The buzzword for Lilith Fair '98 is ''diversity''...but think genre, not gender: That other 49 percent of the population will still have to settle for backup musician slots. But if men can't get a break on this year's 57-date tour which kicks off June 19 in Portland, Ore. at least R&B can, with Erykah Badu, Missy Elliott, and Lauryn Hill doing from three to 11 dates apiece. Alt-rock gets a higher profile as well, with Liz Phair and Luscious Jackson at a half-dozen gigs each. But the inevitable VH1 friendliness persists, with Sarah McLachlan on all the shows, de facto co-headliner Natalie Merchant on 49 dates, and the Indigo Girls (22 appearances) and Bonnie Raitt (18) the other semi-regulars. ''The first Lilith proved once and for all that female musicians can drive ticket sales,'' says Sheryl Crow. ''But the double-edged sword is that many of the participants are now being typecast as 'female rockers....''' For Crow, who'll put in six appearances, the former edge still outcuts the latter.
Until last summer, H.O.R.D.E. had always been headlined by Blues Traveler, who founded the jammin'-packed show in 1992. Says Traveler guitarist Chan Kinchla: ''We wanted to step away from it and see if it could operate well on its own.'' Short answer: N.O. ''We're so caught up in the identity of it, I think it needs us to have the right flow,'' Kinchla says. ''We also diversified too much. This year we wanted to get back to acts that have more of a grassroots following.'' But with Lollapalooza on hiatus, there are plenty of alt-rock acts to complement the hackysack hordes. Joining Traveler's pied piper John Popper on some or all of H.O.R.D.E.'s 43 dates (starting July 9 in Somerset, Wis.) will be Ben Harper, Paula Cole, Alana Davis, Fastball, Marcy Playground, Cherry Poppin' Daddies, and (for four shows only) those neo-hippie Smashing Pumpkins.
Don't believe the hype or do. At press time, the on-again, off-again status of a reunited Public Enemy on Smokin' Grooves was on again. Either way, organizers for the tour which begins mid-July aren't blowing smoke about the rest of the lineup, which includes Wyclef Jean and the Refugee Allstars, Busta Rhymes, Cypress Hill, and Canibus, marking a shift from the mixed R&B and rap lineup of years past to a more definitively hip-hop bill.
NEWPORT FOLK FESTIVAL TOUR
If you took Lilith's singer-songwriter sensibility but ditched its No Boyz Aloud policy, the lineup might look like this: Lyle Lovett, Nanci Griffith, Alison Krauss, John Hiatt, Joan Baez, Wilco, Suzanne Vega, Loudon Wainwright III, Lucinda Williams, and Jimmie Dale Gilmore. That's the tantalizing lineup for the first touring Newport Folk Festival, which kicks off July 30 in...Atlanta? ''It's kind of funny,'' muses Vega, ''because Newport is Newport, and you're taking something that's geographic and bringing it to different places, which is an odd concept. But what it represents, obviously, is bigger than that.'' And, of course, bigger than any pre-Dylan-goes-electric notion of folk itself.