Lilith: A Catastrophic Failure?

Half-lit Lilith sign a perfect metaphor for Lilith 2010

A Celebration of Women in Music. Lilith was one of the most popular summer tour/festivals in the late 90s.  But the big comeback a decade later has been plagued with problems.  Disappointing ticket sales, headlining artists pulling out and dates being canceled across the country.  If there were a ‘dislike’ button on Facebook, the festivals’ page would be littered with it.  People are pissed off because they paid over $100 for tickets that are now selling for a fraction of the cost.  People are pissed because big names like Kelly Clarkson, Mary J. Blige and Miranda Lambert have canceled some dates or pulled out altogether.  People are pissed off that schedules are not released until minutes before the event starts.  All these complaints seem to fall on deaf ears.

So why is Lilith such a mess?  Is it because Sarah McLachlan is no longer relevant?  Is it because even the initial line-up’s headliners weren’t enough to draw a crowd?  Is it the economy?

I believe all those factors did have a negative effect (except that many would argue Sarah is still relevant), but I don’t think they were the driving factor.  I believe expectations were just set too high.

There are plenty of women out there who would love to attend Lilith.  Those that attended in the 90’s and have fond memories.  Those who missed out in the 90’s and want to make up for it.  And those that just enjoy a good day in the sun watching a bunch of female-fronted live acts perform for their entertainment.  Plenty of women.  Maybe not as many as Sarah and her crew thought though.  And most of these women who do want to attend are not willing to pay over $100 a head to do so.

So is Lilith the failure tour of the summer?  No.  American Idol, Rihanna, even U2 (for different reasons) have canceled dates all over the country this summer.  It’s just not a good year for big shows.  But Lilith did fail. It failed at filling the stages with big acts, it failed at picking the right venues to play and it failed in communication with the fans.

So what did all these failures mean for the Denver stop?  It meant if you bought tickets when they went on sale you had to sit next to people who paid a fraction of the cost for their tickets.  It meant you were out of luck if you were a Kelly Clarkson or Miranda Lambert fan.  It meant heavy restrictions on where you could and could not drink a beer and it meant you had half of Comfort Dental Amphitheatre to yourself.  But as a guy, it did mean you pretty much had the men’s room to yourself as well!  I fell into all these categories.

I bought $60 tickets in Sec. 205 when they went on sale.  I wanted to bring my wife to see a bunch of female artists for a change.  But I would be lying if I said I wasn’t excited as well.  I have been a big fan of female artists my whole life.  My first concert was with my dad.  He won tickets on the radio to see Stevie Nicks…I think I was 5 or 6.  I loved Heart‘s Dreamboat Annie and I had a crush on Cyndi LauperTina Turner scared me as much as she intrigued me.  Then I hit my teens and got into bands as as diverse as 10,000 Maniacs, L7, The Breeders, Ani DiFranco and Jewel…just to name a few of the hundreds of female artists on my iPod today.

So when we got to the venue and I realized I couldn’t bring my beer to the side stages, that they were upgrading people who only paid $10 (heavily discounted) to sit on the lawn to the very section I paid $60 for and that two of the main acts had canceled…I was pretty disappointed.  Not to mention pissed off I forgot my sunscreen and it was 95 degrees outside!

That being said, we made the best of it and actually had a really good day.

We caught Anya Marina first.  I had heard a few of her songs before and she sounded really good on the side stage.  Her humour is what made it though…’Lilith turned me gay…that’s my next T-shirt’, ‘this one’s for the guys, all 7 of you’, and this song is from Twilight, you know that movie ‘we can all relate to, remember when you were in high school and fell in love with that vampire boy…and you spooned and glittered in that field’ It was nice to hear one of the artists from that soundtrack make fun of the movie.

Anya Marina

We saw Rosie Thomas from Michigan next.  She has a great singing voice but sounded like she had been sucking helium all day when she spoke.

Then we saw a couple songs from SHEL.  I was not impressed with these 4 very young sisters from Ft. Collins, but they had cool hats and sat in front of us for most the headlining acts and a lot of people seemed interested in them.  Maybe these local girls will make it big…


Anjule was the first act we saw on the main stage.  We were still hanging out on the grass at this point.  I had heard her song Boom but she didn’t play that.  What she did perform was sexy, dirty, in-your-face dance music that seemed to fall flat on this mostly lesbian crowd.  She is young and inexperienced, but you have to expect that a song called Sex Education with lyrics like ‘girls need men’ isn’t going to tug at the heartstrings of this particular female crowd.  I did like her though…once she matures a little and sticks to  the club scene, I think she’ll do well.


Ingrid Michaelson almost ‘pooped her pants’ when she met Emmylou Harris and Sarah McLachlan.  I, myself, almost pissed my pants when Ingrid Michaelson told us this because I had drank too many crappy $9 beers…so I took this time to use the empty men’s facilities and to grab another overprices beverage (a $18 double Red Bull Vodka).  My wife did like her set though.

After Ingrid we met up with a friend who had an extra ticket down in the front, almost empty section…so we got down there just in time to catch one of our favorite acts…MetricEmily Haines and crew really brought the vibe up with their sexed up rock show…


After Metric we realized that Crystal Light and Lilipad weren’t the only ones pushing their product here as we were forced to endure ABC pilots between bands.  Another one of those ‘failures’ if you are counting.

But after a pilot about 20-somethings doing something, Emmylou Harris came on.  The one act I was really looking forward to.  Say what you will, she is a living legend and at 63 years old looks and more importantly, sounds incredible…perfect!

Emmylou Harris

Then came the ‘Master (is there a female word for this?) of Ceremonies’ herself, Sarah McLachlan.  I have to admit I had high hopes when she opened with Angel accompanied by Emmylou, but I couldn’t help but getting tired, and dare I say, a little bored with her set.  I know I’m not who this show was geared toward and it really shouldn’t matter what a heterosexual male thinks of the headliner of Lilith, but I think I have the background to critique this performance.  I am a huge, huge fan of Fumbling Towards Ecstasy and this was my third time seeing Sarah live.  It’s not that the new material isn’t good, it’s just that she has so much great older material and I was going on my 8th hour at a awful venue in the middle of an office park and I could have used some ‘Hold On‘ or ‘Good Enough‘.  But oh well, I did enjoy it much more than the guy who was sleeping across the aisle from me and I did appreciate the ‘Ice Cream’ encore.

Sarah McLachlan

She closed the set with a cover of Patti Smith‘s Because The Night with a stage filled with performers from the day.  Her and Emmylou in the center.  It was a great song to hear as we were exiting the venue.  It was a good close to a good day of music.  Not amazing; disappointing it a lot of ways…but not a catastrophic failure by any means.  A good day that could have been a great day if expectations were managed a little better.

Metric Setlist Comfort Dental Amphitheater, Englewood, CO, USA 2010, Lilith Fair

Emmylou Harris Setlist Comfort Dental Amphitheater, Englewood, CO, USA 2010, Lilith Fair

Sarah McLachlan Setlist Comfort Dental Amphitheater, Englewood, CO, USA 2010, Lilith Fair

  1 comment for “Lilith: A Catastrophic Failure?

  1. alex_supertramp
    July 16, 2010 at 6:14 am

    wow — had no idea they were having so many issues… glad to hear it was still a fun show…

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