Lilith of the valley

Gal-lapalooza sports the best outdoor vibe so far

The Lilith Fair is the winner so far in what music wonks like to paint as the Battle of the Summer Mega-tours. Lollapalooza, on August 2, was no different than any other concert this year; it might have been even less inspiring than your typical show. The atmosphere reeked of people hanging around killing time without connection, like people who go to high school ball games even though they graduated a couple of years ago. They watch the people watching the game from the parking lot, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes.

On August 4, though, Lilith offered the best vibe of the year so far, invigorating in its sense of empowerment, with a real sense of the joyful and new from both sides of the stage. Irish songstress and star Mary Black made an entire amphitheater of new fans. Sarah McLachlan was great; Emmylou Harris, brilliant. Joan Osborne got on the case of Starplex security on behalf of dancing fans--just like at a real old-timey concert!

Local talent fared well. Opening act Kacy Crowley has recently signed with Atlantic from local label Carpe Diem and surely got the biggest chunk of the crowd in terms of percentage--90 percent of the scattered handful there at half-past three. Crowley really needs a band to put across her slightly-off-kilter go-girl folk-rock, but it was interesting to see her do four songs off of her debut album, anchorless, with only an acoustic guitar, including "Hand to Mouthville," which Atlantic will probably release soon as the first single.

Main-stage opener and Hockaday homegirl Lisa Loeb has recovered quite a bit from the sudden nature of her career's beginnings and came off better than expected, having lost most of her open-mike-night hesitancy. Apparently she was upset at how she was portrayed in a "How I Spent My Day" essay that appeared in The Met, written by local journalist Eric Celeste. And though it took her a while to get going, she soon had enough steam up to pause and impugn Celeste's veracity, dedicating "Taffy"--a song named after a chewy candy--to him.

Austin's Kelly Willis was absolutely fabulous, as usual. Her sharp twang and fine sense of song was complemented by the innumerable grace notes and textural touches of former Skunk and True Believer Jon Dee Graham on guitar and lap steel. The placement of the second stage that she performed on--on the lawn, inside the amphitheater walls instead of outside--was a great idea, allowing people to remain parked on their butts on their blankies while still catching the often more interesting second-level acts. I didn't see one person puke or get punched, and when I looked back over my shoulder and realized with a start that the lawn of Starplex was almost full, a wave of common-cause warm and fuzzies washed over me so intensely that Jewel herself was only mildly annoying.

Love! Valor! Silence!
Lately, Dallas Observer staffers--particularly the music and calendar sections--have received a number of agitated calls from readers who are also Howard Stern fans. They want to enlist our support in protesting KEGL 97.1's decision not to renew the contract for Stern's show, which often rates first in its crucial weekday morning slot. The weekly battle to put out yet another quality issue of the Observer had just begun to ebb--victory once more assured--when yet another salvo of Stern-ocentric concern crossed our bow, this time fired by an organization calling itself S.O.S., or Save Our Stern. Jimmy Fowler was the first one to snap.

"Is there some grand plot by the conservative powers of Dallas to muffle Stern, much like religious and legal agencies have conspired in cities around the country to keep Marilyn Manson from spreading his satanic gospel?" Fowler cried as he clambered atop his desk. "Is KEGL caving in to pressure with their decision to replace Howard's trash talk with yet more corporate-dictated music playlists?"

Our wounded fife player--a mere lad--pulled himself up from the bloody cot where he had been recuperating. Although grievously injured, he began playing "Yankee Doodle" on his instrument, hesitantly at first but then with rising vigor as Fowler gathered steam. "A meeting of concerned DO minds confirms it," Fowler cried. "Howard's Dallas ouster ranks below crime, poverty, and male pattern baldness on our worry list. Come to think of it, he's also below the fate of European currency and Frank and Kathie Lee's marriage.

"We don't disapprove of his show," Fowler allowed. "Any idiot who listens to Stern for more than five minutes knows he hasn't earned the sexist-racist-homophobic labels his clumsiest critics have attached to him. He's too unfocused, too cowardly to commit to a truly unpopular principle. The sniveling film version of his bestseller Private Parts is exhibit A in the prosecution's case--Howard Stern has atrophied into the kind of institution he purports to attack."

Fowler put his hand atop his cubicle divider to steady himself. "The self-professed 'King of All Media' has so saturated the American consciousness that he's become indistinguishable from his influence. This is what killed punk in the late '70s--the bureaucratization of shock. Build a big enough following, and soon you discover you're next in line to be overthrown. Stern's multi-million-dollar courtship of the spotlight has blinded him to his own repetitiveness.

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