Saturday, September 26, 2015

Completing the Circle: Reuniting a 90s HC Band.

I am once again sidetracked by the events of the times. Not the idiocy of presidential campaign season (my favorite reality show) or the start of football season (the other reality show), but by a cat. That's it, just a cat. Riding my bicycle swiftly to the train one recent morning, my velocity spooked a rogue feline who opted to attempt suicide. It ran alongside me, surprisingly keeping pace, and then pulled a hard right direct into my front tire. My bike stopped immediately and fell gently to the ground; I proceeded. Supermanning through the air, by and by I reached the asphalt. My line of site at that moment: sky, bike, ground, sky, bike, ground. The result: one fractured elbow, one sprained wrist, only one typing hand available for a few weeks. So that slowed any Thrashwagon progress. That and One Way, the mid-90s hardcore band I was a part of.

By Tony Price
By Melody McWhorter
When you don't play guitar and you don't play drums, but you are adequately insecure and crave some attention, what do you do? Sing in a HC band obviously. And that's just what happened in 1994 when a confused high school junior picked up a mic in Matt's basement and ripped into Minor Threat, Op Ivy and Bad Religion covers. A year later, we had three and then five members and we're taking the stage to open for local heroes Act Of Faith and Crisis Under Control. One Way, Atlanta Hardcore, 90s style.

We cut our teeth at shitty venues in an even shittier part of town, the Somber Reptile and the Wreck Room on East Marietta. These two venues sandwiched African-American strip club, Pink Pony II, always an interesting scene on Friday night as we traversed the block between shows. Our entire set consisted of tunes who's only valid reason for existence was to prove that we could actually write songs and perform them. We got better though. I saw Sick Of It All on the Scratch the Surface tour. Strife opened and the thank you list on their One Truth cassette proved an excellent Rosetta Stone to an underground world. We met tons of new friends that challenged and inspired us. I learned to scream; Matt learned to write riffs; Joel learned to play hard, fast and powerful.

A couple of key things happened that worked-over the Atlanta HC scene in 1996. First, the Olympics came to town and venues like the Somber Reptile decided punk was out and Cajun restaurants and jazz clubs were in. It was a complete flop and who knows where those dickheads are now. But we learned a lesson too. Quadiliacha screamer/shredder Will Greene scrawled something on a flyer that made the rounds, something attuned to "please, clubs are fine, but we should be supporting DIY venues and $3-4 shows." Goddmammit if that isn't what happened! While One Way did not eschew non-DIY ventures as policy, we happily migrated to living rooms and basements, where 30 friends meant a successful and fun night.

It was raw emotion, a real catharsis, and at every show, our community. Some of us were SXE, some of us not. Some of us in college, some of us not. Some working, some just hanging out. And while youth subculture by its very nature is rebellious, this was our world. We found it, we fostered it, and we held on to it tightly. Earnest as it was, absolute passion can also give rise to drama and pettiness, but that's ok because 10,15, 20 years later, I realize how much I learned, what was important and what was bullshit.

The other big thing that happened in '96 was the break-ups of AOF and CUC. Rather than the kids growing up and moving out, it was like the parents had moved out and the kids needed to learn how to cook dinner or starve. The scene contracted once again as the genome of moshers devoted to those bands drifted. By '97 however One Way was reaching it's stride. The line-up shifted here and there, but the core remained Matt, Joel and I and finally Mark joined on bass completing the band. By default, we had a spotlight on us and we stepped up and did our best as four young dudes just trying to figure shit out. We played fast with a mosh crunch and obligatory but crucial singalongs.

We hit the road a couple of times climbing out of the South and up as far as New England. The first time, a really fun flop - sleeping in a parking lot, showering at the beach, splurging on a single hotel room for 11 of us, hopping on shows where we could. The second time, we found more success playing solid shows from NC to Wilkes-Barre to Worcester to Virginia Beach. 

One Way found their final home at the dependable Under The Couch on the Georgia Tech campus. I don't think any of us realized how lucky this situation was. UTC was a student-run venue with good sound, a short stage, and a studio in the back. And that's where it came to a close. In April of '99, we were over. Like countless underground bands before us, we practiced, we played, we had our following and eventually we ran our course and it ended. Again, we were fucking lucky. We quit while we were ahead with minimal tension, not a touch of acrimony and a fantastic farewell show.

A year later, Matt and I joined another band having their day, No Comply, for a hastily organized partial reunion. We did five songs at break neck-speed. And until this year, that was it for One Way.


Two weeks ago, I walked into a studio in Gwinnett County and played our old set again with Matt, Mark, and Joel. After 15 years. Four and a half hours later, I went from feeling nostalgic to woozy and out-of-breath to confident and sweaty through and through. If the reunion tanked (it didn't), I would have felt sated at this experience; playing loud, obnoxious, fervent music with three of the best friends I could have ever imagined. Loud-ass rock and roll, fuck all the rest.

On September 12, One Way stepped on stage again, leading the charge with friends (and HC inspiration) The Difference and Crisis Under Control close behind. I didn't want to be up there like an embarrassed old fart trying to relive a distant past. For whatever reason, I never burned out on HC. I may have cast about a time or two, but I never stopped believing, going to shows or moshing. I wanted a One Way set in 2015 to be as, or more powerful than a set in 1999. I wanted us to play like we never stopped. Like we had been on tour for a decade and a half. A tour to Mars and back again in the ATL. I like to think we pulled off attacking our set with all the passion and reverence for tunes written with blood and sweat when we were young and dumb. Lyrics I wrote as a kid that I still fucking believe in at 39 yrs (I checked, I'm good with every word I sang that night).

And then there was the 7 Seconds cover...

Surprise to the singer, the guys ripped into Young til I Die at the last beat of our last song. Good news, I knew it like the back of my hand. Any hardcore punk rocker would have to turn in their membership card if they couldn't recite that tune word for word on the spot. Another surprise - at the breakdown, Matt handed the guitar to the band's best friend Tony Price to wrap the song, thereby making him an official member as the band played their last notes ever. Matt off the stage, moshing; Joel and Mark carrying the rhythm to the final beat like an angry machine.

And where did I find myself at those final moments? In the crowd, with my bad arm (see the intro) around Matt as we screamed together - "I'm gonna stay young until I die."

Big extra special thank you to Brad Castlen and all of CUC, The Difference, The Drunken Unicorn crew, Tony Price, Ken Saluzzi, Drew, Melody McWhorter, our entire crew of old friends, family, and accompanying small children and CiCi's Pizza. And duh!: Matt, Mark, Joel.


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  2. I am glad that I finally got a chance to check out this place. Great views, food is nice. The quality of service at venues Los Angeles was great, and the environment were pretty comfortable. I’ll say I will look forward to visit again.