Monday, June 28, 2010

Lilith Languishes, Simmons Surmises

When I heard that Sarah McLachlan was re-launching Lilith, her estrogen-fest of women performers (for an audience of mostly women) I shrugged. When I read that this round of Liliths isn't going so well, I wasn't especially surprised, even though I couldn't say why. Ten-plus years ago, when my wife announced she and a buddy were attending, I parroted her response to my announcements that I was joining the boys to see the rock show: "Have a nice time, dear!" So maybe I'm not the guy to analyze why Lilith isn't working.

Maybe Gene Simmons is.

When Chuck Klosterman asked Simmons about the chiefly male demographic devoted to KISS, Simmons responded, "You don't want a large female audience. If you rely on women to buy your albums you end up going the way of New Kids On The Block. Female audiences tend to be unfaithful."

Does Gene know something Sarah doesn't?


paul bowman said...

Dare we follow Gene Simmons into this minefield?

Whisky Prajer said...

As ever, it's best to let him go it alone on this matter. Although Klosterman does a surprisingly good job of tip-toeing through the tripwire.

In my case, it's better to explore the issues raised by comparison. I was surprised to hear that Lollapalooza was still happening, albeit nowhere near the scale of its hay-day in the 90s. Similarly, the attempted Jane's Addiction reunion tour of a few years' back also tanked. I'd wager it was mostly "guys" who bought their last CD.

Still and all, I did like McLachlan's music, back in the day. Which is why I'm a mite puzzled over my inability to get behind her new disc, or think of Lilith in more generous terms.

paul bowman said...

A long way off my own street if I talk here. I've never been a concert/festival goer or much of a steady fan of anybody's music myself. My impressions of the music world have always been fragmentary & scattered.

But I do wonder if the culture hasn't simply moved on — from the world Simmons knew something about of course, but then too from the one where you could say it was a good idea not just to erect another festival, but to have one built around only the female portion of the regular mass audience. Does music work that way anymore? Is there a broad audience, younger or older, capable of latching on or going along like that now? (Setting aside the crowds for CMT-style country, maybe.)

On a different track altogether I wonder if Simmons' audience's comparative "faithfulness" isn't about men being attached to their childhood/adolescence in different ways than women to theirs. KISS & NKOB were both more or less purely bands for kids, weren't they? A sizeable contingent of 30-something women did troop off to the New Kids tour a year or two ago, I recall. But the guys who stuck with KISS long after everyone had outgrown it were possibly prone to "go back" in another sense altogether.

Whisky Prajer said...

Re: band audiences, I'd say KISS remains a band for kids -- my 13-year-old has a friend who is quite proud of the shirt she got from a local concert last year. If Simmons has the good fortune of still performing in another 10 years we'll see if this generation (of girls!) shows up for it.

As for the culture, and feminist culture specifically, I think it has moved on much further in directions unanticipated (for better and for worse) by pretty much everybody. I can't envision how Lilith would have to be relaunched to look like its sails are set by the zeitgeist. Lady Ga-Ga is mentioned in the article, but her presence would completely eclipse the rest of the roster, making them look like a bunch of banjo-strumming coffee house acts.

Apparently we do need a weatherman to tell us which way the wind blows.

paul bowman said...

Kiss were at their height when I was a kid — 7–10 or so. The neighbor boys a couple doors away were big fans — emblematic of reasons our association with their family was limited by my folks. Cockeyed as my family's moral & social boundaries were in so many ways, I have to acknowledge I still find the Kiss image distasteful. My parents' resistance to 70s flamboyance & sexual expressiveness did take root, objective as I try to be about these things. I cringe at the thought of Simmons appealing to girls — any girls.

(Amusing to think that if my folks found themselves in a chance conversation about international politics with Mr Simmons, out of character, over coffee somehow, things would likely go swimmingly, at least for a little while.)

Whisky Prajer said...

I don't know what this says about me, but the sexual element never occurred to me. And I very much doubt it occurred to our guest, either. These guys, and so many other bands from that era, are just an extension of Disney On Ice: a lot of flash and noise -- "stimming" as my sister-in-law, who works with autistic kids, calls it.

