Lilith Fair Returns To Houston; The Last Time Around Didn't Go Too Smoothly

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Hair Balls is clutching our pearls in anticipation of the official announcement from Lilith Fair headquarters on a date, venue and lineup for the festival's Houston show. (They've already announced they're coming here, just not when.) From 1997 to 1999 the festival's first incarnation made waves as a way for female musicians to subvert the boys' club known as the popular music industry. In addition, the festival raised more than $10 million for women-centric charities in those three years.

In the meantime, we've been fascinated with coverage from the Chicago Reader regarding a little snafu in the festival's online "Choose Your Charity" scheme.

Lilith fans who joined the concert's Facebook page had the opportunity to vote on a number of local women-oriented charities in their town to receive $1 from each ticket sold in that city. The only problem? Lilith Fair organizers found the charities by the highly scientific method of Googling for federal tax ID numbers. As a result, many anti-abortion organizations, including controversial Crisis Pregnancy Centers, ended up in the polls. The Lilith Fair has traditionally been closely aligned with pro-choice organizations. But more on that in a second.

Some CPCs have been accused of disseminating false medical information to women in search of an abortion or birth control, withholding the results of pregnancy tests and health screenings and promising financial assistance but not following through for women who elect to carry their babies full-term. Last week in Austin a city council member proposed legislation that would require CDCs to post signs outlining the medical services they do and don't offer.

The Choose Your Charity Campaign is not the first time Lilith Fair has courted controversy over non-profit organizations. During the festival's first year, 1997, several musicians were set to perform in Houston when volunteers from Planned Parenthood, who'd had booths at every other stop on the tour, were denied access to the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.

Pavilion officials cited a policy barring any groups who represented controversial political platforms. They'd told Pace Concerts, the show's promoters, but no one bothered to tell the performers. Lilith Fair founder Sarah McLachlan and Joan Osbourne (remember her?) held a press conference vowing never to play the Pavilion again unless the volunteers were admitted. Pavilion officials ultimately backed down, and the show went on.

In an interview after the tour, Osbourne claimed that her decision to wear a Planned Parenthood t-shirt during her performance was viewed as confrontational by Pavilion officials, who, in a reversal of roles, banned her from performing at the venue again. The Lilith Fair returned to Houston in 1998 but did not stop here the final year of the tour.

After last week's Chicago Reader story a Facebook protest page popped up, to which Terry McBride, music label CEO and Lilith Fair cofounder, responded with a brief and vague statement. The following day, Lilith Fair removed most of the CPCs from its Chose Your Charity polls along with a few pro-choice organizations.

The non-profits currently listed for Houston include Star of Hope Mission, the Houston Area Women's Center, The Women's Resource of Greater Houston and The Women's Institute. Lilith Fair founders will hand-pick the receiving charities in each town from those with the most votes.

Hair Balls called the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion to inquire if the policy from 1997 banning contentious organizations was still in place, and if it was true that Joan Osbourne had been banned from the venue, but Courtney Galle, marketing and public relations manager, pled ignorance, understandably.

"I was 20 years old then," she said. "I didn't work here -- I wasn't even thinking about public relations. But to my knowledge I have never known a policy like that."

Pavilion CEO Jerry MacDonald declined to comment since Lilith Fair organizers haven't announced a venue for Houston yet. Media inquiries to both Planned Parenthood of Greater Houston and Lilith Fair organizers were not returned.

However, there aren't many other locations in Houston that could accommodate a festival the size of Lilith Fair. Maybe the reason the show's details haven't been finalized is because the show's current promoters, LiveNation, are trying to make sure there are no more misunderstandings.

The festival will also stop in Austin and Dallas. Dates and venues for those shows are pending.
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