Today, Glamour magazine published a deep oral history of Lilith Fair, the festival of all women musicians cofounded by Sarah McLachlan that toured the U.S. each summer from 1997 to ’99. The piece is filled with firsthand accounts of the festival and the cultural moment it embodied from the women who made it happen: a handwritten note from McLachlan to Suzanne Vega inviting her to perform at an as-yet-unnamed “girly show” from the year before Lilith Fair took off, a story from Liz Phair about playing a communal song with the other musicians at the end of one concert. It also contains one very funny anecdote from a dude who had almost nothing to do with Lilith Fair whatsoever: Tool frontman Maynard James Keenan, who apparently once requested that his all-male band of prog-metal weirdos be added to the festival bill.
It’s unclear whether Keenan’s desire to play Lilith was borne from a genuine desire to rock out alongside Tracy Chapman and Bonnie Raitt, or if the request was some sort of boneheaded troll. Either way, he got turned down. His memory of the experience reads like a Clickhole gag.
McLACHLAN: All of a sudden [the press was casting me as] the daughter for the new feminist revolution, and I’m either too feminist or not feminist enough, depending on who was firing the questions. And every day it was like, “Why do you hate men? Why don’t you have men on the bill?”
MAYNARD JAMES KEENAN (lead singer of the all-male band Tool): I asked our booking agent to request an offer to play. He did. They declined. I wanted the “thank you but no thank you” letter to frame. Never got it.
This isn’t the first time the failed idea has come up: Lollapalooza cofounder and onetime Tool manager Ted Gardner alluded to an attempt to get the band onto the Lilith lineup in a SPIN oral history of that other traveling ’90s fest a few years ago, and Keenan mentioned his fantasy of playing the fest in a 1997 L.A. Times interview, which you can read here. Lilith Fair’s organizers briefly rebooted the festival in 2010, and in the Glamour article, McLachlan and Natalie Merchant muse that a version of the festival “could still happen today.” Maybe there’s still time for Keenan to make his dream come true.