Words by Brian O’Neill | Photos by Tashina Byrd
The Atom Age look like a ska band exploded in a thrift store, six Poindexters in mismatched attire with a horn player and keyboardist amongst the six people crowded on the stage. But judging this book by what covers them would be a mistake; instead, judge them by their Facebook genre: Maximum R&B Surf Stomp.
The Oakland crew is too heavy for frat houses but cop the same riffs and attitude as the bands that could have been in Animal House with sax appeal that adds a glimmer of early rock and roll authenticity. Confuse it with punk at your own peril; the influences predate all that jive – way more Sonics than Sex Pistols, way more sloppy than sinister, way more fun than whatever passes for punk these days could ever be.
New Bomb Turks don’t date back to the origins of punk, though it probably feels like it. They do go back far enough that they recall an era where a punk band would represent their home city and attain semi-legendary status there. Columbus punks loved ‘em like Columbus jocks loved the Ohio State football team. That love continued even after they signed to Epitaph and toured the world and it was requited: drummer Sam Brown still has an Ohio flag on his kit.
They started way before grunge resurrected punk rock from the dustbin of rock and roll so you know they meant it. And now in 2019, the band have been sporadically playing “reunion” shows since 2005 (you have to put “reunion” in scare quotes since they never officially disbanded), and the enthusiasm from the small Philly stage nearly three decades on showed that they still mean it.
Eric Davidson is a little greyer, but otherwise could still be that snotty punk from decades ago. He encouraged the crowd to be less polite and didn’t regret when it had the desired effect. He jumped over bandmates on the cramped stage, lovingly rubbed the bald heads of geezers up front, and jumped in the crowd a time or three, always willing to make a spectacle of himself if it ensured that the energy he gave out would come back at him.
His “Just Say No” shirt perfectly encapsulated the Turks’ raison d’tire: Cynical, funny, and a little retro.
His enthusiasm – and that of his band – was contagious. A crowd of aging punk rockers sprung to life as the band played their greatest hits – a ton of the Destroy-O-Boy debut that many rightfully feel is a desert island punk rock disc, to a smattering of Epitaph stuff that briefly broadcast the New Bomb Turks to the mall set (back when malls had record stores).
The New Bomb Turks could have been The Hives, should have been The Hives. The kinetic energy and infectious chorus of “Jukebox Lean” and “So Long Silver Lining” deserved that audience. Everyone in the crowd – the trio of fans Davidson said came from Hawaii to see them, the punker next to me who hadn’t seen them in 22 years, even the young’uns who came out because their elders spoke of the New Bomb Turks in hushed, reverential tones – knew it.
Whatever motivation anyone had for coming to the Kung Fu Necktie, they left sweaty and satisfied knowing full well that punk rock is alive and well and doesn’t have an age limit.