The Second Coming of Lilith Fair

BY David Michael Conner

May 06 2010 6:05 PM ET

LILITH FAIR 4 X390 (GETTY IMAGES) | ADVOCATE.COM

Creating Foresight

The second-generation Lilith Fair is more than just a revival. Whether they’re “just a bunch of Canadians” or just feel an obligation to do more than hoard their loonies, the Lilith partners have literally incorporated their foresight of a better world into their plans for Lilith with a new program called i4c.

“In ’97 through ’99,” McBride says, “we would give a dollar per ticket to a local women’s charity — a battered women’s center or something of that nature. And we’d select those by looking in the phone book and phoning around and asking. There was no Google then. There was no way to socially engage in it. But what we saw was that when we gave that check, when the person who ran that organization would start crying because to them the check meant keeping the doors open for another six months, that’s when the press galvanized into critics going, ‘This is what Lilith can do.’ This is the power that we have.

“The one thing that really bothered the four Lilith owners was that the charity stuff we did ended with it. So we wanted to do two things: First off, on the local charity, we wanted to turn it into a community event. We wanted the communities to help us pick the charities. Rather than us just picking one and then everyone finding out about it the day of the event, by creating this choose-your-charity program, multiple charities within that city would get awareness that they ordinarily wouldn’t get. And then the other angle is called i4c, which stands for ‘I foresee change.’ We thought, OK, how can we create an ongoing charitable element to Lilith when Lilith goes from being a traveling festival to being a destination event? So, OK, why don’t we take a dollar from every event and invest it in a venture-capitalist fund? And why don’t we invest in triple-bottom-line companies — companies that are green, socially conscious, for profit. Companies that are only doing good things. Then why don’t we take the return from those investments and put that in an ongoing charity fund?’ Our goal is to create a self-sustaining Lilith charity fund. And I really believe that when we nail this, some of the larger artists will go, ‘Hang on, instead of me supporting a charity for my tour, here’s a great way to create something that goes on past my tour, that continues to give.’ It’s the same dollar per tour locally, but now involving the community in a very active way. And then creating a sustainable charity element for after the Lilith tour has ended.”

In the end, it is clear that Lilith Fair has one
true driving force, and that is Sarah McLachlan. The revival would not
have happened without her involvement, and it was planned to coincide
with her new album, set for a June 15 release.

“Being a new mom, she wasn’t going to do 18 months’ worth of
touring,” McBride says. “What was the most fun she ever had touring?
Lilith. She absolutely loves it. She doesn’t have to do a
two-and-a-half-hour set. She gets to play with other artists. She gets
to be a music fan. She loves Lilith. It’s just such a great energy
for her. So if you give her any option of how she’d like to tour, at
the top of the list would be Lilith.”

McLachlan, for her part,
can’t wait.

“I’ve had my head stuck in my nether regions for the
past couple of months trying to get this record done,” she says with a
giggle. She’s looking forward to getting out of the studio.

“There’s
an amazing bunch of new artists out there to help build it and just
bring along the legacy and renew it again and make it bigger and
better.”

Most artists invest all their energy in promoting a new
release, but Sarah McLachlan seems to work in short, nearly manic bursts
of activity and then disappear to gestate new music. This is one of
her creative moments, and one of the most ambitious points in her
career. But she doesn’t seem to feel any pressure.

“It’s an
exciting challenge.”

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