The list of nationally and internationally known Charlotte bands is short. Those that can claim to have been around for more than 30 years is even shorter, especially if you consider the bands that willingly chose the road less traveled – forging a fiercely independent career with an aggressive, confrontational image that was never going to win a Grammy or enough royalties to buy a mansion on Lake Norman.
Yet 30 years after playing its first show at a place called The Barn in Boone on Oct. 1, 1983, Charlotte’s punk-metal stalwart Antiseen shows no signs of stopping. The band that was founded by singer Jeff Clayton and guitarist Joe Young celebrates its 30th “Antiversary” (as they call it) with a two-night event at Tremont Music Hall, where it celebrated its 20th and 25th years by upping the stakes of its long-legendary live shows.
Hickory’s Marty Thomas was there that first night in Boone.
“I spoke to Joe and he said, ‘Have you ever seen these guys?’” Thomas recalls. “I said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘Then you better hide.’”
With anyone else it would’ve likely been an empty boast. But with Antiseen, remembers Thomas: “We were all standing there with our mouths open.”
It wasn’t the bloody live show that Antiseen became known for with Clayton, who went on to brandish a barbed wire bat, cut his head open, and set tables on fire during concerts.
“They were so good, but they were a lot different than they are now. Then it was just cut and dry,” Thomas adds. Antiseen, which continues to put out new releases and still tours the U.S. and Europe, was a hard-charging slice of punk aggression inspired by bands like the Sex Pistols and the Ramones, but with an ornery, unapologetically Southern streak.
“We’d never seen anything like that in North Carolina. You had to go to Los Angeles and New York. We were in shock over it,” she recalls.
It was another six years with Antiseen building its wild reputation before a then 17-year-old Russ Ward caught his first Antiseen show. Ward was blown away.
“They weren’t playing to put on a pose. The way Clayton performs – there was a genuine expression, a release. They weren’t doing it for money or ego and fame. It was a lot more direct and a lot more real,” says Ward, who couldn’t relate to popular bands like Guns n’ Roses. Ward eventually started his own bands as Mad Brother Ward and toured with Antiseen selling merch, acting as a roadie, and eventually penning liner notes for the band’s albums.
He’s toyed with the idea of making a documentary about the band, because its story is unique.
“I didn’t want to do typical fanboy kind of thing,” Ward says. “I wanted to do something that illustrated a band that does music that’s not commercially viable at all; guys that know they’re never going to see a payoff, never going to get a gold record or be a celebrity. They do it because it means something to them. And to be able to sustain 30 years? Who does that?”
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