Striding out onto the stage with upraised hands and genuine grins, the four piece band is greeted by a roar of applause from and anxious, excited crowd. The relatively small Cardiff venue is packed with hundreds of adoring fans, whose ages seem to range from young teenagers, to older men in their forties or fifties – complete with biker jackets, tattoos and hairstyles that scream that they’ve been in the music scene before some of the other guests were even born. As if hypnotised, the moment that the singer, an attractive brunette in her twenties, opens her mouth and her smooth yet melodically gravelly voice floats through the air, the entire crowd quietens in awe. “In case you guys don’t know who we are, we’re Halestorm! This is our first time here in Wales, and we’re so excited to be here.”
The introduction’s clearly unnecessary, though, as the crowd is abundant with people wearing their shirts, hats and other merchandise, and the atmosphere takes on an electric quality during the wait for the set to begin. Fronted by the enigmatic and beautiful Lzzy Hale, Halestorm is a band that has taken the world of rock music by storm in recent years. Founded by herself and younger brother (and the bands drummer) Arejay, back in 1998 and having their career kick-started by Atlantic Records in 2005, the band has been on incredible journey over the last fifteen years and, after years touring the globe, have found themselves for the first time in Wales – a long way away from their small hometown in Pennsylvania.
As soon as the set begins, it’s clear how and why Halestorm have been able to make it so far and collect such a large fan base so far away from home. The music is reminiscent of an older generation of rock, but with a fresh new twist. Both Hale siblings also possess a brilliant stage presence, with Lzzy freely interacting with the crowd between songs, as well as belting out flawless powerful notes, whilst Arejay’s drumming is less of a musical skill and more of a show, as he does tricks and spins with his drumsticks, all whilst never missing a beat.. But breaking up from the heavy rock songs and powerfully brutal lyrics, the band falls silent and still, and Lzzy takes her place behind the keyboard on stage. With a soft smile the singer declares “this song is for all of our fans; without you guys we’d never have gotten this far.” With that, a soft melodic ballad begins to play, and sure enough it’s a love song – though an unconventional one as it addresses the bands fans, and not a lover. The sincerity behind the lyrics is painfully obvious to all those in the vicinity, and all at once it’s clear to all in sight that this is a band whose kept a level head and still care deeply for the people who love their music – despite their rise to fame and recent success.
On February 10th of this year, just one month before kick-starting their UK tour in the heart of the Welsh capital, Halestorm won the Grammy for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance for their hit song “Love Bites (So Do I)”. It is the first major award for the band, and one which they never expected to win as they beat a cluster of major rock legends such as Iron Maiden, Lamb of God, Megadeth and Marylin Manson – all of whom Lzzy admits were the source of inspiration for her own music career. In a touching and sincere statement of humility, Arejay says of their win: “It’s still surreal. I’m still waiting for somebody to jump out of the bushes and tell us we’re being pranked. It was pretty obvious we didn’t expect that at all. Our version of winning was getting the nomination.” The shock of their win was evident at the Grammy’s themselves; a stunned and tearful Lzzy clearly had no speech prepared as she tenderly thanked the family, friends and fans that had brought her beloved band so far, as well as their record label.
Despite the band’s own shock at their well-deserved success, to the fans it’s clear that the recognition is well deserved. Starting off when they were as young as 10 and 13, the Hale siblings have dedicated nearly 17 years of their life to crafting a career out of the thing they loved most – music. Born and raised in Red Lion, Pennsylvania, the siblings were encouraged to indulge in their musical talents from an early age. Both siblings were taught how to play the piano at the tender age of five, before Lzzy eventually progressed onto the guitar, and Arejay found his calling as a drummer. From that point, the pair made a valiant effort to become successful starting off small and entering local fairs and talent shows (they placed third in one, Arejay laughing that “We lost to a tap-dancing cowgirl, who came in second. That was the only time [previous to the Grammy’s] we ever won an award.”).
Persistence proved to be their strong point, and in a bid to prove how dedicated they were to making it big, the band went on an almost permanent tour – at one point doing as many as 260 shows per year. Their persistence paid off, however, and soon the former small-town band was getting the recognition it deserved; touring with rock giants such as Shinedown, Welsh legends Bullet For My Valentine, and Three Days Grace. Lzzy even found herself with her own custom made range of Gibson guitars, and in April 2012 their latest album “Strange Case Of…” dominated the number one spot in the rock charts. In the same year, the hit single from the album “Here’s To Us” featured on the popular show, ‘Glee’ allowing the band to reach out to a larger, mainstream audience. It’s an incredibly different world from the one they used to live in, and going from placing third in county fairs to winning Grammy’s is a testament to their skills and determination to never back down. “16 years I’ve been working at this,” Lzzy states, demonstrating how hard work prevails yet still retaining modesty “and be a part of the event was more than four kids from Pennsylvania could ever ask for.”
But far from being simply the heart-warming tale of a small town band rising to the top, Halestorm’s recent Grammy win also signified a new era in music. Halestorm currently holds the title of being the first and only female fronted band to have won the Grammy for Best Hard Rock/ Metal Performance – a massive achievement for a genre that’s dominated by men and male fronted bands. Working hard to set themselves apart in a musical niche that see’s very few females grace the stage, Halestorm have seemingly done the impossible. In a massive achievement for women vocalists everywhere, particularly of the metal and rock genres, Lzzy Hale has risen to the top and is now one of the most popular and sought after rock-stars of the era. With her powerful, inspiring lyrics, often describing how women can be strong and independent, she has become an inspiration for girls across the globe. With a delighted, if not a little awed grin, Lzzy recognises her achievement for her gender with pride, accepting the award on behalf of female rockers the world over: “I’m so proud to represent for my genre, which is the beating heart and inspiration for so many other genres. I’m also proud to represent for all my female rockers out there as I am the first female to win a Grammy in this category.”
Back in Cardiff, the show comes to an end, and a perspiring Lzzy grins at the crowd, speaking as the last of the guitar riffs still linger in the air, “we’ve been Halestorm, and it’s been an honour playing here tonight. I’d like to thank all my Welshmen and women for supporting us and being so patient. You rock and we love you.” Finishing with a bow, Arejay throws his drumsticks into the crowd, whilst Lzzy scatters her picks at her adoring fans. Then, in a touching display of affection, all four band members hold up a Welsh flag, with the promise than they will return to the country shortly. Despite their tired eyes and obviously aching muscles the four-piece linger backstage to meet as many of their fans as possible – including some that had waited in line for up to five hours, just to catch a glimpse of their idols. As Halestorm sign merchandise and tickets, their soft smiles indicate just how overwhelmed they are by their own success and with the next stretch of their next tour about to kick off, refreshingly it is blatantly obvious that their recent triumph has not transferred to their egos.