East L.A. Rage to Hollywood Stage, a Chicana Punk Story
Feral House 2011
I saw “The Decline of Western Civilization,” Penelope Spheeris’s film documenting the late seventies punk scene in Los Angeles, when it was first released in 1981/82. Performances by the “popular” bands like Black Flag, the Circle Jerks, X, and Fear were instantly memorable. I’ve seen the movie many times since, I’ve even shown it in some of the classes I teach. For me one of its more salient moments is the performance of “Gluttony,” by the Bags (called “The Alice Bag Band” in the movie), an homage to food over-indulgence. In Violence Girl: East L.A. Rage to Hollywood Stage, A Chicana Punk Story (Feral House, 2011), the singer of the Bags, Alice Bag, recounts her involvement in the very beginnings of punk rock in Los Angeles. Alicia (“Alice Douche Bag” is her punk name) tells of her upbringing in East L.A., growing up Chicana with an abusive father, and her obsessions with Elton John, Cosmo, and the academic study of philosophy. Most importantly for our purposes, however, she details the formation of the Bags and their career within an important moment in the history of rock music. Along the way she outlines her relationships with and involvement in a number of important people and places in that nascent scene: Darby Crash, Belinda Carlisle, the Masque, the Canterbury, the infamous Elks Lodge Riot, her brief encounter with Sid Vicious, and, of course, The Decline of Western Civilization all get ample space. Alicia is gratifyingly open and honest in Violence Girl, which is what makes it work as a significant contribution to our understanding of punk rock generally, and punk rock in Los Angeles specifically.
Alicia Velasquez now lives in Sedona, Arizona, which is where I reached her for this interview.