In the late 1970s, Alice Bag (born Alicia Armendariz) the daughter of Mexican immigrants, helped birth the Hollywood punk scene with the band The Bags, before punk was even called punk. In her late teens, Alice connected with other outcast youth, many of them queers of color, who possessed little money but much imagination. They transformed their anger, humor, and ingenuity into potent fashion and music, creating an exciting new culture scene.
Bag channeled the impotent rage she accrued enduring the hostility of teachers toward Spanish-speaking children like herself and, at home, witnessing her father abuse her mother. Rather than buckle under self-destructive rage, she became self-expressive. Known for her confrontational stage persona and piercing vocals, Bag drew upon the vocal stylings and performance gestures of female Mexican cancion ranchera singers she heard growing up to craft her own style and ultimately shape Los Angeles punk aesthetics.
Watch: Beyond the Screams: A U.S. Latino/Chicano Hardcore/Punk Documentary (1999)
With infamous primal shrieks, donning dramatic makeup, lingerie, and fishnet stockings, she conjured a fury onstage as few women had before. Her experiences reframe and expand our understanding of the influence of both women of color musicians and queer performers on the creation of punk scenes.
Bag has also served as a recorder of women’s punk history by interviewing musicians, promoters, artists and writers in the LA Punk scene.
Watch: Alice Bag in Las Chichis for Chicanas Who Rock and more American Sabor at CSULA (2014)
For her indelible influence on the vocal style of West Coast punk , Bag was featured in the American Sabor: Latinos in U.S. Popular Music/ Latinos En La Música Popular Norteamericana sponsored by the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibition Service. Bag describes her newest book, Pipe Bomb for the Soul, as a “post-punk look at life in a post-revolutionary socialist society, [that] explodes consumerist, capitalist, racial and gender assumptions and proposes a new model for growth from witnessing an alternate version of reality.” Bag’s vinyl album will be released in 2016.
Photo Credit: Rick Castro, “Alice Bag”
Alice Bag in Las Chichis for Chicanas Who Rock and more American Sabor at CSULA (2014)
Listen: Decline of Western Civilization (LP) (1981)
“Equality in the USA” by Alice Bag (2014)
Read: Alice Bag, Pipe Bomb For The Soul (2015)
Alice Bag, Violence Girl: East L.A. Rage to Hollywood Stage, a Chicana Punk Story (2011)
Alice Bag, “Work that Hoe: Tilling the Soil of Punk Feminism, ”Women & Performance: a Journal of Feminist Theory, Vol. 22, Nos. 2-3, July-November 2012.