Reunited Live looking forward to playing Lollapalooza
It's hard to believe that one of the biggest acts to come out of the mid-'90s alternative rock boom never performed as part of the traveling circus that best defined the genre: Lollapalooza.
That changes for Pennsylvania alt rockers Live as the reunited quartet heads to Chicago for a pair of Lollapalooza performances that mark the band's first local dates since a 2009 hiatus that turned into a break up.
• 11 p.m. Friday, Aug. 4 (doors open at 10), for an official Lollapalooza Aftershow at Park West, 322 W. Armitage Ave., Chicago. Tickets $35; for ages 18 and older. www.parkwestchicago.com.
• 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 5, on the Tito's Handmade Vodka Stage at Lollapalooza in Grant Park. The fest is sold out. www.lollapalooza.com.
Thursday through Saturday, Aug. 3-6, in Grant Park, Chicago. Headliners include Chance the Rapper, The Killers, Muse, Arcade Fire, Blink-182, The XX and Lorde.
Before landing in Chicago's Grant Park as a destination fest, Lollapalooza roamed the country presenting alternative music's biggest names in a carnivalesque atmosphere at outdoor amphitheaters, stopping at what's now called Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Tinley Park annually between 1991 and 1995 and again in 1997 and 2003 -- a stretch during which the venue changed names three times.
Live didn't need the security of the Lollapalooza brand to sell tickets. They were selling out the same venues based on the massive success of their 1994 breakthrough album "Throwing Copper" anyway.
"I think we played one of our biggest shows ever," said Live frontman Ed Kowalczyk of a 1995 suburban tour stop. "Back then I believe (the venue) was called The World. I remember that show in particular because I think we had sold the most tickets that we had ever sold before. It was the PJ Harvey, Veruca Salt run."
That sold-out show on Aug. 31, 1995, came a little over a month after a mid-July Lollapalooza stop headlined by Sonic Youth at the same venue and reflected the massive success of No. 1 singles "Selling the Drama" and "Lightning Crashes."
While festivals like Reading and Roskilde have dominated European summers for decades, it took until the 1990s for America to catch up as the success of Lollapalooza sparked traveling competition like H.O.R.D.E. Fest, Lilith Fair, Warped Tour, Ozzfest and others.
But the biggest American festival of the '90s took place as an ode to the granddaddy of them all: Woodstock. With anniversary celebrations staged in upstate New York in 1994 and 1999, Live played both.
"I remember (Woodstock '94) being like the first humongous crowd that we ever played to," Kowalczyk said. "It was totally overwhelming and so to come full circle now into festivals again is just perfect. Because we rise to the occasion."
In 2009, the band planned a two-year hiatus that fell apart in a haze of lawsuits and acrimony.
But Live was a band long marked by close personal relationships. And once things started to get fixed on the business side, it didn't take long for Kowalczyk and guitarist Chad Taylor to mend what was fractured on their end.
"It felt like this great history that we have as a band, together as friends -- on stage/off stage -- was allowed to kind of reemerge. And we saw -- we were all experiencing it together -- that the weight of that was so much heavier and so much bigger than any of the bad stuff that we had been through, that it really kind of swallowed it up. We started to miss each other," explained Kowalczyk. "I started to text back and forth with Chad probably about two years ago and then we got together for a beer in York. And that was it," he said of the duo's meeting in their Pennsylvania hometown.
From there, work moved quickly to the band's York headquarters, a process that has already resulted in the writing and studio recording of the first new Live music to feature Kowalczyk since 2006.
Having missed the opportunity to celebrate the 20th anniversary of "Throwing Copper" during the break up, Live is recognizing a different anniversary: the 25th of their studio debut "Mental Jewelry."
Set for release on Friday, Aug. 11, a deluxe reissue features new liner notes penned by Kowalczyk. It's also accompanied by a previously unreleased live set recorded in 1992 at The Roxy in Los Angeles.
"That for me has been the most amazing part of this is to listen back to it," said Kowalczyk of the forthcoming live record. "We were clearly a band that had a lot to learn as far as dynamic and all that stuff. But that energy really has never left."
The band has road-tested new studio material at festivals since May, with more, like Lollapalooza, to come this summer, in addition to a run of August stadium dates opening for Guns N' Roses.
And while the touring model has changed significantly since Live's '90s heyday, the festival concept is one that has Kowalczyk particularly excited.
"You get to play to so many new people and play to the longtime fans," Kowalczyk said. "It's so much fun as an artist because to play your show and then stand on the side of the stage to watch Band of Horses next is just great. It's different than a normal tour. It's just a lot better."