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The Huns

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Few Austin bands have ever played as memorable a first show as the Huns. The motley quintet of vocalist Phil Tolstead, keyboardist Dan Transmission, guitarist Manny Rosario, bassist Joel Richardson, and drummer Tom Huckabee debuted on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 1978 at Raul’s, a UT-area proto-punk dive located at the present-day site of the Texas Showdown. Five songs into the band’s set, Austin police officer Steve Bridgewater entered Raul’s in response to a noise complaint. According to police accounts, Huns vocalist Tolstead screamed, “I hate your fucking guts, pig!” When Bridgewater approached the stage, he was greeted by an open-mouthed kiss from Tolstead. Two plainclothes officers jumped onstage to help Bridgewater subdue Tolstead, and a small-scale riot ensued, resulting in the arrest of Tolstead and five others, including future Austin Chronicle publisher Nick Barbaro. The riot made the front page of the Austin American-Statesman and was mentioned in Rolling Stone and New Musical Express. Rosario quit after the Huns’ third show and was replaced by John Burton. The absurdist punk quintet’s sole 7-inch, released in 1979, pitted “Busy Kids” against “Glad He’s Dead,” a pro-JFK assassination anthem. The Huns broke up in 1980, but Tolstead’s riot-related court case dragged on until 1983, when the singer abandoned the appeals process and became a born-again Christian. He even went on The 700 Club to denounce his punk rock past. In 1995, Existential Vacuum and Get Hip co-released a live recording of a 1979 Huns in Dallas.

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