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Inquiring Minds

'90s Richmond punk band Inquisition stages a reunion weekend — and people buy plane tickets.



It feels good to be loved, even for a punk band.

Just ask anyone from Inquisition, a politically tinged hardcore group that earned its stripes in the Richmond scene of the early '90s.

The band hasn't played a live show since its final gig at Alley Katz in 1996, so when it announced a May 18 reunion show at Alley Katz, the members weren't prepared for the response. Tickets sold out within five hours — allegedly the fastest ever for an Alley Katz show — so a second show was added for May 19, which also sold out within days. Diehard fans are coming from Texas and California, and as far away as Mexico, Canada and Germany.

"It's been crazy. We thought we'd be lucky to sell 150 tickets, sort of a high-school reunion thing," bassist Rob Huddleston says. "Now we're feeling the pressure. … But we're excited about it."

After the band's last show in '96, members went their separate ways. Lead singer Thomas Barnett became the singer for Strike Anywhere (which takes its name from an Inquisition song), and now lives in Portland, Ore.; guitarist/vocalist Mark Avery joined River City High but lives in London; and drummer Russ Jones and bassist Huddleston, both still Richmonders, teamed again with Ann Beretta and The Foundation Band.

"Back in '95, Inquisition could play every other week in Richmond and sell 500 to a thousand tickets," Huddleston says. "Nowadays, local bands are lucky to get a hundred people."

Tim Barry, lead singer from Avail, recalls Inquisition as a unifying force in the local scene. "They successfully helped bridge the gap between suburban Richmond and the city bands," he says. "Really, they helped create the Richmond sound. … The delivery live was extremely aggressive, but with a smile."

Both shows are being filmed and recorded for DVD and CD release, and lucky for fans tuning in late, there will be a limited number of tickets available at the door.

Style talked with Huddleston about why the band broke up, what brought about the reunion, and how technology gets in the way of the sing-along.

Style: How did the reunion come about?

Huddleston: We've been talking randomly about it for years. Ever since the band broke up, our record ["Revolution, I Think It's Called Inspiration"] had been reissued pretty much every two years, the last being in 2005, by A-F Records. The hard thing is that all four of us are in different bands that tour regularly. So, getting all together in one place seemed impossible. It took a year and half of scheduling.

Why did the band originally call it quits?

We were just four gung-ho, driven people. Part of it had to do with four creative minds not always being able to agree. But it was also our first band and we were constantly touring. We were too young to realize we could come home and take a break. … In our minds at the time it was either do or die.

Why do you think it's harder for local bands to draw crowds these days?

On the one hand, there's technology making it so easy to access music. You don't have to search it out anymore. Back then seemed like a more energetic time not only to be in a band, but to be in the audience. The band wasn't just the four of us, it was the audience too, who was often onstage singing with us.

What has kept the band recognized all this time?

For whatever reason, our album keeps coming out. It sounds like something that could be released now. The fact that we're all with different bands, with different levels of success, could have driven people to research what we were doing before. … Also big-selling bands like AFI and Dashboard Confessional have cited that album as an influence, and I'm sure that helped.

Any chance of doing a full tour again?

It's really just a reunion show. With that amount of effort from people coming such long distances to see the show — if we were to announce a tour, that we are coming to your hometown, how disheartening would that be? We're not trying to market anything, this just ended up being bigger than any of us thought. S

Inquisition plays Alley Katz May 18 with Ensign and Channel 43, 6-10 p.m., and May 19 with The Draft and New Mexican Disaster Squad, 7-11 p.m. Both shows are $10-$12. 643-2816.

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