They admit it: They're here for the chicks. "We're hoping we can change the lesbians around," Honisch joked.
Nearly 20,000 people, "chicks" included, came to the Blockbuster-Sony Entertainment Center in Camden, N.J., on Sunday to see singer Sarah McLachlan's brainchild of a concert tour: the Lilith Fair. The lineup consists entirely of female-fronted acts, from Fiona Apple to the Cardigans.
The Lilith Fair comes to a sold-out show at Merriweather Post Pavilion tonight.
In Camden, the all-day event offered powerful music and people-watching galore. The Village, Lilith Fair's merchandising and social awareness headquarters, provided patrons with a concert mall complete with psychedelic souvenirs and booths offering information about women's issues and organizations.
Lilith Fair is part revelation, part revolution.
It's a revelation because it's convincing promoters and record execs everywhere that women can and do blend the commercial with the cerebral. It's a revolution because attending it is empowering (for both men and women) without being overpowering.
"It's a showcase of women musicians only because people said it couldn't be done," said Kirsten Furlong, 32. The Baltimore resident is touring with the show, working in a nonprofit booth. "It's not a macho rock-and-roll thing. Everyone works together as a team."
Despite scattered misconceptions about raging feminist undertones and labels such as "Gal-apalooza," the Lilith Fair is not an Empowerment Rally disguised as a rock festival. No pin the tail on the insensitive male booths.
Moshing and marijuana were not the order of the day, unlike the scene at other summer rock festivals, such as Lollapalooza and the H.O.R.D.E. Tour.
Holding a Jack Daniel's mug in one hand and lemonade in the other, George Burch came here for two reasons: the music and his 14-year-old niece.
"This concert has made me think how some male music is geared toward men with no apology," the 48-year-old Trenton, N.J., resident said. "It's good to see some equalization."
On the lawn, the crowd included tattooed teens in cut-off combat shorts and bikini tops, mothers in summer dresses with LTC fanny packs and frat boys in John Lennon glasses, munching pretzels resembling large intestines.
Not to say there weren't considerably more women than men. At one point, a rumor circulated about giving the men's bathroom facilities a sex change.
Lilith's founder, McLachlan, has repeatedly emphasized that the show is not intended to exclude men. But some women still claim it as their own.
Two guys at work asked Danna Nicholas if they could accompany her to the concert.
The 33-year-old Atlanta resident had no reservations about abruptly turning them down.
"I wouldn't want to bring one," said Nicholas, who's wary of being judged for her sexual orientation. "I don't want to be staring at women when men are here. It would be like, 'I'll see you later, there's a hot chick right here.' "
Couples gay and straight cuddled on towels and walked hand in hand. Nina DeCosta, holding girlfriend Jane Pritchett, 32, on her lap, noted a certain comfort level generated by the venue.
"If it wasn't an all-woman concert, we probably wouldn't be as open," the 48-year-old Philadelphia resident said.
More commonly seen were mothers and daughters, nieces and aunts. Rachel Gorman, 11, and her aunt Rose Gorman, 38, browsed through the Village. Rose, looking forward to seeing Joan Osborne, brought Rachel to show her the all-women lineup -- something she never had the opportunity to experience at her niece's age.
But Rachel, who came to see the Cardigans, was most impressed by how different the crowd at the Lilith is from the one she encountered at the Wallflowers and Counting Crows show the previous night.
"People aren't as nuts," said the Gloucester City, N.J., resident. "Women aren't as loud as men."
In the Village, patrons could find funnel cakes and philanthropy.
All the standard outdoor music fest fare could be found: outrageously priced margaritas, outrageously priced french fries, outrageously priced hemp products.
But the community organization and awareness booths displayed a conscience beyond the concessions.
"I'm sensing a shift," said Lisel Burns, organizer of Grassroots Organizations Operating Together in Sisterhood. Burns said she'd like to see more civic awareness booths springing up at major concert events.
The Village teemed with wandering concertgoers for most of the day. Barefoot, tie-dyed neo-hippies sampled crocheted bikini tops and proudly displayed their new hemp jewelry.
But later in the evening, the crowd concentrated on the performers. It wasn't until darkness and a breeze eased the humidity that the sense of musical unity, the real spirit of the Lilith Fair, came to the fore.
Tracy Chapman hypnotized the audience, first, on her own, and then with McLachlan and Osborne, who joined her for an ecstatic "Proud Mary."
On the lawn, front and center, the unruly men from earlier in the day were listening. But they weren't making random passes or baring their derrieres.
Darell slowly swayed back and forth, mouthing the lyrics. Matt tapped the railings, eyes closed.
Maybe they were just drunk. Maybe they were fantasizing about the woman onstage. Or, maybe, they had come for more than the chicks.
Talk about a revolution.
The Lilith Fair
Who: Sarah McLachlan, Jewel, the Cardigans, Joan Osborne and Fiona Apple
Where: Merriweather Post Pavilion, Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia
When: Today at 4: 30 p.m.
Tickets: Sold out
Pub Date: 7/29/97