Originally created 07/31/98

Lilith Fair is more than a musical adventure

Let me set the record straight. Although Lilith Fair features an all-female lineup, it isn't a gathering of bra-burning, men-hating feminists and lesbians. (Not that there's anything wrong with that.)

I set out to Lilith Fair's stop at Lakewood Amphitheatre in Atlanta recently with a couple of female colleagues, Meghan and Alisa, just to see what it was all about.

This is what I found.

With tents and booths set up by commercial ventures such as Tower Records, Starbucks and Levi's, the event was basically like a concert at the mall.

With its woman-friendly slate of entertainers and vendors hawking items such as handmade clothing, nail polish and massages, it wasn't a bad idea to bring along a credit card or two.

"You had to know shopping was going to enter into it somehow," cracked Alisa, who plunked down $60 for a T-shirt, poster and a necklace.

Besides the retail opportunities, concertgoers could support various causes and organizations, such as domestic-violence shelters, breast cancer and anorexia research, the National Organization for Women and Planned Parenthood.

"You can pretty much handle all of your charities for the year by going to Lilith Fair," said Meghan, gazing at the array of propaganda booths spread out across the amphitheater midway.

Generally, it was a laid-back affair. When people bumped into you, they usually apologized, unlike many concerts where you get trampled by unremorseful knuckleheads. I can't count how many times I heard, "Oops, sorry."

But the laid-back vibe kind of backfired for the first two performers on the main stage.

Meredith Brooks' set was loud and raucous as she pranced about performing macho guitar tricks -- but most of the crowd was looking bored until she launched into her signature song [filtered word].

Then Queen Latifah -- with the "wave your hands in the air" call-and-response and shout-outs so common to hip-hop performances, created a mild stir. I kind of felt sorry for her playing in front of such a docile crowd of mostly white faces. She might as well have been booked for the local Jaycees banquet.

Overall, the performers -- including Bonnie Raitt, Natalie Merchant and Lilith mastermind Sarah McLachlan -- were short on political speeches, instead paying tribute to each other as individuals more than womankind.

"It's not about male-bashing," explained Latifah.

She's right. I didn't feel threatened.

Why should I? There were beautiful women everywhere and not a bunch of obnoxious drunk guys slamming into you. There were plenty of men there to make a presence, but we were definitely in the minority.

The only real battle of the sexes was happening at the restrooms.

Lines and lines of women were using the men's bathrooms. That's not a big deal. I've seen it happen at other concerts, clubs, sporting events, etc.

"Is this the men's bathroom or what?" exclaimed one perplexed guy upon entering the dank facility and spotting a queue of females waiting at every stall.

I didn't take offense, but I certainly wasn't going to wait in line behind a woman when it was, after all, the designated spot for men to relieve themselves. I had carte blanche.

Call it sexist, call it what you will. But with my bladder about to pop, I was just glad to be a member of the boys' club.


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