Originally published Sept. 6, 2004

These days, it's difficult for an up-and-coming local band to find suitable bars or clubs that book live music.

The patrons who frequent these venues really don't want to hear original music.

York County bars aren't receptive to bands that want to push the musical envelope.

In a lot of ways, the scene that today's young and up-and-coming bands are working their way through isn't that different from the one Live came up in during the mid-to-late 1980s.

But because Live came up through the school of hard knocks and made it into the national ranks, Ed Kowalczyk and company gave these bands a path to follow to rock 'n' roll glory.

Like Live, local high school rock outfit Tea is trying to climb the ladder as a young band. And Tea also is encountering a not-so-happening scene in York.

Dane Jensen, Tea's bassist, said although Live sold tons of albums and became MTV staples, the band didn't set the bar so high that other bands can't reach.

"I think some people could say that, but I don't think that's valid," Jensen said. "Somebody's got to make it and good for them. Why not dream big?"

Compared to other mid-sized Pennsylvania towns, York offers access to Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Reading, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

To combat a lack of shows in the York area, Tea employs a technique called gig-swapping. A band plays an out-of-town show with another band, crashes at their place and returns the favor a couple weeks later in their hometown.


That technique establishes fan bases outside the city, and Jensen said it is necessary for underage bands that can't play the few local bars in York that host original live music.

Even for popular bands in York, there isn't a venue that can host a couple hundred people and audiences of all ages.

"I think there needs to be more venues that are appropriate for teens and adults," Jensen said. "We need a place like the Chameleon Club in York, but the more I think about it, there isn't a demand for live music in York."

While the York rock act Screamapillar doesn't exactly count Live as a musical influence, some of its members say Live's success and longevity serve as an inspiration.

Live started out playing some of the same type of tough-crowd bars that Screamapillar is playing now, said Jason Greenwood, the band's guitarist.

"That's one thing you can say, at least there's hope." Greenwood said. "And that someday we can get out of here as well and make it."

Two hot spots on the Screamapillar schedule are neighborhood bars The Westgate Restaurant and Lounge in West Manchester Township and The Glad Crab in York Township.

It's not that they don't like playing The Westgate or The Glad Crab. But to play there, the band has to sacrifice some of its original songs from the set list in favor of cover tunes. The band will alternate between originals such as "Falling For You" and more rocking versions of 1980s staples such as "867-5309/Jenny."

"People want to go drink and they want to hear songs they know, especially from the '80s," Greenwood said. "We always rock stuff up to make it our own."

Screamapillar singer jackieraye (she doesn't give out her last name) claims to be a distant relative to Live drummer Chad Gracey, and her boyfriend used to date his cousin.

But there's more of a connection than that. She lists Live's "Throwing Copper" as one of her all-time favorite albums and cites Kowalczyk as an amazing frontman.

"I really like Ed Kowalczyk as a lyricist," she said. "He's very passionate."

She also said Live's decision to return to York for two shows during their 20th-anniversary tour spoke volumes about the band's desire to mend any bridges broken by "Shit Towne" (Live's rip on York from the 1994 album "Throwing Copper") or other harsh words between Live and its hometown.

"I think it's really good that they're coming back to their roots," jackieraye said. "Maybe people thought their egos were blown out of proportion. We always joke about going back to play The Westgate 15 years from now."

But not every local band sees Live's ascension to stardom as the path to rock righteousness.

In fact, modern rock band The Underwater doesn't see that path at all.

The guys in the York band were too young when Live reached its zenith with "Mental Jewelry" and "Throwing Copper" in the early 1990s. Brandon Deroche, one of the band's guitarists, said he was 10 years old and in fourth grade when Live's first albums were released.

"I mean, I think we never really realized how big Live actually was, and how big they are still," Deroche said. "But overall, being from York, we knew them, obviously, and we knew people around the country knew them, and that they were one of the biggest bands in the early '90s."

Of course, the guys in The Underwater, who have been on the verge of a major-label record deal for almost a year now, want to go where Live has gone and enjoy a career like the one Live has had.

But Deroche, Matt Holmes, Dan Thomas, Aaron Hodgdon and Dale Dixon have always had a strong sense of where they were going as a band and never really looked to another act -- local or national -- to model their career after.

"We always just kind of believed in what we were doing. We just always thought it was something that was possible," Deroche said.

Both Screamapillar and The Underwater say they are constantly asked about Live.

Once they mention they're from York, the next question is inevitable.

"People always seem to know that Live is from York," Deroche said. "It's kind of funny because people asked if we were influenced by them."

Greenwood said Screamapillar use the Live reference more as a calling card to give people a frame of reference.

"If I'm talking to someone outside the area, I say we're from York, Pa., the home of Harley-Davidson and Live," Greenwood said.