It was no way to open a tour. The band Live was playing in Burlington, Vt. But a snowstorm kept drummer Chad Gracey from making the gig.
So the rest of Live -- singer Ed Kowalczyk, guitarist Chad Taylor and bassist Patrick Dahlheimer -- did the unplugged thing. Their booking agent even took the drum chair for "bad versions of a couple of Jimi Hendrix songs," according to Mr. Kowalczyk.
It worked. Nobody left, and only two people asked for their money back -- after the show.
"We take everything in stride nowadays," says Mr. Kowalczyk, 23. "There's so much going on, it's so intense, you just have to take it as it comes."
Quite a bit has come Live's way since the release a year ago of the York, Pa., quartet's second album, "Throwing Copper." It's sold 2 million copies and launched the hits "Selling the Drama," "I Alone" and "Lightning Crashes." The latter has topped Billboard's modern rock chart for the past four weeks.
Live played at Woodstock '94, and it recently filmed an MTV "Unplugged" segment. The group is frequently mentioned as a Lollapalooza headliner, but Mr. Kowalczyk says no formal invitation has been extended.
"I'll reserve comment on what we're going to do if we're asked," he says. "Let's say I wouldn't look for us on Lollapalooza this summer."
What clicked for Live, which the four formed to play '80s new wave while they were in high school? Unquestionably, it was a second album whose majestic dynamics and probing, philosophical lyrics represented a leap forward from the group's 1992 debut, "Mental Jewelry."
"With 'Mental Jewelry,' we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to get something happening," says Mr. Kowalczyk. "I think we lost some of the personality in the music. 'Throwing Copper's' mission was to begin to get some of that back. I mean, we're basically hicks, y'know?
"There's a lot of spirituality and hope in our music that I think people are catching on to. It's not punk, it's not Green Day, not Offspring, not Soundgarden, not Stone Temple Pilots, not all of the other bands that are coming out. I think now people are finally figuring that out."
For album No. 3, Mr. Kowalczyk promises something "looser and more experimental" than the mannered arrangements on "Throwing Copper." And while he expects his ambivalent feelings about Live's success to surface in the music, he does promise restraint.
"I don't want our next record to be about how much I hated getting famous."
To hear excerpts from Live's second album, "Throwing Copper," call Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service, at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County, call 268-7736; in Harford County, 836-5028; in Carroll County, 848-0338. Using a touch-tone phone, punch in the four-digit code 6221 after you hear the greeting.
Live is live
Where: Bender Arena, American University, Washington
When: Sunday, April 30, 8 p.m.
Tickets: $19.50 plus $4.75 Ticketmaster handling charge per ticket and $1.50 per order (sold out)
Call: (410) 481-SEAT