Thursday night at Taco Land and Ram, the owner, is already calling everyone "pussy."

Want salt for your beer? Pussy.

Put a bad song on the jukebox? Pussy.

Want to know why the band's late? That's not pussy, just stupid.

"What the fuck are you asking me for? I didn't book 'em," Ram shoots at anyone silly enough to ask about the night's entertainment.

And he's right — the Bombardiers ("We'll play anywhere, anytime. That's our MO.") scheduled this show at the last minute, a freebie for friends. Promising free food and no cover, the band's most faithful followers, guys like Trinity student Jake Shue, glance nervously from stage to front door in anticipation of the ever-latening gig.

"It's pretty dead here. I don't know where they are," Shue says to a friend.

"They're playing, right?" the doubter asks.

"Yeah, they're definitely here. There's the keyboard." Still, the soda Shue sips doesn't calm his jitters, and he starts a rapid-fire textbook description of the band: punk-driven rock, extremely effective at being catchy without relying on that for quality, artistic chord progressions.

The patio door opens and a guy looking like a dark-haired cross between David Cassidy and Chris Kattan tells Ram that the band — and food — has arrived.

Shue, visibly relieved, yells out, "There he is!"

Steve Begnoche during a recent show at Strutters. Photo by Mark Greenberg

Steve Begnoche, wearing the band's uniform of slick suit and tie, smiles. The mood is set.

Maybe the Bombardiers plan it this way, working the bar — audience and owner — into a surly, we've-been-waiting-a-long time lather that hangs around until the band slaps it off.

"We're the Bombardiers, here to do a free show," lead guitarist Jason Treviño announces once the band sets up. "It's from the kindness of our black fucking hearts." The trio, rubbing people the wrong way from the get go, sets into a characteristically complex, upbeat tune that weaves cover and original material into a song that is less jam and more carefully-constructed theorem on why modern pop is bland fizzle.

Before anybody gets too comfortable, though, the song is over and Begnoche, leading much of the show from behind his drum kit, introduces tune number two: "This song's about ass fisting."

"The rooster," offers Treviño.

"That's the second time that's come up today," bassist Brant Lee Sankey says. "That's sad."

Bombs away
Begnoche (a music teacher and an employee with the American Federation of Musicians) and Treviño scoured old magazines and toy catalogues to come up with the name "The Bombardiers" three years ago before their first gig. The two had met in another band and didn't pick up Sankey, a graphic artist and the band's third bass player, until a year-and-a-half ago.

The typical Bombardier demographic — male, mid-20s, more interested in contemplating the music than dancing to it — hurls abuse at the band in a way that seems therapeutic at each show. In fact, the Bombardiers anticipate it:

The Bombardiers, including bassist Brant Lee Sankey (center), caught with pants down. Photo by Mark Greenberg

"We're trying to do something different. We're tired of people in the crowd yelling out the same old thing, like 'Play Green Day.' Sometimes they're not even listening. If they wanna rock harder, we'll whip out BJ Thomas," says Treviño, who spends his days behind the counter at CD Exchange. "We try to make people think for themselves."

While Treviño continues philosophizing, Begnoche looks for a way to cut the whole conversation at its knees. Setting up a snare, he snarls: "I don't give a fuck," and smiles at his disdain for lame crowds. "Our best nights have been when people yell, 'You suck!' Then we're just fucking ecstatic about it."

The band plays regularly in San Antonio and venues in McAllen, South Padre, Corpus Christi, Austin, Dallas, and Houston; but by far their favorite gig — mothers, please watch your daughters — was at a girls' half-way house. "They had been in lock-up for six weeks," explains Begnoche. "They were awesome, they were way into it."

"All girls," adds Treviño, "and we still didn't get any pussy."

The live show — 'cause that's all there is, until the band releases its first album later this summer — is like a chemistry experiment fueled by beer and wit: Put a threesome of sarcastic showmen before a "nudge-nudge, wink-wink," cantankerous audience (one of the attending women did pinch my nipples and wipe saliva across my face, but she meant it in a nice way), and watch the give-and-take.

The crowd calls for something that rocks: The Bombardiers launch into a medley of covers, from the Folgers coffee jingle to some Rush to "The Sweater Song" by Weezer — all quite tight, at least until one of the guys blurts something about chunky peanut butter up the wahzoo.

"They're really amusing today, but usually they're funnier," says Shue. He notes that probably because it's a free show, they're kind of sloppy and amateurish tonight. "Before, when they were doing 'Angel of the Morning,' I thought they were kidding."

But they're not.

Sankey wants the band to forget about day jobs and play full-time, and Treviño hopes to spend more time writing for the group, but Begnoche looks beyond the music, like success is a given, to marketing and merchandising, where selling the Bombardiers T-shirts, koozies, and "all types of goodies" comes as naturally as layering abuse on top of catchy, synchronized, synthesized keyboard rhythms.

Calling them the hardest-working band in San Antonio sounds, well, you know ... stupid, but gigging twice a week and rehearsing as much as possible does keep them busy. And while all three are songwriters, Begnoche is currently writing some material that comes "straight off 52nd Street, Broadway stuff. It's all about love, fear, guilt, and caffeine." The other guys nod approvingly, almost fiendishly at the tunes only they know about.

"Even if we weren't in a band, we'd hang out together," Begnoche says. "We've paved the way for a lot of bands in town. We're the bulldogs."

So yes, they arrived late to Taco Land. But how can you stay mad at these guys? They brought cake to their own show.

Continuously networking, the Bombardiers will headline a series of concerts at Sam's Burger Joint this summer (with a working name of the Snap, Crackle, and Pop Fest), and plan to have their debut CD available by early July. Keep reading the Current for more updates.

The Bombardiers
Thursday, May 16
Taco Land
Friday, May 17
The Green Room at O'Neill's