Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Fledgling band LIVE revealed in a 1994 road trip

Live has been one of the more interesting bands to come along in the last 20 or so years.

They're out of Pennsylvania and carved a hard-driving prog-alternative sound all their own out of the late 80s; when big hair metal reigned, bands with jangly guitars like R.E.M. were leading the way in the alternative college radio movement, and a grunge scene was taking shape in Seattle.

Somehow, Live evolved very much immune to all those other trends at the time...or so their sound seems to indicate.

I'd like to say that I was in on it early on, through the success and glory of the
Throwing Copper era in 1994-95. For you stat nuts out there, Throwing Copper is the only album in Billboard history to go Number 1 after being on the charts for 52 weeks.

For you calculus crunchers out there, 52 weeks = 1 year. Woooow man, trippy stuff!

In 1994, a few months after my graduation from ASU, I was still living in Tempe and gearing up for graduate school in the fall. That summer, to break away from the Arizona heat, a friend and I hit the road for California to visit a mutual buddy for a weekend of music.

The focus of our visit centered around catching the band Yes live, at the Greek Theater located in the hills north of L.A. They were touring off the Talk album, which if I recall correctly was their last project involving Trevor Rabin.

Part of the weekend also involved going to the campus of UCLA to see a newer band called "Live" at a free gig. I had never heard of them before, but our friend we were visiting said that he'd heard good things.

The show took place in the middle of a courtyard to what I recall as a space in front of a student union building...pretty much smack dab in the middle of campus, in a rather random spot. Photos of the event do exist, and are currently packed away in a box...when they reveal themselves again, I'll be sure to share.

At that time, Throwing Copper had been out for several months and was slowly starting to receive radio airplay, but hadn't taken off yet...so the band was culling their set list from that album and their first project, 1991's Mental Jewelry.

There was an opening band, whose name I'm trying to recall...("Dig" perhaps?) I'll follow up on that. Whoever they were, they didn't make much of an impact and never took off.

Live, however, had an unmistakable energy...they seemed to have a combination of electric jamming musicianship and heady, passionate lyrics...maybe like a hard alternative cross between Rush and U2.

Extensive online research for the set list on that day is still in the works.
Interestingly enough, I have a vague memory of one of my friends grabbing the written set list that was onstage that day.

As another year progressed, the band would continue to grow into a massive phenomenon. By 1995 they were the "cool thing" and all over the radio. I would see them a second time; this time around it would be with 20,000 others at the Desert Sky Pavilion in Phoenix. By this time the band was clearly at it's popular height.

However...that day, back in Santa Monica, I discovered a favorite newer band born out of the 1990s -- in their fledgling days.

1 comment:

Sweva said...

Update: I had a conversation over the holidays with someone who grew up in Pennsylvania going to Live's gigs around the time they were playing the local bar circuit and put out their first album...so that beats my story timeline-wise. Under the circumstances of living on the other side of the country from PA, though, I still give us high marks for dialing into these guys in the Southwest when we did!