After she’d spoken openly and sung movingly about domestic abuse, after she’d talked about coming to terms with her bisexuality and detonated Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream,” after she’d read a passage from her memoir where she destroys an “insect”s glasses, after she answered lots of questions from myself, copresenter Ruben Martinez, and enthralled students, Alice Bag sang a song from her childhood. It was an old tune, familiar to the chicano/a students in the audience (though not to this gringa); one young lady came up to the mike and sang along with the woman also known as Alicia Velasquez: two chicanas claiming their place.
Alice Bag was the lead singer of pioneering LA punk band the Bags in the late ’70s. They performed, briefly, with bags over their heads — a brilliant statement on Hollywood looksism, and a prequel to Pussy Riot’s balaclavas. Violence Girl: From East LA Rage to Hollywood Stage is a blunt but poetic memoir that began as a blog — required reading for all acolytes of punk feminism and Chicana identity. Joined by bassist Angie Skull, she drew a SRO crowd March 19 in the LMU English Department village.
Afterwards, Alice, Angie, two women’s studies students, and myself piled into Ms. Bag’s Honda Fit to hear “Salad,” a balls-out vegetarian anthem by the all-girl band No Small Children. It felt so great, rocking out to a new band with a pu
nk legend and the next generation of rabble rousers. I’ve met a lot of incredible woman artists in my life, but Alice is truly special: brilliant, open, generous, articulate, fierce.