Tag Archives: Music

Hidden costs: On Lilith Fair and subtle exclusion

HEY LADIES AND THE FOLKS WHO LOVE THEM, REMEMBER LILITH FAIR? I certainly do, as I once had visions of attending it — visions which, like the proverbial sugar plums-dancing-in-childrens’-heads-come-December, did not materialize. Now that I think about it, this probably ended up being a good thing.

Well, the women’s music festival that isn’t that other one (and Lilith Fair, to its credit, does not have exclusion policies based on what gender an individual was assigned at birth) is back and it is BIGGER THAN EVER. It is going to be in my neck of the woods (the venue, however, happens to be about two hours away from where I live) rather soon, and it is going to be stopping at a pretty large outdoor arena that also happens to be built on a landfill.

As will quickly become apparent, I’m not a huge fan of Lilith Fair; I have some highly specific problems with it which, gasp, are not all about the music! With regards to the actual music, I don’t want to just throw my hands up from my keyboard and be all UGH SOME OF THE ARTISTS ARE SOOO TERRIBLE AND BORING NEENER NEENER. I used to rely on that sort of argument with some frequency, and, let me tell you, not doing that is so much more exciting, because it means that I can write long-ass posts on things that I find problematic in some ways (and, often, not completely without merit) instead of going THIS TOTALLY SUCKS WHY WOULD ANYONE LISTEN TO IT BAH and having that be the end of my opinion. I also don’t think that wholesale boringness, or totally sucking, or being the musical equivalent of Grocery Outlet (in which you think you are getting a good deal, but really you are just buying close-to-expiration-date food items — and, for God’s sake, be careful with those reduced-price dairy products!), is the case with many of these artists. I may not be a fan of, say, Norah Jones, but I can acknowledge that she is very good at what she does; she has struck a chord with folks for a reason that may, actually, be deeper than the popular music industry’s tendency to latch onto a trend and push it until it becomes the peat moss in the ground of modern music.

Here’s one big issue I have with Lilith Fair, in terms of social inclusion: Despite its attempts at “diversity” in its most recent incarnation, the roster of performers for 2010 is still fairly…white. And middle-class — just look at the ticket prices, for one thing. And, presumably, able-bodied. And, tangentially: if Sarah McLaughlan were diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome or something, you KNOW she would be all over raising awareness of that condition like hippies on a drum circle, perhaps appearing in a high-profile ad campaign of some kind. She is great with that kind of “raising awareness” stuff — see, for example, her tear-inducing recent ads for the ASPCA. While I do have problems with the whole “raising awareness” activism/charity model for a lot of things — including for PWDs and people with chronic illnesses/health conditions — overall, I respect Sarah immensely for her activist work, my own issues with the charity model of activism aside.

However: even if some of the artists whose music I actually enjoy (Erykah Badu, Sia, Janelle Monae, or Gossip, for example) were going to be on the roster for the day that the Lilith caravan-slash-sleek tour bus makes a stop at the legendary Landfill Amphitheater, I still would not go. Because the roster would still seem, to me, pretty white, middle-class, and abled — and, more crucially, it seems made for that exact kind of audience.  It is, ultimately, a kind of weird “elitism” that masquerades as Lilith Fair’s (promoted) status as a Music Festival For All Women.

I do think that this sort of “elitism” that Lilith Fair is promoting is almost painfully subtle. It is made for an audience that can, first and foremost, afford to be there —  Lilith Fair offers several ticket packages, from the nosebleed $36 lawn tickets to $756 for something called the “Diamond Package.” I am one of those people who usually gets nosebleed tickets, because most of the time, that is the only thing that I can afford. Of course, only a small percentage of concertgoers will probably buy the “Diamond Package” tickets; more folks will buy the less-expensive tickets. But even with the “lower end” tickets, one must still purchase them and, in all likelihood, pay for a bunch of things like processing fees and all that, which of course ups the prices of even the “inexpensive” tickets. If you can afford to pay those “convenience fees,” you’re good.

