It couldn’t look more like a cheesy plot from a B-rated movie.
Picture this: A sleazy music promoter offers a sexy, young female singer a record deal. It’s just the break she’s been waiting for so she leaves home, school and her family to pursue this dream-come-true.
But once she arrives in the land of fame and fortune - L.A., of course - she finds out the promoter wants a little payback.
Wink. Wink. You know, the physical kind.
The sad thing is, this isn’t a movie plot. This really happened. And it didn’t happen two or three decades ago. Nope, this happened within the time it’s taken No Doubt’s Gwen Stefani to make bare mid-riffs and pierced belly buttons all the rage.
It happened to Leah Andreone, the blue-eyed songstress who’s emotive voice has been slinking over the radio waves to the tune of “It’s Alright, It’s OK.”
“I got offered a record deal and it ended up that I was going to be paying this guy back in some kind of a sexual favor,” says 25-year-old Andreone. “I turned that record deal down. That was heartbreaking.”
If there was ever a reason for women musicians to stand united, this is it - this and the plethora of other sexist offenses that continue to lurk under the shimmering surface of the male-ruled music industry.
Like the radio stations that refuse to add “too many” girl songs to their play list. Or the concert promoter who balked at having a woman open the concerts on Sarah McLachlan’s tour last year.
“You’re crazy, nuts and out of your mind,” the promoter told McLachlan. “Who taught you the music business? Don’t you know you can never have two women on the same bill, that nobody wants to pay to see that?” McLachlan recounted in the New York Times.
Now, as traditionally testosterone-driven festivals fall hit a flat note (read Lollapalooza), a group of women artists led by McLachlan are about to take one giant step for womankind.
It is called The Lilith Fair, a music festival that tours 35 cities this summer and features only women-powered acts. The estrogen carnival gets its kick-start at The Gorge Saturday.
What was at first snickeringly referred to as touchy-feely girl stuff is proving to be one feisty bitch of a project that refuses to be kept down.
Among industry insiders and music lovers, Lilith Fair has become one of the most-anticipated and talked-about tours of the summer. Meanwhile, the 20,000 seats at The Gorge have sold out and many other venues are expecting the same.
McLachlan came up with the idea for Lilith Fair after watching rock fests like Lollapalooza and H.O.R.D.E. dip deep into the pool of male yang while shriveling to near bone-dry on female yin.
The festival got its name from Lilith, the Hebrew-fabled first wife of Adam who wouldn’t kowtow to her hubby and bailed on the relationship; Adam then turned to the more demur Eve. (Other versions of the tale refer to Lilith as a night monster or the mother of Adam’s demonic offspring.)
After a small but successful trial run last year, McLachlan stacked the tour deck with a power-house lineup for this summer’s first full-length Lilith Fair.
Jewel, Tracy Chapman, Paula Cole, Suzanne Vega, Leah Andreone, Cassandra Wilson and Mudgirl will appear with McLachlan at The Gorge. Artists like Emmylou Harris, Joan Osborne, Indigo Girls, Shawn Colvin and Sheryl Crow will rotate through other Lilith dates.
Most important, the participants are not just women. They’re highly-talented performers.
To that end, the Lilith Fairians don’t want people to get the wrong impression. They are not out to bash mankind.
“It doesn’t exclude men,” says McLachlan. “It celebrates women.”
In reality, however, Lilith Fair is doing more than just celebrating. It’s proving something.
Sure, women have shown time and again they can rip on guitar, vocals and drums with a mastery equal to any man’s. But clearly there are still tracks to be laid.
“Lilith Fair is proving that multiple female artists can go out and put on a hugely successful tour and that people want to see one woman after another,” Andreone says.
It is proving that women are not just a novelty, they are a force.
Of course, the question is: Will the industry ditch its goodwill toward womankind like any other stale trend after the Lilith bandwagon arrives at the end of the trail?
Andreone doesn’t think so.
“I think trends go away,” she says, “and women aren’t going to go away.”
Sara McLachlan is tired of being pitted against other women artists.
When she and Tori Amos released their last albums at the same time, radio executives were loathe to add two women artists to their playlist.
They repeatedly told McLachlan: “We added Tori this week, so we can’t add you,” McLachlan told Newsweek. “They never said, ‘We added Pearl Jam, so we can’t add Nirvana’.”
But that was then and this is now.
As Canadian folk rocker McLachlan releases her latest album “Surfacing” on July 15, she does so while all eyes are on her and rest of The Lilith Fair women standing together.
