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Did You Happen to Catch...?
September 14, 2007 - Jim Price
If you are a fan of late night television, you might have caught a glimpse of a band that once graced Altoona area stages on national television last week. Halestorm appeared on NBC’s The Tonight Show with Jay Leno last Wednesday night, Sept. 5. The group briefly appeared following Leno’s monologue during his “Jay Walking” segment, participating in a spoof of the MTV Video Awards. The segment also included several seconds of live footage from the group’s song “Takes My Life.”
The Tonight Show appearance is the latest step forward for a band that literally grew up before area music fans’ eyes. When Halestorm first surfaced out of Bethel, PA (near Lebanon) in 1997, they were a family band, featuring 15-year-old Elizabeth “Lzzy” Hale on lead vocals and keys, her 12-year-old brother, Arejay Hale, on drums, and their father, Roger Hale, on bass. Their mother, Beth, was the group’s manager. The group issued their independent debut album, Don’t Mess with the Time Man, in 1998, and generated curiosity when they appeared and showcased at the 1999 Millennium Music Conference in Harrisburg. Halestorm made their first visit to the Altoona area in November, 1999, as guests on Q94’s local music show, “The Backyard Rocker;” and played their first local performance the following spring as an exhibition act at Dennie Huber’s annual Crazy Fest Amateur Youth Talent Show. In those early days of Halestorm’s career, Arejay played a spinning drum kit that rotated upside down as he played; an innovation inspired by an early influence on the group, Christian rock band The Newsboys.
Following their Crazy Fest appearance, Halestorm appeared more frequently on area stages; performing at a public service event inside Altoona’s Station Mall, appearing at several area all-ages concerts, and even at the Lakemont Park Wing-Off. Within a few years, after adding a guitar player, Halestorm graduated to the bar circuit, performing at such area venues as Peter C’s and the G-Man in Altoona, and The Castle Pub in Ebensburg, as well as a number of venues in and around their Harrisburg area home base.
In 2003, Halestorm ran into a roadblock. According to the state’s Liquor Code, a minor must be at least 18 years of age to be able to entertain at a liquor-licensed establishment. When authorities learned that Arejay was only 16 (allegedly tipped off by a rival band’s jealous manager), Halestorm was forced to abandon playing bar venues in Pennsylvania until Arejay turned 18.
This actually became a blessing in disguise. Forced to step away from the bar cover band circuit, Halestorm instead concentrated on further honing and developing their own original music. Through networking at music conferences, Lzzy Hale soon began collaborating with producer David Ivory; an association that began to pave the way to bigger and better things for the group – culminating with Halestorm’s signing with national record label Atlantic Records in summer of 2005.
Since the signing, Halestorm; now featuring Lzzy on lead vocals and guitar, Arejay on drums, Joe Hottinger on guitar and Josh Smith on bass; has been on the road touring. The group was part of last spring’s Equinox tour with Trapt and Shinedown, which kicked off at the UPJ Fieldhouse in Johnstown; they’ve also shared stages with Seether, Flyleaf and others. And their tour manager remains: band mom Beth, who even appeared in the Tonight Show skit!
Last spring, the group released a five-song live EP called One and Done; and they are currently in Los Angeles recording their first studio album for Atlantic, tentatively scheduled for release in early 2008.
It has been a steady rise for Halestorm, the culmination of lots of hard work and dues paying. Halestorm’s story thus far should be an inspiration to any band aspiring to reach that next level. Talent, hard work, determination, networking and learning about the music industry have all been ingredients in Halestorm’s success thus far.
Here’s hoping last week’s Tonight Show appearance is just the first of many national television appearances in this young band’s future. And we here in central Pennsylvania can proudly say that we saw and knew Halestorm back when…