The 2010 revival of the Lilith Fair was a disappointment. The fair celebrated its corporate sponsors more than it did women, and crowds were unenthusiastic, failing to support those performers who did deliver strong performances. Maybe it was a misguided lineup or too big of a venue, but one figures there are more than 4,000 people in the area who would support a genuinely woman-centric festival. And those 4,000 fans who did show up were dwarfed by a venue designed to hold 24,000. But enough about the disorganized festival. Let’s talk music.
Vita Chambers, who had more energy than any other performer all day, kicked off the action on the smaller stages. Her Disney channel-esque pop melodies and catchy lyrics definitely attracted youthful fans (who, after all, didn't have other obligations on a Tuesday afternoon). It comes as no surprise that Chambers will open up for teen sensation Justin Bieber on his summer tour, which happens to stop in Indianapolis next month.
Next up was English singer-songwriter Kate Nash, who, with provocative words across her piano ("A cunt is a useful thing") and smudged red lipstick, brought a rebellious taste to a pretty clean lineup. The sound mix found her vocals buried beneath the rest of the band, but she still managed to put on a notable performance, at one point jumping off-stage on top of equipment to sing in the pouring down rain. No divas on this tour.
The action moved to the main stage as evening came, with Suzanne Vega, who has performed on all four Lilith fair tours, taking the first set. Her twenty-minute performance was solid, but it just felt out of place, as there wasn’t much of an audience listening. Country artists Miranda Lambert and Court Yard Hounds both performed decent sets. When Lambert opened for Toby Keith a couple years back, the crowd knew almost every one of her songs. But at Lilith, she was just another face on the tour with maybe twenty people singing along.
The best performance of the night came from Mary J. Blige. She impressed with “Take Me as I am,” “Family Affair” and a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” But it was her energy more than anything else that benefited the festival. Without her, the festival would have been entirely comprised of coffee-shop-style performances.
Most people walked out during festival organizer Sarah McLaughlin’s set. Despite the fact that she put on the festival, she shouldn't have been the headliner. Her set was bland and the finale, which I hoped would bring several Lilith Fest performers back to the stage, only included McLaughlin, Lambert and Court Yard Hounds.