Big Boys All-in
an integrated documentary project using multiple storytelling platforms - film, digital and interactive media, books and recordings, exhibitions and gatherings - to examine a time, place and creative community...and the band that changed them all.
Against the backdrop of ever-weird Austin, Texas, the Big Boys stood out with their mix of hardcore Punk and horn-driven funk, a DIY ethos and a barely-contained, boundary-breaking approach to performance.
Anchoring Punk's emerging, early-80s southern touring circuit, the Big Boys played with (and hosted and cooked) for fellow hardcore luminaries Minor Threat, the Minutemen and Black Flag, who brought back tales of Austin as musical Utopia. Stories in the earliest issues of Thrasher Magazine cemented the band's national reputation and labeled the Big Boys - founded by singer Randy “Biscuit” Turner, guitarist Tim Kerr, and bassist Chris Gates - one of the first “skatepunk" bands, fusing sounds from funk, rock and avant-garde noise guitar as much as punk.
But music tells only part of the story. Big Boys shows were known for their mostly-joyful chaos that blurred lines between audience and stage, highlighted by Turner's over-the-top style (and often dressed as a ballerina, a nurse, or a Christmas tree.) That chaos eventually wound its way back into the band, challenging their sense of celebratory spectacle and their core beliefs: in community, belonging, and creative action.
From 2015-2017, director Joe Salinas, sometimes with a small crew, traveled the country to film interviews for a Big Boys documentary to be called "You Can Color Outside the Lines." Over the course of two years, he spoke with over 120 people - musicians, artists, skaters, photographers, fans. But like many films, when funding for the project dried up, the doc went into hibernation.
Enter COVID-19. Looking for a filmmaker with a great eye and a willingness to entertain crazy ideas, I cold called Joe Salinas, who I knew had been working on a Big Boys documentary. In our get-to-know-you call, I asked about the status things. Learning the film was stalled, I gave it a day or two of overthinking (and some rational thought!), talked with my advisory team, then called Joe with an offer-slash-request: I wanted to come in and see what it would take to get the film back on track, and use is as a case study for the Punk Archive Initiative.
We reviewed hours of tapes and transcripts, began looking for footage and photos; thanks in part to quarantine, I was able to get lots of people on the phone. With each call, more surfaced - untransferred Super 8 films, board recordings, original art, untold stories. As the full scope of the opportunity - and urgency - became clear, we realized that Archiving Austin - much less telling the story of the Big Boys - would take a huge investment and would come with a huge payoff.
So we started the Texas Collection at PAI, convinced Dotty Farrell to curate and connect the dots - and launched Big Boys 360, our first major effort to produce an archive-led documentary *and* internally, use each element as its own case study in Circular Archiving - where we not only work to archive the collections being shared with us, we also connect the archives of interviews, information and connections that are created in the course of the production.
360° in Action
Our first major Circular Archive is finishing pre-production on the film, exhibition and publishing projects, and has already inspired us to begin a new programmatic focus for Texas.
For a preview, and to discover how you can help, visit the Big Boys 360° backers site.
Images & Art Courtesy of:
Chris Petersen for the Naomi Petersen Archive
Bill Daniel (3, 5 and 6)