Multi-American

How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

'East L.A. Rage to Hollywood Stage': Alice Bag's Chicana punk story (Video)

I love this video, a "trailer" for the newly published memoir from the pioneering Chicana punk frontwoman Alice Bag of The Bags, an influential band from L.A.'s late 1970s punk heyday.

Alicia Velasquez, née Armendariz, started life in East Los Angeles as the child of a Mexican-born father and Mexican-American mother. At a time when relatively few bands were led by women, The Bags went on to play a prominent role in filmmaker Penelope Spheeris' legendary documentary of the Los Angeles punk scene, "The Decline of Western Civilization."

Set to The Bags' "Survive," the video evokes not just the spirit of the era, but the blending of L.A. worlds and cultures that went into the making of Alice Bag. KPCC's Adolfo Guzman-Lopez caught up recently with Velasquez, who read excerpts from her book, "Violence Girl: East L.A. Rage to Hollywood Stage, a Chicana Punk Story." She talked about her home life, including a rocky relationship with her father, and how it influenced her music. From the interview:

Velasquez says her own aggression burst to the surface later. In 1977, with five friends she’d met on her adventures in Hollywood, she founded the Bags.

She took the name Alice Bag and developed a violent, aggressive on-stage persona. One critic, she says, labeled her a Babylonian Gorgon. The band turned that compliment into a song.

"I’m bouncing on stilettos like a fighter in the ring," Velasquez reads. "I charge out to the edge of the stage, full of adrenaline and fire, singing to the faces in the front rows. They are my current, my source of energy. I urge them to engage. I know there’s something in them, some inner carbonation lying still, waiting to be shaken."


Here are The Bags performing "Survive" at the Troubador in Hollywood in 1978:

Velasquez, who has also been collecting the stories of women in the L.A. punk scene on her website, is scheduled to read from her book this Saturday night at Antebellum Gallery in Hollywood.

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