Monday, August 22, 2016

Monday Morning Stories With Mookie - Episode 152

The Time Mookie Went And Saw The Band: HALESTORM

Halestorm w/ Starset and Red Sun Rising
Date:  July 15, 2016
Place:  McElroy Auditorium - Waterloo, IA
Time: 7:30pm

I vaguely learned about Halestorm while working third-shift at a big-box store stocking shelves way back in 2013. They would always crank the radio over the store P.A. and one night the local rock station played a song called "I Miss The Misery."  I heard it a few times over the next few months, and while I liked it I never bothered to check out who sang it or anything.  Then one day one of my co-workers and I at my real job were discussing various bands and whatnot.  She asked me if I had ever heard of the band Halestorm.  I said I wasn't sure, but that it sounded familiar.  She went on to say how they were a local band from Philly who had more-or-less made it big, and she thought I might like them.  So I went online to check them out, and lo-and-behold - I found out who sang "I Miss The Misery" - and fell in love with the band Halestorm.
Halestorm - Josh Smith - Bass, Arejay Hale - Drums,
Lzzy Hale - Lead Vocal and Guitar, Joe Hottinger - Lead Guitar

Fast-forward to 2016, where after years of buying/downloading all of their albums, watching numerous YouTube videos, and wanting to see them live, I found out they were FINALLY coming around my area.  Needless to say, I got my tickets and waited in anticipation for the show.

My wife and I arrived at McElroy Auditorium, and found out pretty quickly that this place is a dump.  It is definitely the arena that time forgot.  I know it has hosted some pretty big shows over the years, but the building's heyday is more than over.  Upon entry into the lobby and getting frisked by security, we quickly found out that the ticketing system was a joke.  Most of the people there were trying to get their tickets at the will-call window, and they only had ONE window open.  We ended up in some line that twisted around in no orderly fashion. I noticed that everyone else coming in was pretty much pushing straight towards the ticket window, so I followed this method and made it to the window fairly quickly.  Instead of tickets, they stamped our hands as we had already pre-paid.  Very weird.  Anyway, the worst of the evening was behind us and we found some decent seats and settled in for the show.

The opening band was a group called Red Sun Rising.  They are a group from Ohio and have one major label album that came out in 2015 called Polyester Zeal. The album has two songs that have went to #1 on the Mainstream Rock chart: "Emotionless" and "The Otherside.  They put on a decent show for an opening band, and quickly blew through their set.  They are a high energy band and look like they are having a good time when they perform.

Starset Band Photo.jpg
The next band up was Starset.  I downloaded their album Transmissions before the show to see what they were about, and found they have an industrial/symphonic/techno/alternative sound about them.  Their stage show is nothing like I have ever seen before.  They had video displays on each side of the stage, and a large computer center set up at the front of the stage like a DJ stand.  The lead singer would alternate singing and administering the sound from the computer.  When they perform, the band is dressed in full costume like they are some sort of space travelers.  Their performance was very rehearsed, and synchronized to the music with a theatrical flair.  It was interesting and quite different.  The biggest issue I had was that the ENTIRE set was a bass-dropped distorted mess.  You could hardly hear the singer, let alone the band over the constant bass that pulsated and shook the entire arena.  While being assaulted by the non-stop bass, the stage and screens presented visual flashes and pictures to the music.  Needless to say, I was glad when they were finished and hoped to God that Halestorm did not utilize the bass machine like Starset.  The most interesting thing I found out about Starset was that their lead singer has a Ph.D. and has taught at the International Space University.  Just goes to show you rockers can be smart guys too.

Eventually the stage was set for Halestorm, and the excitement in the arena immediately grew when the lights went down.  When the band hit the stage, they began performing a musical intro for themselves until singer Lzzy Hale was left standing at the microphone giving out her trademark scream for LITERALLY 20 seconds. It went on so long that guitarist Joe Hottinger jokingly looked at his watch (Someone on YouTube was good enough to upload the first 8 minutes of the show. You can check it out HERE). Then they kicked into their Grammy Award-winning song "Love Bites (So Do I)" from the album The Strange Case Of...  While they played a wide spectrum of their hits, most of the songs they performed throughout the evening were from their most recent album Into The Wild Life.  Here was the set list:
Lzzy Hale performing Dear Daughter

Love Bites (So Do I)
Mz. Hyde
It's Not You
Sick Individual
Rock Show
Dear Daughter
New Modern Love
Jump the Gun
I Like It Heavy
Drum Solo
I Am the Fire
I Get Off
Freak Like Me
Here's to Us
I Miss the Misery

As they tore through their set, you could tell that the energy and enthusiasm coming from the stage was genuine and not just a canned performance.  I was worried that since the venue was in out-of-the-way Waterloo, Iowa, that the show would be as lackluster as the facility.  However those fears were put to rest pretty much right away.  You could tell that they loved what they were doing, and wanted to give the best show possible.  One of the best moments of the night was when Lzzy performed "Dear Daughter" with just her on the piano.  Prior to starting the song, she told everyone that they have gotten to where they are by not listening to the naysayers and people who are out to put you down.  She advised everyone to do the same accordingly with some four-letter-word encouragement.

The drum solo by Arejay Hale was not one to be missed as he is one of the more animated and crazy drummers out on the road today.  As he pounded the drums in rapid-fire succession, you could see his legs working the double kick drums at an insane speed.  I was wore out after just watching him for 5 minutes.  For the last part of his solo, he broke out what has been a popular segment of the show:  THE BIG STICKS!  He proceeded to play awhile with them and played better than I ever could with regular sticks.  Awesome and hilarious at the same time.

As they neared the end of their set, they played a few more of their biggest hits: "Freak Like Me," and "Here's to Us."  I love both of these songs, and they were even better live as they encouraged audience participation.  "Freak" has one of my favorite lines: "So write your name in gasoline, and SET THAT SHIT ON FIRE!" with the audience yelling out that last part.  I was able to take a 50 second video while they performed "Here's to Us," and was surprised how good it turned out from where I was sitting (Click HERE to see it).  You can probably tell where the audience participation was here.  Then they wrapped up the show by playing "Mayhem" and "I Miss The Misery."

All in all - a great show.  I would recommend them to anyone, and will definitely see them again if they should ever come around these parts.  Contrary to those who say Rock and Roll is dead, I am confident that Rock and Roll is alive and well as long as groups like Halestorm keep it going.

Rock on kids.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016