Lilith Fair Recrowned Queen Of Summer Tours

Female-friendly concert-festival beat out testosterone-laden Ozzfest in a close race.

It was another summer to write home about for two opposite-ends-of-the-spectrum tours:

the male-angled, heavy-metal Ozzfest and the softer-edged, female-slanted Lilith Fair.

But despite their tremendous first-year success in 1997, as well as playing to bigger

audiences and grossing more money this year, neither could surpass the heartland

power of the George Strait Chevy Truck Country Music Festival, the inaugural

mega-country stadium-tour that handily won the summer-festival title for 1998.

"That tour sold out everywhere it went," said Ray Waddell, who covers the tour industry

for the trade magazine Amusement Business. "They'll definitely do it again."

Playing to 50,000-60,000 fans at every stop, the Strait festival featured sets from Strait,

Tim McGraw, John Michael Montgomery, Faith Hill and Asleep at the Wheel.

Still, Ozzfest and Lilith held their own and then some.

Facing the first summer in seven years without competition from the former

alternative-granddaddy of summer festivals, Lollapalooza, which took a powder this year

after failing

to secure a bankable lineup, the results were eerily similar to those from last year's

outings.

Based on incomplete numbers, the Lilith Fair again took top honors among modern-rock

outings, grossing more than $600,000 per date and drawing an average of 18,500

attendees at each show, based on figures from 36 of the tour's 57 dates, according to

Gary Bongiovanni, editor of the tour-industry trade magazine Pollstar.

In its second year, the testosterone-free music festival, organized by Canadian

pop-singer Sarah McLachlan, featured a more diverse roster of female artists, a likely

reaction to last year's critical complaints that the tour relied too heavily on the folky,

singer/songwriter end of the musical spectrum. With McLachlan once again the only

continual performer, the festival featured such acts as former 10,000 Maniacs singer

Natalie Merchant, Fugees singer Lauryn Hill, folkie duo Indigo Girls, edgy rocker Liz

Phair, psychedelic-funksters Luscious Jackson, folk singer Lucinda Williams, pop

vocalist Paula Cole, R&B singer Erykah Badu and country-rocker Bonnie Raitt.

Following close behind was Black Sabbath founder Ozzy Osbourne's 18-date,

metal-edge Ozzfest, which did impressive business once again with a lineup that

featured

Megadeth, Tool, Motörhead and the Melvins, in addition to Osbourne himself.

Based on figures for 17 dates, the Ozzfest averaged 23,700 attendees and $800,000 per

city, the highest totals of any of the alternative festivals, according to Bongiovanni.

Out-grossing and out-drawing both, country giant Strait's inaugural George

Strait Chevy Truck Country Music Festival cleaned up during its 18-date stadium tour,

which played to more than 881,000 fans and grossed nearly $33 million, according to

Waddell.

Drawing healthy crowds among single performance-acts were R&B singer Janet

Jackson, blues-guitar giant Eric Clapton, former Led Zeppelin leaders Jimmy Page and

Robert Plant, heavy-metalers Metallica, rappers the Beastie Boys, country singer Shania

Twain's first tour and the teen-craze bands Hanson, Backstreet Boys and the Spice Girls

(despite the defection of Ginger Spice), Waddell and Bongiovanni said. Enjoying a

welcome return to the road were Seattle rockers Pearl Jam, who did healthy business on

their first major U.S. tour in several years.

The surprising likely #1 U.S. rock draw of 1998? Elton John. "He's averaging $730,000

per city," Bongiovanni said, adding that the high price of tickets -- $50 to $60 for the top

tier -- also was helping to pad grosses.

Both Terry McBride, McLachlan's manager, and Osbourne himself said they were

overjoyed at the continuing success of their respective tours. "It's going better than my

wildest expectations," Osbourne said. "It's been a major success every year and it gets

bigger and bigger. I keep waiting for the bubble to burst."

McBride said everyone involved with this year's Lilith was "happy but really drained."

Expanding from a 37-date to 57-date schedule clearly took its toll on the production staff

and McLachlan, McBride said, adding that next year's tour will be pared down

considerably to about 35 dates.

Hardly slacking, though, the fest will hit Australia, New Zealand and Europe for first-ever

shows, which have already been booked for March to July 1999, according to McBride.

"It's no secret," McBride said of Lilith's success, "[that] if you put the right mix of artists

together, people will show up."

The biggest surprise of this summer season was the resurgence of the Furthur Fest, a

3-year-old jaunt organized by the living members of '60s psychedelic-rock legends the

Grateful Dead. With reports on 23 dates, Bongiovanni said the fest grossed nearly

$500,000 per city, with attendance exceeding an average of 18,000. "It was a giant leap

forward, by far their biggest year," Bongiovanni said. "It was a real nice surprise, but

understandable, since they were playing up the fact that [the Dead offshoot-band] the

Other Ones would be playing Dead music."

While the Blues Traveler-led H.O.R.D.E. (Horizons of Rock Developing Everywhere) and

R&B/rap-heavy Smokin' Grooves tours again did average business, the skate- and

punk-saturated Vans Warped Tour shot up in the standings, according to Bongiovanni.

Based

on incomplete numbers from 20 cities, the tour averaged 10,000 attendees and a

$200,000 per-city gross with a lineup that featured Rancid, Bad Religion, NOFX, CIV and

the Reverend Horton Heat, already doubling similar, incomplete figures from last year.

A possible shake-up in the landscape could come as early as next summer, if

Lollapalooza attempts a comeback, according to festival co-founder Ted Gardner. "We

have our sights set on a few bands," Gardner said Sept. 28. "And nothing's come to

fruition as of today, but we should know by next month. There's a good chance we'll be

back."