If you can’t, or if the fees put you off of buying even the “reasonably priced” tickets, the festival may not look so reasonably-priced after all. For some (middle-class) folks, getting concert tickets may not be that big of a deal, but what happens to those folks who aren’t middle class, and may have to do things like take time off of work to go to this festival? There are also probably many hidden costs that I am not considering here, such as transportation. Simply put, the cost(s) of going to a “diverse” and “inclusive” festival that unproblematically presents itself as For All Women can add up to way more than the ticket price.

The ability question is also worth considering in-depth; as far as I know, Lilith Fair does not specify any policies or instructions on its website for people with disabilities who may need special seating or other accommodations. This is problematic for several reasons, the most obvious of which is that the message seems to be, in the words of my friend and awesome FWD co-blogger Anna, that people with disabilities “don’t exist.” In Lilith Fair’s super-woman-power-goddess universe, women with disabilities are left out, thereby not exactly contributing to LF’s supposed standing as a music festival For All Women. If you are leaving women with disabilities out, you are leaving some women out of your musical utopia. Certainly, accessibility policies will vary from venue to venue, but because LF is so huge and is of such note, I believe its coordinators have a responsibility to reach out to people who have, traditionally, been ignored, left out and/or forgotten about by major music festivals — and that group includes people — women — with disabilities.

If Lilith Fair wants to be truly radical and different, it will take steps toward being for a wide variety of women, and people, instead of simply promoting itself as such. There is a huge difference between presenting an event or group as being For All Women and actually taking steps toward real inclusion. So, Lilith Fair coordinators, what are your policies on wheelchair accessibility? Interpreters for the hard-of-hearing? Seats for people who can’t do the “standing room only” thing because of chronic pain or mobility issues? These, of course, are just a few questions about accessibility; there are many, many more facets of accessibility that I have not mentioned here.

One final note: Before anyone accuses me of “not supporting women musicians” because of my issues with Lilith Fair, my fannishness and support of many women musicians is fairly well-documented — among them Tori Amos, Alanis Morrissette, Nina Simone, Jesse Sykes, and many, many others — so that argument will not fly with me. In my view, the whole “you’re not supporting women musicians if you have issues with Lilith Fair!” is the penguin of arguments about women musicians — it may be cute and kinda funny at times, but it cannot fly. And in my view, neither can Lilith Fair’s consistent trumpeting of itself as For All Women, when it still has so far to go.

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In which Roxy Music provides a much-needed Lesson For Us All

[Image description: A raven-haired man wearing a black velvet suit and white shirt leans against a wall.]

First: LOOK AT THIS STYLISH MAN, OTHERWISE KNOWN AS BRIAN FERRY. He is SO STYLISH. I wish I could be half as stylish as he is. I have a black velvet blazer hiding in my closet, which I have been known to break out when I, too, wish to be stylish in the way that only a rocker from the 1970s can be, but have not yet found a pair of velvet pants to complete the look.

Second: While writing some of this, I realized that it might be helpful to have some actual examples of precisely what I mean when I say that Roxy Music is an amazing band, so here is an entirely separate post in which I share some of my favorite songs of theirs.

My favorite bit of music trivia ever is Roxy Music-related**: band member Brian Eno did not know how to play the keyboard before he joined Roxy Music. For reasons as to why this is completely amazing, look no further than Wikipedia’s page on Eno. He has gone on to have a lengthy, influential and successful music career even though he once joined a band, as its keyboard player, without knowing how to play that instrument.

I love Roxy Music and Brian Ferry not just for the music, but because they remind me that I can have an impact with my own work that, though it will most definitely not appeal to everyone, may have some sort of impact on someone. I am an indescribably crappy guitar player (mostly because fibromyalgia-related hand and arm pain prevent me from banging out anything other than a few chords). I am not a great singer. I will never be Ani DiFranco. I will never be Patti Smith, nor PJ Harvey, nor Tori Amos, nor Alanis Morissette, nor Beth Ditto, nor Me’shell Ndegeocello. These people are all talented, I am a fan of each of them, and their success is well-deserved; however, I will probably never approach that level of success, as the work I do is not in the getting-up-onstage-and-singing-in-front-of-people field.

