As the band LIVE embarked on a comeback festival tour earlier this spring, “lightning crashed” over them — twice. Literally.
“In 30 years of touring I don’t ever remember that happening before,” jokes guitarist Chad Taylor of ironic weather mishaps that interrupted appearances at Rocklahoma and Ottawa’s RBC Bluesfest right before he and his bandmates — drummer Chad Gracey, bassist Patrick Dahlheimer and singer Ed Kowalczyk — had the chance to play their biggest hit.
Lollapalooza, 6 p.m. Aug. 5
When: 10 p.m. Aug. 4
Where: Park West, 322 W. Armitage
While those odds seem incredible, so was the idea that the original lineup of the alternative rock band — which also birthed generational cornerstones like “I, Alone” and “All Over You” in the ’90s — would ever be playing together again in 2017, let alone Lollapalooza in August.
In the midst of a hiatus started in 2009, the band divided into two camps when Kowalczyk inked a solo tour and reported publishing deal that ignited a breach-of-contract lawsuit by Taylor, Gracey and Dahlheimer. In 2012, a second trademark infringement case resulted in Kowalczyk countersuing his bandmates, leaving little hope that the musicians, who have known each other nearly since birth (Kowalczyk and Gracey were born in the same hospital a week apart), would ever reunite.
Over the years, the instrumentalists of LIVE carried on with a new singer, Chris Shinn, and released “The Turn” in 2014, while Kowalczyk continued to produce solo material, such as 2010’s “Alive” and 2013’s “The Flood and The Mercy,” all the while padding his sets with LIVE’s material. Neither effort ever had the same impact.
As Kowalczyk explains in this dual interview, after the “technical things” were settled and there was time to process it all, “we really started to miss each other and the shared history of all those years together.”
Taylor eventually invited the frontman to the band’s compound in York, Pennsylvania, the town where the roots of LIVE first took shape in 1989. They met at what is now considered LIVE HQ, a 53,000-square-foot building the band rehabbed into a multi-level, world-class recording studio, rehearsal space and gear storage facility. (Its vast construction was featured in Mix Magazine a few years ago.)
“The thing is there’s tons of LIVE memorabilia throughout the years that is hung all throughout the building, so Ed was always “[a part of the space] from day one,” says Taylor, surprised by how much more confidence the band had when starting to jam again in the space. “If I would have known how good reuniting would feel I probably would have done it sooner.”
Kowalczyk adds, “Within a few days we were banging out songs, which was inspiring to feel immediately creative with each other again. I thought it might take a while.”
The band intends to issue new material next year, admitting that the challenge now is what they say lyrically in the current times. “We’re figuring out what this band can mean in 2017,” says Kowalczyk.
But, more pressing is the special deluxe reissue on Aug. 11 of their debut album, “Mental Jewelry,” to commemorate its 25th anniversary. In addition to remastered tracks, the package will feature the as-yet-unreleased song “Born Branded” from the cutting-room floor of the original sessions as well as new mixes of the evocative “Pain Lies on the Riverside” and a full unreleased live recording of a pivotal show at The Roxy in Los Angeles in 1992. The liner notes also feature Kowalczyk waxing nostalgic about the band’s earliest monthly gigs at New York’s famed CBGB nightclub, something they have not discussed much until now, with the singer admitting they took the experience for granted.
“The very first time we played the room it was just for [club founder] Hilly Kristal and his assistant Louise. It was basically an unannounced audition,” recalls Taylor, who laughs at Krystal comparing them to the punk band Television. “We hadn’t grown into the rock band we are even today yet, but there was a songwriting thing he related to, I think. He never paid bands for showcase gigs, but he’d give us a couple hundred bucks each show to drive all the way from York when we were still in high school.”
Eventually Joey Ramone caught a set and spread word to his manager, the late Gary Kurfirst, who would later manage LIVE among a slew of other alternative acts like Jane’s Addiction. Though the band had the same team as Perry Farrell, this will surprisingly be LIVE’s first appearance at Lollapalooza (along with an aftershow Aug. 4).
“We are very much looking forward to that performance,” says Kowalczyk. “A lot of things happened during our break and the years leading up to it, one of which is just how much festival culture in America has really revolutionized. You couldn’t script it with the timing and the way we have came back on this circuit. … It’s feels so great to get up on stage and know these songs still mean so much to people. It somehow feels more valuable now.”
Selena Fragassi is a local freelance writer.