Love Riot's Lilith gig to be a rush Music: Band's got only 20 minutes to leave a lasting impression, but is excited about being part of something positive.

July 18, 1998|By Tamara Ikenberg | Tamara Ikenberg,SUN STAFF

Lisa Mathews, lead singer of local band Love Riot, says it slowly and clearly: "Twen-ty minutes."

That's how long she and her band have to play at the Lilith Fair tomorrow. Twenty minutes amounts to about four songs. And choosing those four songs hasn't been a picnic.

The thin, porcelain-skinned singer, wild red hair pulled back casually, sat at the bar at Louie's Bookstore Cafe last week with fellow Love Rioter Mikel Gehl to talk about life, Love Riot and Lilith.

"What the Lilith Fair represents is such a tradition of women singers struttin' their stuff. And to be part of it in a small way is just great," Gehl says. "The whole idea of a strong front woman and a positive message is what we're about."

Still, it's tough to decide what to play when you have a catalog spanning four years, which is how long Mathews, Gehl, Ron Campbell, William Elzevir and Mark Evanko have been honing their rich, acoustic sound, complete with violin and illustrated with sharp lyrical observations on love and relationships.

Love Riot is planning to release the follow-up to 1996's full-length album "Maybe She Will" later this year. The band's last release was the four-song EP "Killing Time." The band was featured singing the title track on "Homicide: Life on the Street" in December.

They've been touring all over the East Coast and the South, from Nashville to New York, with festivals and intimate club dates, in addition to "preaching the gospel of Love Riot."

Love Riot has had rave attention in music publications nationwide and has built up a fan base far beyond Baltimore -- a base Lilith certainly has the potential to widen even more.

The band will be performing on Lilith's Village Stage, a platform for local bands at various dates throughout the tour. Washington's Dead Girls and Other Stories will be playing the Village Stage today.

The band was chosen after a fan presented a Love Riot tape to Lilith Fair founder Sarah McLachlan's management company.

Now that she and the band are going, Mathews is most psyched to see Liz Phair among the Lilith musicians.

"I don't really listen to Natalie Merchant and Sarah McLachlan, even though I appreciate what they're doing," Mathews says.

"I happen to listen to the Lilith artists more than Lisa [does], ironically," Gehl says.

Maybe she's not a huge fan of Lilith headliners, but Mathews and Love Riot are known for being huge fans of their fans. They communicate with fans through a newsletter, The Riot Stuff, and by e-mail (mbanrols.com).

PTC "This woman just e-mailed me. She wants to tell us what our four songs for Lilith should be," Mathews says. "I said, 'Sure, fire away.' "

Even if Mathews ends up disagreeing with this particular fan, she is trying to tailor the set to the Lilith audience.

"Since it is a mostly female audience, we have songs that are more female-oriented than others," Mathews says. "My Girlfriend," in which a woman challenges a guy to treat her friend with respect, is a track that she thinks would click with Lilith's overriding theme of strong, self-assured women.

"I think that would be cool to open with that," Mathews says. "So there."

Pub Date: 7/18/98

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