Her first single, “Building a Mystery” has already been released to radio and remains true to her ethereally introspective yet powerful stylings.
“Surfacing” is the follow-up to her 1994 double-platinum, Grammy-nominated “Fumbling Towards Ecstasy.” It spawned hits such as “Hold On,” “Possession” and “Good Enough.”
McLachlan will appear at all of the Lilith Fairs. Her husband Ashwin Sood backs her up on drums in the band.
Just when you think you’ve caught the meaning behind Paula Cole’s songs, she takes you on a lefthand turn right into a brick wall.
I will do the laundry, if you pay all the bills, she sings in “Where Have All the Cowboy’s Gone?”
Where is my John Wayne? Where is my prairie son? Where is my happy ending? Where have all the cowboys gone?
On “Tiger” she works her voice into an urgent wail. No more sex-starved teachers trying to touch my ass/ I can finally be a teenager at age 26.
These often-angry songs off her sophomore album, “This Fire,” can be confounding, but they’re also interesting.
And don’t look to her for explanation. “I relate to (poet) Pablo Neruda in “Il Postino” when he says that by explaining his poetry, he nullifies the very purpose of its existence,” she says. “I feel the joy of creation also lies in the many differences of its interpretation.”
If Jewel was, indeed, what her name says she is, she would have to be a diamond. Not because she is oh-so-precious, not because she’s a girl’s best friend, but because her voice is so crystal-clear and sometimes cutting that there is nothing else she could be.
On “Pieces of You,” from the album by the same name, she sings prettily, You say he’s a faggot, does it make you want to hurt him? You say he’s a faggot, do you want to kick in his brain? You say he’s a faggot are you afraid you are just like him?
Raised in a log cabin in Alaska, Jewel (formerly Jewel Kilcher) has been performing since she was 6. With spiritual leanings and folk-rock guitar strummings, she took the radio by storm with her tune “Who Will Save Your Soul.”
A spare, yet solid folk rock with a social conscience swirls around Tracy Chapman’s unique voice and widely respected stature among women songwriters.
Raised in a black working-class neighborhood, Chapman’s acoustic arrangements and gentle-but-passionate vocals set the stage for songs that often deal with human conditions such as poverty.
She took home three Grammys for her self-titled debut album from which “Fast Car” has become a classic.
From her breakthrough hit about child abuse, “Luka,” to the beat-laden songs off her most recent album, “Nine Objects of Desire,” Suzanne Vega remains a smart story teller and innovative songsmith.
Vega grew up in in New York’s Spanish Harlem. Encouraged to become a musician by her writer-father, she began playing in Greenwich Village coffeehouses at 16.
With tunes that trip from post modern, to folkie to techno, she has grown from cult favorite to pop star.
With a voice that skitters up and down the scale in a vulnerable-turned-penetrating warble, Andreone’s songs range from the sweet love tune “Imagining You” to the bitterly autobiographical “You Make Me Remember.”
Despite the bad experience at the start of her hunt for a record deal, happily Andreone was discovered by RCA after slipping a record exec her demo tape when he stopped in the restaurant where she worked as a waitress.
Her debut, “Veiled,” sprouted the single “It’s Alright, It’s OK” about the casualty of a broken marriage.
Raised in the San Diego area, Andreone grew up in a loving family but was abused for several years by a person outside the family. The experience left her withdrawn.
“I was told (by the abuser) to keep quiet and just to shut my mouth so I did,” she says.
Her parents drew her out by encouraging her to sing and write in a diary. It worked. She has felt more comfortable on stage since she was 8.
“It took me awhile to realize that I don’t need to shut up,” Andreone says. “I can say and be and do whatever I want to do.”
Jackson, Miss., jazz vocalist Cassandra Wilson grew up around music. Her father was a guitarist and bassist. Wilson studied piano from the age of 9 and began writing her own songs on guitar at age 12.
Her latest album “New Moon Daughter” uses her smoky voice to delve into the cycle of relationships.
Mudgirl is a character in a children’s story. No, no, it’s a band. No, it’s Kim Bingham’s alter ego.
Actually, it’s all three.
Bingham, a singer and writer hailing from Vancouver, B.C., created the Mudgirl character (made entirely of mud) for a children’s story she wrote. But Mudgirl also has become Bingham’s musical persona.
“Mudgirl is an extension of myself where I get to be cartoony and a bit surreal,” says Bingham who plays a musical style modeled after the eclectic pop of The The.
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MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: THE LILITH FAIR Location: The Gorge Date: Saturday, 4:30 p.m. Tickets: Sold out