By Max Dropout

John Babbin, former manager of Naked Raygun/The Effigies and co-proprietor of modern punk staple Criminal IQ Records, mixed his fragile smirk with a furrowed brow of concern while watching dozens of rabid punk rockers descend upon the jock-ish brood of sore thumbs. Only moments earlier these golden lads made a Buick-sized error by tossing some poor girl’s purse and car keys into the Colorado River below after she violently rebuffed a sexual suggestion from one of them. As the magma tidal wave of retribution came crashing in after them, Rob Karlic’s (the Worst/Functional Blackouts) camera flash blazed in antagonistic pursuit, undoubtedly capturing choice shots of the group’s token eighty-pound gorilla as they dragged him back to his mom’s SUV.

Five minutes before APD’s presence throws another block of tension on the flames, Babbin’s remarks summed up the appeal of a Lamar Pedestrian Bridge event: “Man, this is just like the eighties.”

Anyone old enough to remember a time when punk venues were an endangered and unstable facet of our culture, mostly relegated to American Legion halls and warehouses, knows what Babbin is talking about. The violence that once permeated your average punk-oriented hole has been replaced by a numbing sense of security. The establishment has neutered punk’s threat by accepting and ultimately integrating elements of its culture into mainstream consciousness, thus bogging it down in the mire of lawful legitimacy. Gone are the days when the show’s security were you and your friends; underage dick suckers don’t run unchecked, nor do they even get anywhere near you these days, and pharmaceuticals are no longer as common as cans of Budweiser. Back then, the sounds that now haunt the coffin-like holes in your downtown areas might have brought a blue knee down across the back of your neck. A show on the bridge is a shot of nostalgia, preserving an endangered aura that so strongly fed the eighties punk movement: a sense of uncertainty and danger that inspired a bond against any sort of threat against your community. In fact, an odd sentiment surrounding a bridge event is that if the cops don’t show up, it lacks punctuation, and is thus incomplete…

Two months after the above-mentioned evening, the cops failed to appear for the Tigers/ Peach Train/Afterglow three-way dance on the bridge, but the atmosphere was, as usual, rife with a celebration of community and uncertainty. Lately, bands playing the bridge have forsaken the practice of playing through common equipment while rotating every two or so songs, so that everyone gets a chance to play. Thankfully, though, this was not the case tonight, with not only common equipment shared, but also multiple set-ups to allow for a quick rotation.

The Tigers are a recent punch to the Austin scene’s temple, and one of the most maligned to boot. You’re either gonna loathe it, or shovel it down your throat with bile-singed fingers. I’ve heard catty remarks from the younger crowd referring to them as an “LA Drugs cover band,” but this is a grossly misappropriated title, especially when you consider that the Tigers probably have more potential than LA Drugs. Unfortunately, the band hasn’t received much encouragement from their elders, either, but you can’t expect much from old people other than rocking chair creaking and a shot gun cock. These precocious little shits are hyper-adaptable, and depending on the crowd, they can either be gratingly awful or surprisingly good. Aaron, Jeremy, the lovely Veronica, and their percussive conductor Omari (ex-Jewws) are entertaining even when they’re terrible, as opposed to most local bands who aren’t very entertaining even when they’re “good.” At their core, their songs have either serrated vocal or guitar hooks that you can’t remove without creating sufficient damage, so they’re worth listening to. Combine that with loudmouth minimalist Jeremy and his attempts to suture audience members together with massive amounts of yarn with Veronica smashing her teeth out against a microphone, and you get a worthwhile show. This is a good deal more than I can say for the brand of spit polished, glam-infused punk that their crotchety detractors warble through. I’d rather watch cute jailbait smash glass candy over her head any day than endure another set by the Applicators.

Lead singer Veronica is a realistic poster girl for the modern nuclear family seedling. Monotone and pill-plied, she dismantles P-O-P, and sticks a capital C where the O should be. Meanwhile, her band mates buzz about with all the useless concern of your average family. This was actually one of the best sets I’ve seen from her in particular, with a little more physical animation and some actual singing as opposed to her typical high-pitched drone. Once Veronica learns to actually use their voice, this is going to be a dangerous band.

Following the Tigers were the Afterglow, featuring Dean Beadles (Ape-Shits/ex-Hatch Backs) and Lisa DiRocco. Still behind the drums, albeit a modified standing kit, Lisa has made her much anticipated return to the vocal helm in what can only be described in cinematic terms as a damaged Butterfly Nation clone pulling a jizz-spewing train on Lisa’s other outfit, the Kodiaks. Think Kathleen Hanna if she wasn’t an uptight cunt, fronting Houston’s Solid Gold countdown, the Ka-Nives. Beadles provides some of his most devastating guitar work to date through a quadrafuck of ampage. Whatever this sonic Fagan can get his hands on, you can bet he’ll use it to pickpocket your shaking ass. If ever they commit time to a studio, they could feasibly be the most house-rockin’ garage punk duo since the Bassholes. Some great covers here, too, including tunes by the Gossip, the Oblivians, and even the Motards‘ unsung Texas anthem, “I’m a Criminal.” Word has it that the Afterglow will be contributing “Then I Fucked Her” to an upcoming Oblivians compilation within the year.

Batting our heads back to the opposite side of the bridge was Peach Train, featuring our own Ari Blowup, formerly of Chicago darlings the Audreys. While an impressive addition to Austin’s rotation, the band has still a long way to go. Tonight was probably one of their first performances with new guitarist Christian. Beefing up their sound a bit, they’ve gone from sounding like a hybrid between Cupid Car Club and Flipper to a looser Nation of Ulysses. Herein lies Peach Train’s problem: Ari can add Ian Svenonious-pretension to his list of rock iconography he can effectively ape, right alongside Raw Power-era Iggy Pop’s swish. Since Ari is beyond adequate as a guitarist, I’m positive that beneath the amalgamation of other personalities, there is a unique style and voice that will emerge with time. Hopefully, he’ll loose the Svenonious chatter soon, as his talkativeness often hampers their performance. Yes, Ari, you do have the floor, but please don’t abuse it. It’s kind of like when you see assholes standing on the sidewalk. It ain’t called a sidestand, so fucking move. If you’re on a stage, you should shut up and play rock n’ roll.

Peach Train are one in a number of recent local bands offering a sloppier interpretation of Dischord-type hardcore, and the addition of their latest guitarist, who fiddles through meandering proggish rhythms that sound more like inept leads, is a seemingly crippling addition, though it’s hard to tell how he’ll be integrated into the band once they write songs with him. All eyes were on bassist Turbo Terebecki. This kid has something very special: remarkable technical ability and a strong sense of showmanship, which had me a little nervous at points, as he teetered on amps while sliding the neck of his instrument across the railing.

While some of the faces are familiar, these incarnations are forcing a gust of baby’s breath down the local scene’s lungs, and we recommend giving them a shot, so keep your eyes peeled in the meantime. And if you go to Lamar Bridge, please refrain from being a shit head. Thanks.