Hell, I have a blog. Which I write on, and which I take extremely seriously. I write and draw a lot of stuff on various topics — most of this work has not been published (yet), or shown to other people (yet), and almost none of it has been the center of controversy or much attention (barring my work on that one thing).

If I may be philosophical and mildly tedious for a minute: Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry’s work remind(s) me is that there is a whole lot of good in just being whatever you are and, simultaneously, not knowing what you are doing all of the time (like Brian Eno and the whole not-knowing-how-to-play-the-keyboard-thing), and that it is okay to be “okay” at something as long as you love it. You do not have to be the greatest and most original band/singer ever to make an impact.

And, paradoxically, that is part of what makes Roxy Music such a great band.

Your weirdness, your originality, and your style do not have to be constantly calculated down to the very millisecond, or planned out in infintesimal detail, or boasted about on Twitter every ten seconds. There is room for those things to just develop and grow by themselves, if you let them. I think many segments of the entertainment industry–and, unfortunately, a lot of “creative” types–tend to forget this. Of course, part of that is how the “business” works, but for those of us who aren’t in the industry (but who are still in the age of Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook wall updates with instantly-emailed notifications), this can be difficult to remember.

But, it is worth remembering.

**[That is, other than the rumor that Tori Amos has $100,000 worth of "hand insurance" in case her hands are ever irrevocably injured. I am sure there is a source for this somewhere on the internet, but I haven't quite found it yet. If any Tori fans have a citation for said factoid that proves or disproves this rumor, please feel free to leave it in the comments so that I can continue being lazy in regards to internet research.]

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Monday music post, “final exams!11″ edition

Hello readers! You may have noticed that I have not updated in a week or so. This is because I have been busy with final exams and such. But I have a lot of cool posts planned for when I am FINISHED with finals, so please bear with me.

Anyway, here are some songs that I have been enjoying as of late. If you have songs that you would like to share, you may leave YouTube links in comments (lyrics are also good!). Or just talk about stuff you’ve been listening to lately, or concerts you’ve seen, or albums you’ve (re)discovered. Whatever — it’s up to you.

First up, here is a suitably intense version of Tori Amos’s “Blood Roses” from 1999 or so (lyrics here):

Next, we have “Here Lies Love” (lyrics; vid is audio-only) by David Byrne and Fatboy Slim with Florence Welch, from the recent concept album of the same name, which is SO AWESOME and you should track down a copy (especially if you like disco, concept albums, and/or female singers):

Finally, an oldie-but-goodie, “Ocean” by the Velvet Underground (lyrics; vid is audio-only):

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Important!

I have a guest post up at the amazing blog Tiger Beatdown! This is exciting, at least for me! Please go read it (even though it is kind of long)!

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Why Roxy Music is awesome (as is Bryan Ferry)

This is part one of a two-part post on Roxy Music and Bryan Ferry, and why they are fabulous. The songs here are some of my favorites, and this post is intended to give readers/listeners a little preview as to this band’s total awesomeness. Take it away, random YouTube users!

“In Every Dream Home a Heartache” from For Your Pleasure (1972): This, unequivocally, is the song that made me a Roxy fan. There are so many layers here — like a delicious sandwich, if you will pardon the metaphor — and, more importantly, you do not have to know jack shit about music, songwriting, or composition to realize this. The lyrics, I think, essentially predicted suburbia’s dead end and/or souless McMansion-white-picket-fence-with-traditonal-heterosexual-marriage-big-SUV-and-2.5-children before those things even existed as specific Western cultural artifacts. I am sure that there is some sort of Technocultural Studies dissertation that could be written about this song (perhaps with a snappy, oh-so-postmodern title to go along with it?), but my relentless fannish devotion (among other things) prevents me from even considering taking on such a project.

