Emily Robison's new Court Yard Hounds group and... well, OK, that's about it. Still, in its original and resurrected incarnations alike, Lilith had a knack for generating headlines that were considerably more interesting than its more male-dominated counterparts such as Lollapalooza and the Warped Tour. Here are a few:
1. Jerry Falwell's crew attacks festival's "pagan" namesake: This is a good one. In 1999, not long after Jerry Falwell wrote that famous article "outing" purse-carrying (and ostensibly asexual) Teletubby Tinky-Winky, the late conservative rabble-rouser's National Liberty Journal published an editorial that accused the festival of taking its name from "a picture of promiscuity and disobedience."
Hebrew legend, but not the Bible, holds that Lilith was Adam's wife before Eve (yes, that Adam), split the Garden of Eden when she got tired of him bossing her around and later hooked up with a wayward archangel named Samael.
2. Woodlands brass doesn't plan for Joan Osborne's attire: Lilith's very first visit to Houston in August 1997 was awash in trouble when the Pavilion originally banned Planned Parenthood from setting up an information booth on the grounds. The venue said its decision was in line with a policy barring "controversial" organizations from the grounds, but McLachlan and fellow Lilith '97 performer Joan Osborne weren't having it and held a press conference to say so.
That was enough to convince the Pavilion to give Planned Parenthood the go-ahead, but it still banned Osborne from any further appearances after the "One of Us" singer wore a Planned Parenthood T-shirt during her performance. Since Osborne has never duplicated the success of 1995's Relish, that hasn't really been an issue.
3. Pro- and anti-choice charities get shut out: From the beginning, Lilith has always been charity-minded, donating a portion of ticket sales from each city to a local worthy cause. (The year of that Woodlands/Planned Parenthood/Joan Osborne flap, it was the Houston Area Women's Center, and both the HAWC and Montgomery County Women's Center the year after.) This year the festival decided to let fans nominate their favorite charities via its Facebook page, which backfired big time when several Crisis Pregnancy Centers - pro-life groups that many critics think hoodwink impressionable young women out of their right to an abortion - made the cut.
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Although Lilith later dropped these CPCs from its "Choose Your Charity" contest, the festival still managed to upset many women's-rights advocates when it also dropped NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina from the list. Raleigh and Charlotte were among the cancellations announced Friday.
4. Go-Go's say no-no to Arizona date: The buoyant '80s lady-poppers were all set to piggyback their farewell tour onto some Lilith dates this year. Then controversial anti-immigration Senate Bill 1070 passed and, as reported by Rocks Off's Phoenix sister blog Up on the Sun, lead singer Belinda Carlisle posted a message on Facebook asking the tour "to move the phoenix date in protest of the new immigration law in ARIZONA. the gogo's [sic] condemn the law and want the date moved." Not long after, Phoenix became one of the first Lilith 2010 stops to cancel.
5. Some things never change: When Entertainment Weekly senior writer (and Houston-area native) Whitney Pastorek posted a blog about Friday's cancellations, most of the commenters chalked the reason up to either the economy or the festival's relative lack of advertising and promotion. Not one gentleman named "Lilith Ne'er," though.
Rocks Off won't repeat what he said (it's the fourth comment down), but it's pretty convincing proof that no amount of wife/girlfriend persuasion/intimidation will ever be enough to get guys like this to cough up for tickets. And there are still a lot of guys like this out there.