It’s a Tuesday night and Halestorm has packed the Des Moines, Iowa venue known as People’s Court. With a capacity under 1000, it’s a “small-ish” venue in an old warehouse typical of many of the buildings in Des Moines’ downtown. Its warehouse-style signature brick walls and exposed ventilation give it an open, industrial look.
While the ability for a band to almost sell out a show on a Tuesday night is a bit surprising, Halestorm has made their way to Des Moines on several other occasions since 2005, developing a strong following in the midwest city. What’s also surprising is the mixed crowd, ranging from 3 years of age to mid 60s. One of the stars of the show, 5-year-old Jaxin, was pulled up on stage before Halestorm began and posed in photographs with band members throughout the night. Samantha Knight, from Des Moines’ local radio channel, Lazer 103.3, had a good time with the little tyke, who was dressed in a well-ironed button-up shirt and spiky blond hair. He’s a drummer.
Halestorm hit the stage a few minutes after 10:00pm, with Arejay Hale, Halestorm’s drummer, running onto the stage dressed in a skull mask, army-type jacket and cap covered in a massive amount of pin back buttons, screaming “Des Moines!” The rest of the band emerged, but all eyes are on Lzzy Hale, wearing her signature bright red lipstick and her long wavy, brown hair tousled in a sexy mess. Hale, never disappoints when it comes to her wardrobe’ wearing a leather miniskirt with thigh high black stockings and black garter clips lying on her thighs. Her tank top, with the words imprinted “Daughters of Darkness” (a song from their newest record The Strange Case of…), had a black bra peeking out from underneath.
The band started out with Love Bites, showing off Lzzy’s screaming voice and energy. Arejay Hale stripped off the jacket, hat and mask, revealing his dyed bright red hair. He’s now in a tank top with a tie hung loosely around his neck. Arejay Hale beats the drums hard and fast, rarely sitting down; it seems he has so much energy he needs to constantly stand up. Bassist John Smith and guitarist Joe Hottinger, are dressed plain and simple; in open button-up shirts. They undoubtedly bring the cohesiveness of the sound together, but they seem to know their place.
Lzzy Hale sounds as good in person as on any recorded format; it’s a seamless transition. The sound is crisp and clear. Her powerful voice is continuous and relentless. This girl knows how to have fun on a stage; warm to the audience, smiling and talking between songs. Lzzy Hale is expressive when she sings, gritting her teeth and opening her mouth wide, making her fun to watch. Before singing her solo, Break In, an emotional ballad, the band left Lzzy Hale on stage alone with her piano . She talked about the newest record’s sound, explaining how supportive her band and everyone has been, giving her the ability to do something different.
After the band performed Private Parts, a B-side song from the current album, Arejay – shirtless with only the tie around his neck – broke into his rendition of a drum solo as comments from the crowd, “He’s a fucking maniac, I love it” were heard in between beats. Halfway through the drum solo Arejay Hale, abandoned his drumsticks, using only his hands. Continuing to jump around, his arms and chest were glistening with sweat.
After the drum solo, the full band reappeared to play Slave to the Grind, the Skid Row cover from their ReAniMate: The CoVeRs eP, released in 2011. Not the best song of the evening; it was a jumbled, loud ball of noise; you couldn’t distinguish the guitars from the bass or the vocals.
As the night winded down, the band played Here’s To Us, a song about drinking and camaraderie. The crowd waved their arms and hands back and forth, and when the lyrics came to the line, “go fuck themselves” Lzzy Hale, held out the microphone and the crowd shouted in unison.
The band ended the show around 11:30pm, playing a disappointingly short set. They had plenty more material this crowd would know including Daughters of Darkness and Beautiful With You; they didn’t need to stick to radio playlists for such a dedicated crowd. But these fans were in no way walking away empty-handed; the show was powerful, fun and full of spontaneous energy.