In 2001, the three women in Rebecca Riots released their best CD, Gardener, capping off years of touring that had built to regularly sold-out shows. Then they said goodbye just as they were becoming nationally known. Luckily for their fans, this story has a happy continuation. Eve Decker, Andrea Prichett, and Lisa Zeiler, aka Rebecca Riots, reunite for an unprecedented three-night run at Berkeley's Freight & Salvage, this Thursday through Saturday.
As Gardener's title song states in clear, soaring three-part harmony: I am the garden/But I am also the gardener. In addition to being a melodic metaphor for social responsibility, it reflects the Riots' unplanned success at sowing the seeds of the next generation of women singer-songwriters, exemplified by the guitars and close-harmony singing often labeled "fresh radical folk."
"When I hear them, I feel that music can change the world," says Irina Rivkin. She saw the Riots in 1994, "the year I got the courage to perform my own original songs," and later created Berkeley's Rose Street House of Music as a performance space for women musicians -- it celebrates its sixth anniversary on Thursday.
"They feel like big sisters to me," says singer Green, whose recording and performing collective was inspired by the Riots. "[They] paved the way for my career as a socially conscious feminist singer-songwriter. For a long time there wasn't anyone else out there who made music with as much talent, heart, and social and political commitment. Maybe still isn't!"
"They're my heroes. They took me with them for my first touring experience," adds Berkeley public schoolteacher Rachel Garlin, who since then has spent more time on the road than in the classroom. Garlin packs the Freight & Salvage when she's home, and had the Riots' Lisa Zeiler produce her two CDs. "They're all teachers, and you learn something when you listen to their songs that weave history with current events."
Rebecca Riots didn't so much break up as react to the burnout of nonstop touring by deciding to pursue their lives at a less hectic pace. "That was three years on the road in a little VW van eating Denny's food and hummus, to the point where we didn't eat hummus anymore," Decker remembers with a grimace. "For ten years our social life was the three of us, and we're still close, but we have other lives and partners at home." New songs reflect changes in their lives: Zeiler gave birth to son Ariel nineteen months ago, Decker went on a three-month meditation retreat, and Prichett visited Palestine last year. "So Lisa's writing baby songs, Andrea's written a song about Palestine, and I did one about my silent retreat." Now they're planning a new CD, "not a big production, just the songs we've written since the last album."
If Rebecca Riots haven't officially regrouped, the threesome also can't exactly remain apart. After selling out two-night engagements in September and April, Freight manager Steve Baker talked them into doing a three-night stand, June 10-12. Rebecca Riots' shows at the Freight & Salvage (1111 Addison St., Berkeley) are at 8 p.m. Tickets are $18.50 ($17.50 advance) at 510-548-1761.
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