On Friday, March 29th, dozens of people flocked into Hi-Way Pizza after dark to watch three metal bands perform. When the first band, Cavern, went on, the room reverberated with thundering drum hits, technical guitar riffs, and boisterous bass resonance. Many of the patrons sported full beards, sleeves of tattoos and beers in their hands – typical of shows in the Frostburg area, as there are no music venues that admit anyone under 21. Or at least there weren’t – until now.
Ian Shaver has been the manager of Hi-Way Pizza for about six months. “I used to come here all the time ten years ago when it was the most popular place in town,” he says. He hopes to re-popularize Hi-Way as a bar, restaurant, and music venue, and he believes that making it an all-ages venue will not only bring business, but provide young musicians with somewhere to play. Noting that there has not been an all-ages venue in the area since Ahern’s Collectibles & Arcade closed in 2006, Shaver says, "There are high school bands that are really good, but otherwise have nowhere to play.” And music-lovers under 21 otherwise have nowhere to watch local bands play, either.
He also thinks that younger musicians have refined tastes for good, popular music, which could help pull a larger audience to Hi-Way’s music events. Shaver aims to expand the small pizza shop on the corner of College Avenue and Maple Street as a venue by hosting shows on the back deck and possibly knocking out the fence between their backyard and the backyard of neighboring house, which is also owned by the owner of Hi-Way Pizza. As of now, Shaver hopes to have two more bands play at the end of April and the beginning of May when the weather will permit shows outdoors.
“Our goal is to be the place where locals and students can comingle,” Shaver says. Hi-Way already tries to do a lot of community outreach, such as hosting fundraisers for student organizations and fraternities/sororities and giving them a percentage of the profits.
Cavern’s set was followed by local Maryland band Atlas at Last and the Kentucky group Motherplant. Overall, Shaver says that the event was a success, considering it was their first attempt and they did not know what to expect. They even had 4 or 5 attendees under the age of 21, and the number of younger people who come to their shows will likely increase as publicity about their music events does.
At this point, bands have to bring all of their own amplification and mixing equipment. Regardless, the sound quality was impressive. Cumberland resident Todd Gowans, who has known the members of Cavern for years, says he thinks the bands “sounded great for playing in a small room with a hodge-podge PA setup.” The drummer of Cavern is also exceptional in that he does not need to mic his drumset, while many other drummers do. “He’s one of the hardest hitting drummers out there,” remarks Gowans.
Corey Oglesby, a bartender at Dante’s on Main Street, says he “had a great time” at Friday’s show. As a musician, he says, “it’s great to see other venues opening up. I’d like to see Hi-Way do more shows like this.” He also thinks that making Hi-Way Pizza an all-ages venue was a good choice. “I’m a firm believer that music should be made available to anyone who wants to support or enjoy it. If you’re under 21, they’ll put x’s on your hands and you’ll still have a great time. I grew up with x’s on my hands.”