Come back, Lilith Fair, come back

August 3.  The last night of the 2010 Lilith Tour.  Many would argue it is also the final curtain for Lilith Fair altogether.  Perhaps I am a wishful thinker (it’s been known to happen) or still high off my own amazing Lilith experience a few days ago, but I believe Lilith will return.  I believe it must.

Thankfully, as I spent my afternoon hours surfing (the Internet, not the local waves) like any other self-respecting summering teacher, I discovered that there are plenty of women out there who believe the same.  I even spotted a survey from the Lilith Fair producers, polling fans on which artists they should line up for 2011.  I will take that as a good sign and, of course, am already working on a list to submit (Jonatha Brooke, Imogen Heap, Ladytron, Alison Krauss, Joni Mitchell, Bjork, Annie Lennox, PJ Harvey—and, aha!, what about a reunion of Siouxsie with her Banshees?). 

For me, it’s simple.  For one day and evening, Lilith Fair creates a magical world in which women—and our music—come first.  A respite from the realities of a world in which throngs of women continue to suffer, struggle, and frequently place second.  A fantasy land in which women gather together for several hours to do nothing but revel in music and one another.  Between work, commitments, and life, like most women, it’s been a while since I’ve “reveled” in anything—so thank you, Lilith Fair.

One of the biggest thrills for me was watching Suzanne Vega perform.  Clad in her usual black attire (trading black boots for pink Converse Chuck Taylors this time), she sang some of her greatest hits, including “Blood Makes Noise,” “Caramel,” and, of course, “Luka” and “Tom’s Diner.”  The most powerful, though, the one that gets me every time, was “Left of Center.”  Though the venue was not even close to being full at this point and I seemed to be the only maniac cheering her lungs out, I leapt from my lawn chair, listening to every word just as I used to all those years ago from the tiny stereo speakers in my bedroom back home.  God, how I used to cling to those words of hers, as though they were rosary beads.

There were also the exciting “surprises” that sprinkled the day: Sara Bareilles singing the breathtaking “Gravity,” prompting me to squeal, “I know that song!…I love that song!” or hearing Jill Hennessy belt out in a beautiful voice.  (Permit me a side note: many years ago, I shared an elevator ride with Ms. Hennessy in the apartment building on Bleecker Street in which we both lived.  For those three minutes, I fidgeted and stared down the elevator buttons like a gawky fool, an avid Law and Order viewer.  She, on the other hand, greeted me as though we were old friends with a warm, cheery “Hello! How are you?!” Needless to say, I have been a huge fan of hers ever since.  I was even more thrilled to learn that the woman can sing).  Discovering new female artists like Butterfly Boucher and Priscilla Renea made my time spent at Lilith even more rewarding.  And I guess that’s one of the best parts of music, isn’t it.  The mutual giving and receiving between artist and audience.       

The most poignant moment for me, though, was when The Indigo Girls (joined by Sarah McLachlan, no less) sang “Love’s Recovery.”  I still remember the first time I ever listened to the song (too many years ago now).  A close friend had lent me her Indigo Girls cassette tape (see what I mean about too many years ago?), and so I casually popped it in my player and lay back to listen.  Before the song had even finished playing, it grabbed and shook my insides, then left me wanting to hear it again.  And so I rewound.  Again.  And again.  To this day, there are not many songs whose lyrics continue to affect me so profoundly as this one.  And so I stood there at Lilith Fair a few nights ago, loudly singing along under evening’s blanket, recalling my younger days of star gazing and painting picture perfect maps of how my life and love would be, vowing this night, however, to never miss any more miles of road I should see. 

Sarah McLachlan closed the show with an unbelievably powerful performance.  There is no mistaking that hers is a voice from somewhere beyond.  A gift.  Sexy, strong, and smart, she sang her greatest hits and sheepishly asked permission to sing some new ones.  She spoke of living with “good intent” and shared with us how separating from her husband led her to write a country song.  I got more soul than country from it, but no matter.  Again, the music of Lilith Fair was uniting women across boundaries, drawing us closer, enabling us to relate to one another and to feel an empathy and connection through our similarities and our differences.  Damn, even the $13 beer tasted good.

