Fair game

Feminism posing as trend, profit masquerading as activism, and a bunch of really bad songs: Why Lilith Fair isn't so fair at all

The only problem is that to many rock fans--this fan included--danger and mystery constitute the deepest appeal of live rock and roll; it is only those moments when a show teeters on the brink of chaos and ruin that give rock music its power to change minds and move souls. I appreciate well-sung hits as much as the next person, but it was the sight of thousands of kids tearing up the seats at Riverfront stadium near Cleveland during a 1992 Ministry set that will stick in my mind as emblematic of an era; the sound of Fugazi shrieking "She did nothing to deserve it!" on their anti-rape anthem "Suggestion" that reminds me of my hallowed youth.

After all, these are the moments that, as the French novelist Colette once said, "we so lightly called physical," the moments that shake and roil our souls. One can't help but wonder what, at Lilith Fair, is supposed to take the place of that catharsis--for without catharsis comes boredom and, eventually, a coma. And then the body has to be jerked back to attention by some kind of adrenaline-creator, be it testosterone, or violence, or just reality in all its dirty glory. The music of Sarah McLachlan and Bonnie Raitt and Natalie Merchant and all the other lilies may do a lot of things for a lot of people, but somehow I don't think it's going to do that.

Lilith Fair takes place August 1 at Starplex Amphitheatre. Scheduled to appear on the main stage, beginning at 5:40 p.m., are Liz Phair, Erykah Badu, Bonnie Raitt, Natalie Merchant, and Sarah McLachlan. On the second stage, beginning at 4:20 p.m.: Ebba Forsberg, Diana King, and Lucinda Williams. On the Village Stage, beginning at 3:30 p.m.: franklySCARLET, Talking to Animals, and Drugstore.

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