Patrice's Austin Statesman Article

Sister7's Notes on the Lilith Fair

     We left Austin at 10:00 p.m. the night before our first Lilith show. We had only found out a few weeks before that we had been invited, and I think we all had very different expectations about how it would be on the tour. One thing was sure though, we were all very excited. Some of our favorite artists were on the leg of the tour we would be joining, and all of us knew it would be rewarding for each one of us in one way or another.

     I was hoping that what I had heard, from friends who had been on the tour, was true. I heard there would be a very egalitarian atmosphere, and that all the artists treat you as one of the family and so forth. I was in the van having trouble sleeping, just thinking of being gone for five weeks, and hoping we would, not only, get to see a lot of people play, but, actually, collaborate with them musically. I had no idea how much fun I was going to have.

     I met Sarah McLachlan at the Grammy Awards show in February. She was the most down-to-earth person I met in that crazy "Alice in Wonderland" experience. Shaking hands with Aretha Franklin and hugging Busta Rhymes was so surreal, but meeting Sarah was like talking to an old friend from school, even though we had never been introduced to each other. That, along with the growth of the band, and a few other coincidences, led up to our slot on Lilith, and we were headed to Oklahoma City to be a part of something fantastic.

     Upon arriving, we loaded in, and the first thing was a press conference with representatives from each band present. We all introduced ourselves to each other and meeting the rest of the musicians was about the same as my first introduction to Sarah. Emily (from the Indigo Girls) said, "Hey, you're from Sister7; I'm Emily. I saw your video and loved it!". Me'shell N'degeo'cello and I talked about tattoos. N'dea Davenport (formally with the Brand New Heavies) really helped me out. She had been on Lilith a couple of days already and took us under her wing. She made a special effort to help me get to know everyone on tour, enough to be comfortable. Also, our old friend, Sherri Jackson, was playing the same dates as we would be. She was out toughing it without her band, and it made things extra home-y to have a friend playing the tour.

     Our set was a lot of fun that day, and it was really wonderful to see all sorts of people (who we had all been listening to on records for so long) actually standing in the audience listening to us. Everyone on tour made sure they were supportive of all the bands. It was a very uplifting and encouraging feeling, and it was the beginning of many new friendships. The highlight of the day for me was singing "Midnight Train to Georgia" with the Indigo Girls and N'dea, while Gabriel (Natalie Merchants guitarist) sat in too.

     As things progressed on tour, so did the friendships and collaborations. It was nice to see how they would weave each new performer into the sets on the main stage. The guys in Sister7 were a little shy about sitting-in and all, but they were so supportive about staying late so I could participate. Soon enough, at the end of every night, I got to sing a scat solo during the Finale to the Marvin Gaye tune "What's Going On". At least one person from every band joined in every night for that one.

     The show in Columbus was our first experience with any tension on tour. Sarah had fallen ill and it was unlikely that she would be able to perform. I had gone out front to see Natalie Merchant's set since I hadn't heard it from front-of-house yet. I was sitting in the grass with friends I had met the day before, and, sure enough, Natalie, Sinead, Me'shell, Emily and Amy all came out holding hands to announce the unfortunate news. It was awesome, however, to be in the audience as I made my way back to the backstage area. Every person that recognized me from sitting-in or playing with Sister7 grabbed me and said, "Tell Sarah we love her and we're not mad; tell her we hope she feels better." It was a beautiful display of love and an example of how the tour was different from some. This was the first show in twelve years Sarah had missed. The Ozfest had just been through a week before and there was a riot when Ozzy couldn't perform.

     One thing I cannot leave out is the fact that Lilith Fair donates one dollar of every ticket sold to a charity in the community that the fair is in that day. Money went for shelters, breast-cancer research, YWCA's and many other recipients. The show in Detroit would be our last, and it was very special to see the $100,000 check from Volkswagen being presented for breast-cancer research, not to mention the fantastic women who, at the press conference, were brought forward to accept the check. They had all climbed Mt. McKinley together, which is the highest peak on our continent. Some had survived breast cancer themselves, and it was a special gift that they presented all of us with prayer-flags that they themselves had carried up with them. I carry it on my backpack now everywhere I go. We were all so thankful for that gift.

     We, in Sister7, were all sad to be on our last day of the tour, but it had been so full of joyous moments. Also, it had been more versatile, musically, than the year before. From urban sounds to the Australian all-girl rock band Litany, we had heard myriad melodies. Fortunately Sarah was feeling much better, and everyone was in good spirits. I finally got a chance to hang out with Me'shell N'degeo'cello. I've missed her over and over again in towns we were playing in, and, not only did I get to see her play, we walked around the venue eating snow-cones, talking about music, our August birthdays, and her son, who she missed very much. I couldn't believe it when she was out watching our show with a smile. Natalie Merchant watched the set, and Sinead's band almost always came out to listen.

     Speaking of Sinead and her brilliant group of friends she plays with…Wow! What an experience. "Fire on Babylon" was always a moment not to be missed. Drummer-producer John Reynolds expressed interest in producing some Sister7 stuff and we'll be in touch. The rest of her band are excellent players, and her cellist is world class, having been chosen, out of the world's finest cellists, to play the part of a famous cellist in a developing movie. The funniest thing was when we were all teaching Sinead a chorus to "Closer to Fine".

     That night I got a big surprise when I had been sitting in the audience watching Natalie Merchant's set. She was at the end of a brilliant performance, and, to my surprise, she pulled me up out of the audience as I was leaving, and invited me to sit in with her wonderful band and finish the song. Thanks, Natalie!

     Finally, we all went to the after-party at the hotel in Detroit and said our goodbyes. Everyone ate and drank including bus drivers, booth volunteers, bands and crews. Sinead invited us to a late-night get-together after we all exchanged phone numbers and stuff. It was a nice feeling to be told by a group of musicians I respect so much: "We are all equal here, and we welcome you." The biggest lesson I learned was to let go of the fear of not being accepted as a peer in the midst of great people. When everyone gets together with the sole purpose of lifting each other up, we are all the same and we can do anything. Thanks, Lilith.

-Patrice Pike