Austin Underground: Big Boys

Big Boys was formed in 1979. The same year that Michael Jackson released his first album "Off The Wall" and bands like Black Flag and The Germs were beginning to carve out the next evolution of punk music called hardcore. Friends since childhood, Big Boys was made up of vocalist Randy Turner, guitarist Tim Kerr and bassist Chris Gates. Aside from playing brash sounding music, Big Boys gained notoriety from their wild live shows. Often their performances escalated into rowdy party scenes with fans dancing and jumping off tables, food fights and more. All while under the direction of Big Boys frontman Randy "Biscuit" Turner - sometimes referred to as "the James Brown of hardcore."  Unlike their west coast contemporaries, Big Boys incorporated funk rhythms and chords into their upbeat take on punk. Carving out their own niche of a blossoming new sound.

Big Boys playing at Graystone Hall in Detroit, Michigan - 1983

1979-1984

Their first album, titled "Live At Raul's", was a split release with another Austin punk band The Dicks. It was recorded live at a now defunkt bar called Raul's on Guadalupe St. Raul's became the epicenter of Austin's punk scene from 1978-1981. A perfect location due to its close proximity to The University of Texas and willingness to hold punk shows. In addition to nurturing Austin's punk scene, Raul's also hosted a long list of touring acts like Black Flag, Bad Brains and Fear.  Raul's closed for good in 1981. The building is currently home to West Campus bar The Local.

Raul's on Guadalupe St. 1979

Raul's on Guadalupe St. 1979

The Local on Guadalupe St. 2016

The Local on Guadalupe St. 2016

By 1983, Big Boys had recorded their second full length album titled "Lullabies Help The Brain Grow". For this record the band incorporated the use of a horn section, pushing their already genre bending hardcore even further in it's own direction. Big Boys were also touring the US at this point and traveling to the west coast to play shows in Los Angeles and around southern California. Big Boys impact on west coast music and skate culture is notable. They were one of the first bands to be apart of the "skatepunk" scene, appearing regularly in Thrasher Magazine and having their own skate deck from Zorlac Skateboards. Musically, the influence of the band can be heard in the first handful of Red Hot Chili Peppers albums. The band borrowed largely from the "Funk Punk" sound that Big Boys had created in the early 80s.

Big Boys final record "No Matter How Long The Line Is At The Cafeteria, There's Always A Seat" was released in 1984 and the band broke up shortly after. Randy, Tim and Chris all continued to make music separately in a number of different bands. Tim Kerr now works as a visual artist in addition to playing in bands and composing music for films like "Who Is Bozo Texino?"

FUN, FUN, FUN

Image from Austin American Statesman

Image from Austin American Statesman

Big Boys music often focused on the fun aspects of being apart of a subculture. Through songs like "We Got Your Money" and "Apolitical" to "Fun, Fun, Fun." Big Boys never shied away from social or political themes yet still managed to approach it in a way that felt fun and sarcastic without the jaded tone that usually comes along with it. The band often ended their shows by yelling out "Now go start a band!" They were able to find something positive or at least laughable in every subject. My first introduction to Big Boys wasn't their music but at a gallery showing of concert flyers at Arthouse (now The Contemporary Austin) during SXSW and once I heard "We Got Soul" I was an instant fan. 

I recently picked up Big Boy's third album "No Matter How Long The Line Is At The Cafeteria, There's Alway's A Seat" at Breakaway Records. Re-released on vinyl by Light In The Attic Records. If you want to hear more Big Boy's and other bands from Austin's early punk scene, check out my Spotify playlist: Austin Underground.

Austin Underground: Introduction

HOWDY

Austin, Texas has been my home for the past 12 years. Minus the month of August, i've loved every minute of living here. It is without a doubt, the best city in the State of Texas. I moved to Austin from Dallas in 2004 using one of those apartment locator services. When asked what kind of apt. I was looking for, I remember saying "something modern" while envisioning my future East Austin artist's loft. My budget landed me at The Metropolis Apts. A wildly painted and eclectically landscaped complex with an even more eclectic community. My closest neighbors, 3 flatland BMX riders, had emptied their living room of furniture so that they could shotgun beers and practice tail whips in the safety of their own home. Directly upstairs lived two country musicians from Montana who were constantly practicing harmonies and keeping time with a boot on the floor. Often, the sounds of a muffled punk band working out a new song in their living room would serenade my nightly laundry routine. Boredom was not a option. There were never a shortage of parties to go to, or 4 AM drunken Weezer sing-a-longs, or some other spectacle to take part in. It was my first year in Austin and it was the glaring proof of what I already knew about the city. The reason I had wanted to move here in the first place. Austin was home for creatives, weirdos, stoners, punks, queers, hippies, cowboys, musicians, artists, etc. A little oasis in the middle of Texas with a long history of grass roots subculture and a damn good place to call home.

Austin in 2016, is well on it's way to becoming an entirely new iteration of the city. In just the past two years I think i've seen almost every venue I spent my 20's playing in, close for one reason or another and re-open under a new name. So in light of all the rapid changes were seeing around us, I wanted to take a look back at some of the people and places from the past that have played a role in shaping the unique culture of Austin, Texas.