All Hail Halestorm

How a wholesome family act went from playing South Street to being the biggest female-fronted hard rock band in the country.

From South Street to the grammys

From left to right, Halestorm members: Arejay Hale, Josh Smith, Lzzy Hale and Joe Hottinger.

Halestorm has performed drunk exactly once. As frontwoman Lzzy Hale tells it, the show was in 2005, at what was then called Whiskey Dix, next door to the Electric Factory. The rockers from Red Lion had just signed a deal with Atlantic Records, and one celebratory shot led to five. The end of their set faded into a blur. “Our bass player’s dad said, ‘You know that rule you have about not drinking before a show? You might want to stick to that,’” Hale recalls.

Halestorm has come a long way since then. This month, the band — including Hale’s brother Arejay on drums — were among the headliners for the annual MMRBQ blowout in Camden, just across the river from South Street, where the four-piece honed its sound at clubs like Abilene’s. The band is on tour to support Into the Wild Life, its third studio album and the follow-up to their 2012 release that won a Grammy, beating out icons like Iron Maiden and Marilyn Manson.

“It’s kind of surreal,” Hale, 31, says on the phone from Germany. “We have a lot of these ‘stop and smell the roses’ moments. Like, can you believe we’re playing Berlin tomorrow?”

Inciting mosh pits across Europe is a far cry from Halestorm’s nascent days gigging at coffeehouses. Back then (in 1999, to be exact, when teenage Lzzy was still Liz, her father played bass, and their sound was described as “Christian rock”), Harrisburg’s Patriot-News compared the band to Hanson. Over the years, the church influence faded as Halestorm schlepped to Philly for weekly gigs and a love of classic rock and Black Sabbath took hold. Lzzy found her lane as a head-banging, guitar-slinging singer à la Lita Ford, and the group lifted off. “We know so many musicians in Philly who never make a second record,” she says. “Part of it is drive and working super hard, but there’s a whole other side that’s very much stars aligning. A lot of it is out of your control. We’re so incredibly thankful and humbled.”

With Halestorm’s success and Hale’s rising profile — Rolling Stone called her recent performance with country bad boy Eric Churchmesmerizing” — it may soon be hard to keep the band’s collective ego in check. But the singer still looks back fondly on those early days lugging amps down South Street, and old friends like WMMR deejays Jaxon and Pierre Robert. She launches into one last nostalgic tale, about the time Halestorm gave Jaxon a late-night lift home in its “beat-up, piss-yellow RV” and tried not to wake his suburban neighbors. “’MMR has been there literally from the beginning,” she says. “They were supportive before anyone cared.”