I can recall thoroughly enjoying the original Lilith Fairs back in the 90s, but somehow this year’s experience resonated on a deeper level with me.  Could be I’ve just grown older, more appreciative, but I suspect it’s something more.  I’ve been carrying around some of these women’s songs for years, pulling them out at different stops along my own stretch of road.  They have sung to me of travel, of hope, of pride.  They have sung to me of that ache for love, for sex, for the next fix and the warm, comforting rush once you get it.  They have sung to me in poetry and inspired me to write my own.  They have sung to me of activism and provoked me to act out.  And in the lowest, darkest moments, when I asked, Why am I like this?  Why do I feel this way? Am I the only one? they have sung to me and answered, No, sweet thing, you are not alone.

And so this is why Lilith Fair must return.  Here we all are, each of us on her individual journey, tuning out our worlds together for one brief stretch of time, transcending the music to celebrate our triumphs and struggles, the stuff that makes us awesome.  We are laughing, chatting, singing, dancing, making out, making believe, eating ice cream, reading pamphlets, texting someone, speaking up for a cause, sneaking photographs, holding hands, holding each other, sharing a beer, sharing a joint, wishing, hoping, dreaming—realizing our compass has led us to the right place tonight, realizing we are all okay.

then you know it’s alright and you feel it’s alright (each life has its place you say each life has its place) it’s alright

– “Virginia Woolf” The Indigo Girls

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A Little Bitta Music Goes a Long Way

               Berthold Auerbach coined music the best when he said, “Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”  So here I am, knee-thick into the stickiest June I remember, after a winter and spring that trudged on months past their welcome.  One major breakup, downsize to a walk-up apartment, and broken nose (freakish attack by a porch chair in a windstorm) later, I’m able to enjoy tonight’s beautiful moon, lightning bug show, the first breezes in days, and admit to myself, Life is good. 

            What really helped me dust myself off and start to enjoy summer’s embrace, though, was getting out and seeing some live music.  Virago, a fierce female guitar/percussion duo, to be exact.  As I’ve written before, I am a music nut.  I listen to music, talk about music, download music, buy music (yes, in a store), explore music constantly.  Whenever I flip back through certain chapters of my life, I reaffirm the strength, hope, and nourishment music has provided me. 

             Sometimes, however, I forget the power of live music and why I miss it so deeply when I haven’t experienced it for a while.  I still remember my first concert, which in some ways will always be the best show I’ve ever seen: Tears for Fears at Radio City Music Hall.  Lights dimming, colorful strobe lights dancing around on stage, the first strains of their opening song slowly leaking out to us in the dark.  My goosebumps throbbed for days.                

                And then, of course, there was my first stadium concert: U2 at the Meadowlands.  Followed by my first music festival experiences with Lollapalooza and Lilith Fair.  (I still drool over the documentary Woodstock any chance I get, believing somehow I must have been there in spirit, though I was not yet of this earth.)  Living on my own in New York for close to a decade, I sucked in as much music as that city has to offer, and still didn’t catch it all—subway stations, bars, lounges, cafes, pizzerias, Irving Plaza, Bowery Ballroom, Central Park, Washington Square Park, street corners, the front stoop of my four-story apartment house—music buzzing from every crevice, corner, and alleyway.

             Tonight adds another show to my list.  And we’re not exactly talking New York or a stadium spectacle here.  Yet burrowed in a cozy cafe near the ocean, sitting with a group of warm, welcoming women, I enjoyed some of the best music I’ve heard (and seen) in ages.  In fact it was hard to believe at times that such raw, kick-ass music could possibly be spilling out from only two women, a guitar, and a drum.  Amy and Maire beat, strummed, and sang with passion and intensity I haven’t experienced in a long while, connecting with every one of us for every minute of the hour.  No matter that the cafe blazed from lack of air conditioning and summer’s swelter—the duo played music as though each of our lives depended on it.  Heat be damned, they seemed to say, stealing occasional swigs of water, we’re gonna give you all we got.  Well, they sure got me.  From the first notes on, I was hooked.  And, yet again, music proved the restorative, empowering value it holds in my life.  Two women, a guitar, and a drum.  Sounds simple, yet proved to be anything but. 

http://www.viragomusic.com

24 June 2010