Talent search draws 24 female acts

V. Paul

A nervous symphony of guitars strumming and mouths humming gave way to song after song of original acoustic compositions; pop songs of incredible infatuations, blues songs crying for more time and eclectic songs of a woman who lost her man to another man.
The 33-city, 40-show Lilith Fair festivities officially arrived in Minneapolis with the Lilith Fair Acoustic Talent Search Thursday as 24 female performers and fronted bands took the stage at The Whole music lounge in Coffman Union.
Marty Winkler and Kate Bordeaux won with “Ladies Man,” earning them the opening spot at Minneapolis’ Lilith Fair.
“(This is) a wonderful opportunity to meet the women of Lillith Fair, to make that connection,” Winkler said, “Not to mention that you would be seen by most of the female music lovers in Minnesota.”
The group also won concert merchandise and Internet services to maintain their own Web site, courtesy of Xoom.com, one of the concert’s sponsors.
Nearly 150 people packed into the performance space to see the musicians — young students, fresh from the high school music scene, to mothers whose daughters looked on supportively — present their talents in an artists’ forum.
“The support of all the female artists is really cool,” said Lucy Sweitzer of Sugar Beat, a three-women group from Northfield, Minn., who got their start singing for churches. “To play in front of all our peers is wonderful. It was really a fabulous experience.”
The talent search served a dual purpose: to highlight local female performers nationwide, and to build an interest in Lilith Fair, said Gene Hollister of Rose Presents, the local Lilith Fair promoter. Emerging artists can use Lilith Fair to reach a wider audience, he said.
“As far as promoting a performer, that is up to the performer,” said Kii Arens, a member of a local band who sat as one of three judges for the event. “It’s not as though you walk into some magical situation and the work is already done for you. It takes a lot of hard work. As for this contest, I think it draws more attention to female performers. That is a good thing.”
The judges, drawn from the local music community, evaluated the emerging artists along the lines of true talent, a strong voice, honesty and originality, Arens said.
Beyond the musicians, concert officials intend for Lilith Fair to be community oriented. They will donate a portion of ticket sales to local nonprofit women’s organizations in each city and help promote national charities such as the Breast Cancer Fund and LIFEbeat, a nonprofit HIV/AIDS resource organization.
“We’ve always wanted to increase involvement in the community so that they would feel like the event was more their own,” said Donna Westmoreland, marketing director for Lilith Fair. “We do that by bringing in local nonprofits, by bringing in local vendors, and now we’re bringing in local talent.”
Among 16 other cities nationwide, including New York, Los Angeles and Dallas, Minneapolis is the only Midwestern city to host the talent search. Rose Presents received nearly 250 tapes of performers wanting to compete for this year’s opening spot, including several sent from Chicago and New York.
This is the second talent search held for Lilith Fair. Arone Dyer of Willmar, Minn., won last year’s contest and is now starting up a new band, “Desiderata.”
St. Paul native, Renee Perrone, hopes her `hard, mystic pop’ sound will propel her over the other participants with her self-written song, “Dandelions.”
“I’d like to win, of course,” Perrone said. “It’s really hard getting your name out there when you know you’re good. It’s a chance. That’s how Elvis Presley made it.”
Mary Klee, of Minneapolis, said she decided to compete for a chance to open Lilith Fair because this was the right time for her. Her blend of folk music, rock, jazz and the blues carried her song, “The Feeling,” over a hushed crowd.
“What I’ve thought is a lot about the fact that what is most important to me right now is to perform this music I love and have it heard,” Klee said. “Whatever direction it takes, you know, I will know at that time whether to go with it or not.”