Last year saw the return of New York’s Jawbreaker with their unexpected headlining, final-day slot at Riot Fest in Chicago. That was the first real time they’ve played since 1996. The set at the festival was insane, the crowd was enormous, and the thought of one of the most influential bands of the emo movement now getting back together seemed realistic. Take it back one year, to 1995, and then change the setting to Emo’s — the original Emo’s, you faux-Austinites! That was the last show that Jawbreaker played here in the state. After that only the memories remained. The band no longer cared enough to get back together; as a result, Jets to Brazil would go on to form for a seven-year tenure. All of this is detailed in the documentary Don’t Break Down: A Film About Jawbreaker. The band tends to screen this at a local theatre while they are in town. For Austin, the lucky crowd at the Alamo Ritz was able to watch a screening with the band in attendance Thursday evening.
It is now Friday, July 13th, and the Emo punks have strapped on their uniforms. We all storm Riverside, waiting for that pesky red light next to Hooters to turn green; it is now green and freedom is free. Apologies, $8 for parking. Now we’re free. My friend and I scope out the yard where the show is held. If you want to get technical, it’s occurring at the “Statesman Skyline Theatre at the Long Center,” but for all intents and purposes I refer to it as where Fun Fun Fun took place. The site is significant, for Jawbreaker has been a band near the top of Transmission Events/Margin Walker owner Graham Williams since the inception of his events. Last year, after Riot Fest was the only festival to secure a set with the band, Sound on Sound Fest sent a somewhat-out-of-nowhere tweet stating that they, despite their troubles and efforts, did not land that band. People were bummed out, but it was just a matter of time. Alongside Brooklyn’s Lemuria and Austin’s A Giant Dog, Jawbreaker graced the live music capital of the world to show everyone what they’ve still got. They’ve still got a lot.
I would be lying if I said I made it in time to see Lemuria, so I must skip over them for now — cool name, if nothing else. A Giant Dog is up next. Still a “local band” in every sense of the word, they’ve been getting quite the traction. 2017’s Toy was fast, in your face, and very throwback all combined in one. Their cover of Sparks’ “Angst in my Pants” is up to par with the original. Vocalist Sabrina Ellis is a rockstar through and through. At SXSW, Superchunk brought her out for a guest appearance at their Waterloo Records showcase. They have a fanbase and community in Austin, one that they’re part of as well. I think they are on the verge of something really good here.
Now the backdrop has changed, and the straight logo with the dipped “A” is revealed. Out walks the band, one by one. For some reason, bassist Chris Bauermeister is wearing some lime-green concoction. They go straight into “Boxcar” as the crowd begins to grasp what they are witnessing.
A few songs later vocalist Blake Schwarzenbach approached the mic, gave an “OK” and walked backed. What is it that he wanted to tell us? It doesn’t matter anymore, because the band stormed into the song “Do You Still Hate Me?” for the first time since 1996.
Throughout the 16-song setlist, Jawbreaker never got old. I mean, they are now much older than they were in 1996, but the music is still as timeless and angsty as it was when Unfun dropped in 1990. I do hope that they decide to still do shows for the next couple of years, because more so than seeing a band you used to like, those songs can really make you relive things. Long live Jawbreaker.