“Mother of Pearl” from Stranded (1973): While it’s not my favorite Roxy song, it is a classic, and a good introduction to the band’s overall style.

“The Thrill of it All” from Country Life (1974): Ignore the retrogradely sexist cover art — and also dig the weirdness of that command coming from someone who has a degree in Women’s and Gender Studies (namely me). Country Life is my favorite Roxy album other than For Your Pleasure, and admitting this probably counts as blasphemy in some circles (as it was the group’s first album after Brian Eno left). But admit it, I must, because the album is so freaking good. And one verse (somewhat indirectly) alludes to a rather famous Dorothy Parker poem, so what’s not to love?

“Casanova” from Country Life (1974): This is my favorite Roxy song of all time. I can’t quite put into words how fantastic it is in every way possible; thus, I urge you to listen. The lyrics are brilliant; anyone who’s been graphically catcalled by gross dudes or unskillfully hit on by some creepy, drunken fraternity trust-fundie asshat at a bar will be able to relate. I would like to think that this is Bryan Ferry’s message to other dudes in which he says, “Guys, stop acting like such monkeys and/or thinking you’re totally suave, because you are actually the opposite of suave,” but my interpretation could be way off.

“Same Old Scene” from Flesh + Blood (1980): It’s from the ’80s! Otherwise known as that decade where some mostly drugged-out rich people made a lot of terrible music, and which is mostly invoked when hipsters want to be nostalgic for crap that they were too young to remember as crap! But please, do not worry, because “Same Old Scene” is an example of something good that came from that decade.

And if, after all of that, you need evidence that Bryan Ferry’s “still got it,” look no further than his many Bob Dylan covers, including “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” (performance is in the first two minutes or so of the clip, and the rest consists of him talking about his album of Dylan covers, which is also interesting):

Better than the original, I think (again, blasphemy in certain circles). But then again, I am one of those weirdos who really likes his cover of “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall,” (link goes to an absolutely incredible short film of Ferry’s version that must be seen to be believed), mostly because that cover is so bizarre that it ends up being wildly entertaining.

That concludes part one of my Roxy Music/Bryan Ferry post; part two will be posted soon.

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Because I am not feeling well today…

A clip of Tori Amos performing “Precious Things” [lyrics here] on Sessions at West 54th. This clip also features an introduction by David Byrne, who–WHADDAYA KNOW–released an album today on which he and Fatboy Slim collaborated with a great roster of musicians, including Tori! This is probably NSFW.

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For your consideration

When I blogged about Evelyn Evelyn for FWD over a month ago — critiquing it from a feminist disability perspective — I got all manner of off-topic reactions, including derails, a bunch of abled people showing up to tell me how things really are and/or spewing their privilege all over the place, and death threats.

When Amanda Palmer got blogged about on Jezebel.com a few days ago, she got an interview with the New York Times…about feminism. She referred to this on Twitter as “life/lemonade!”

So, what sort of lemonade am I supposed to make from death threats? Or from Palmer herself recently making the very existence of disabled feminists into a joke on Australian television?

For the record, I have yet to be contacted by any mainstream press outlet regarding my views on feminism, and my contact info is easily available. I am pretty sure that these same press outlets have yet to contact Lauredhel or Sparkymonster, both of whom have eloquently critiqued some of the less savory things that Palmer has treated us to in recent weeks.

And: cue comments here telling me that I shouldn’t be so invested in getting press or furthering my own goals or anything. Obviously, that’s for famous people only, not feminists with disabilities who don’t get paid for raising these issues (and then get heaped with abusive comments for even speaking up). I’ve spent a vast amount of time thinking and writing about this stuff — and disability feminism, too — but, of course, it’s just a hobby, whereas Palmer has a job creating art, and why aren’t I spending my time on more important disability issues?

Because all of this has affected me in a manner that is deeply fucking personal, that’s why. I am not going to apologize for finally wanting to consider my own bottom line in all of this, particularly when I’ve given so much of my time and energy to this “internet controversy” — only to get hit with what is, quite frankly, a bunch of bigoted crap.

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