Justin Bieber, on the other hand, is a little problematic...

paul bowman said...

Right, it does get a little tricky there — to explain what people see in all that rock iconography, the hair & makeup & tight pants, &c, when they don't see at all what you see.

I can't put you in my parents' shoes. But they don't come from education, either the bootstraps, pragmatizing kind or the academic, distancing kind, and they aren't people who can be brought to see in something like Kiss a wacked-out cartoonishness — particularly not a cartoonish eroticism. The lipstick, hair, exposed skin, gestures, the trashy adolescent language: all of it looks simply & overtly perverse. My parents are the kind of people — I don't say it to mock or oversimplify them, because it's not a correct/incorrect sort of thing — for whom the alternative black & white stage-set iconography of Ozzie & Harriet and Rob & Laura and so on really represented (& still do today) a wholesome and very nearly whole picture of good living. Like a lot of people, my parents didn't make the transition from c. 1963 to c. 1973 with interpretive gear entirely intact. And they didn't analyze phenomena like glam & metal, they reacted to it. If you look at it from one angle, moreover — you may not buy this, but I mean it — it's hard to fault them.

So yeah, 'sexual.'

(I don't connect anything Disney by the way, watching Kiss on stage, apart from 'production values' — but I do see something oddly, crudely descended from Bugs & Daffy, at WB's riotous most satisfying. And too from Batman, Catwoman, & so on, of course.)

paul bowman said...

I don't imagine the 13 yr old girls in the audience are getting much of the sexual out of Kiss's antics (certainly not in 2010). Don't imagine either that a guy like Simmons is much aware, sexually or otherwise, of his 13 yr old audience. But I do suspect he's loved being permitted to be the perpetual sexual 13 yr old, himself, for a career. In any case, it's not just his tongue I find creepy. — ha

paul bowman said...

You're overdue a snide compliment on your title, by the way. But I can't think of one myself, offhand.

Whisky Prajer said...

Well, my parents' level of concern (in the 70s, at least) might have trumped yours in that they viewed Ozzie and Harriet with some suspicion, too. The alliance between mainstream Protestantism and secular humanism was disturbingly overt to my parents' eyes, and an unwelcome subversion of the values they hoped to instill in their kids.

As for rock 'n' roll, they occasionally expressed shock at some of the antics and peripheral stories that accompanied the scene. And I was a pious enough kid to be scared off just by the "Kings In Satan's Service" rumors. By the time I was old enough to think of them as "Klowns In Silver Suits" I'd already "graduated" myself from the Contemporary Christian Music scene and was grateful for the subversions of David Byrne and Co.

A grossly self-referential and self-indulgent response. I'm sorry. But it's Canada Day, so today it's all about we.

Scott said...

I'll admit to being surprised that this version of Lilith Fair is tanking, since it's the first one I'd considered going to. This time round features a really interesting, eclectic array of singers and bands.

But I guess the key word there was "considering." :\

paul bowman said...

Wait — you're being self-referential & self-indulgent? Nice, that is Canadian ... er, gracious of you. — ha

Hope you all are having as fine a day up there as we're seeing here.

Cowtown Pattie said...

I wanna know why Eddie Haskell never had a band...unless he is really Eddie Van Halen after much surgical enhancement and slight brain alteration.

I prefer Loreena McKennitt to Sarah meself. Even a fan of Sinead O'Connor.

BUT, if I consider paying uber bucks for a concert, my inclination is to see a male performer.

Bands/musicians I'd pay good money to see (but probably not due to the hassle of large crowds and big venues):

Jackson Browne
James Taylor
Eric Clapton
The Eagles
Moody Blues
Jimmy Buffet
Bruce Springsteen

Whisky Prajer said...

That's pretty much a Leeds line-up you got there, CP. I wonder what a festival with a line-up like that would charge folks? Mortgaging the house probably wouldn't even begin to cover the ticket price.

Speaking of festivals, the last time I saw Loreena was at the Winnipeg Folk Festival. Even with the crowd, it was very nice to just lie back on the blanket and watch the fireflies and dragonflies while she strummed and sang.

Cowtown Pattie said...

Buffet might be the odd-parrot out...