The band the Bags played an important role in Los Angeles’ late 1970s punk rock scene. The band’s lead singer, Alicia Velasquez, aka Alice Bag, has penned a new memoir, “Violence Girl, From East L.A. Rage to Hollywood Stage — A Chicana Punk Story.”
The daughter of a Mexican father and Mexican-American mother, Velasquez’s story starts in East L.A.
"I grew up watching Spanish-language movies," Velasquez says, reading from her book. "'Peliculas de la epoca de oro,' films from the golden age of Mexican cinema, were the ones my parents liked best. They’d seen them all before but they never tired of watching Pedro Infante, Jorge Negrete, Libertad Lamarque, Pedro Armendariz and Silvia Pinal on the big screen."
Velasquez’s mother and sister provided the beautiful memories. Her father, some of the worst.
One side of him, she says, showered her with unconditional love. "On the other hand, the other side of my dad, was that he really had a terrible relationship with my mother, and abused her in very violent ways, very savagely. And I had to witness that."
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."
The Bags’ starring role in the L.A. punk rock documentary “The Decline of Western Civilization” sealed the band’s reputation 30 years ago. "It was a blast, it was insane, it could have killed me if I’d let it, and it did kill some people, yeah," Velasquez says.
Velasquez pulled out of the scene when friends started overdosing — and when her own problems got out of hand. Her father’s lifelong push for her to go to college propelled her into the second part of her life.
Velasquez’s book “Violence Girl” is a pedal-to-the-metal memoir, minus the fear that you’ll end up bloodied when the punk rock club engagement turns into a riot.
Velasquez reads from her memoir “Violence Girl” Saturday night at 7 at Antebellum Gallery in Hollywood.
Correction: The number of founders of the Bags was corrected.