Thursday, August 29, 2013

Chicano Power!

Late in the summer of 1970, just as my summer vacation was coming to an end, the Chicano Moratorium organized a huge march through the streets of East L.A. to protest the war in Vietnam, the many Chicano soldiers who were being drafted and sent overseas to fight it and the higher than average mortality rate among Chicano soldiers.

Chicano Moratorium March, August 29, 1970.
Image courtesy of Dept of Special Collections/UCLA Library, A1713 Charles E. Young Research Library, 405 Hilgard Ave, Box 951575, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1575;

My father never liked the term "Chicano" because he believed the word was derived from a derogatory term used when he was young and working as a bracero and he did not usually get involved in political demonstrations. This time, he surprised us by volunteering to take us to the march. We parked our car near the 7 (now the 710) Freeway, just a couple of blocks away from Whitter Boulevard, where the march was already underway. We walked up the street and were able to find a spot where my sister and I could see. I think we were expecting a parade but there were just a lot of everyday looking people: mothers, fathers, kids and students with signs, crosses (to symbolize the fallen soldiers) and fists pumping in the air, some chanting "Chicano!" while the onlookers would yell back "Power!" I remember being most impressed by the Brown Berets and being totally dazzled by their coolness.

Brown Berets stand at ease.

After a while, my sister and I begged to join the march but my father was looking uneasy. The crowd was swelling and we found ourselves being pushed back. My father, sensing something was wrong, pulled us back even further. To my surprise, we saw police cars parked along the side streets. Not ten minutes had passed from when he'd forbidden our participation than we saw a young man throw a beer bottle towards the marchers, then quickly run and disappear into the crowd. There was no one following him but we could see a wave of people push back as he shoved his way through the crowd. I couldn't see where the bottle landed, but I did see the results. Suddenly, people were shoving and yelling. More projectiles flew through the air; one hit the roof of one of the police cars. Panic broke out as the crowd pushed in all directions, trying to get away from the situation. And then, just as suddenly as it had started, it ended as the attackers fled on foot through the crowded sidewalks. A few cool heads tried to calm people down and reorganize the marchers, but my father rushed us back to our car and drove away. As I watched out the car window, I could see the policemen on their radios calling for backup and getting out of their own cars. I thought they might have been waiting until things stopped flying through the air before stepping in, but they didn't seem to be too concerned with catching the people who threw the bottles. I could see parents holding their children's hands and trying to stand their ground as we turned the corner and sped away from the danger.

Ruben Salazar, L.A. Times Reporter, killed by LAPD during the
Chicano Moratorium march, August 29, 1970.

Photo courtesy of Intersections by Daniel Hernandez.

At home, we watched the news on TV and we heard that a riot had broken out when a bottle had been thrown at a police officer. From my perspective, it had been a minor altercation and the police had made no attempt to catch the individuals who had been throwing bottles in the first place. A reporter named Ruben Salazar who was favorably disposed towards the Chicano movement and had been an outspoken critic of police brutality had been shot and killed by a deputy sheriff. The riot squad had been called in to clear out the demonstrators, using tear gas and batons, resulting in dozens of injuries and three deaths. I shuddered. remembering the worried faces of parents as they clutched the hands of their kids. I couldn't believe that what had started as a peaceful march protesting a war halfway around the world had turned out to be so ugly.

I will never forget that day, August 29, 1970, for two reasons: one was that I had never before realized that I was part of a minority group and I felt good about being part of something as powerful as the Chicano Movement; the other was that this group had enemies who weren't afraid to throw bottles at us or shoot us. Throughout my early childhood, policemen had been the knights in shining armor who had rescued my mother from my father's vicious attacks. In my eyes, they had always lived up to their motto, "To Protect and Serve." That day, I saw my knights like the other people in my life: their capacity for good was matched by their capacity for evil. It seemed that diametrically opposed impulses had to exist for things to make sense. My world was coalescing into a ball of love and hate, trust and treachery.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Feminista! (A deleted scene from Violence Girl)

Another deleted scene from Violence Girl. Enjoy!


It seems like the whole time I was growing up, the world was trying to teach me the role of women. From the first time I saw my mother cowering at my father’s feet, to the current state of insidious inequality, I’ve been confronted with the message that females are somehow weaker, less capable than men. I began questioning the validity of these messages early on, inspired by the women around me. My mother, my sisters, my friends, aunts and cousins - each one constantly refined the definitions of femininity, androgyny and the true nature of equality in small ways through their daily routines. Sometimes these women discarded antiquated cliches of lady-like behavior in favor of an assertive, can-do attitude. At other times, they tried to squeeze themselves into someone else’s idea of womanhood. Either way, they helped me figure out that the tidy stereotype labeled “femininity” had to some stretching to do to catch up with my evolving female consciousness.

In the 1970's, my mother found herself by stepping up to help my father in the male-dominated construction business; my girlfriends were pushing the boundaries, too. The L.A. punk scene was densely populated by female musicians, artists, writers, photographers, roadies and more. These were the modern suffragettes in my life who, without banners or demonstrations, quietly led by example. Not that I oppose banners and demonstrations; I’ve participated in my share of marches, but it was the tiny changes that the women around me made in their personal lives
that spoke the loudest.

Patricia and I learned early on from auditioning male musicians that every one of them thought they were the next Jimi Hendrix or another Keith Moon. While most of the women we auditioned apologized in advance for not being very good, all the males wielded their axes with a bravado that seemed like second nature to them. Even the lamest male guitarist would talk up his skills, acting cocky and confident while the women underplayed their experience. After a bit of this, Patricia and I learned to adapt. We figured that when people wrote reviews about the band, they mentioned the two of us more often than they mentioned the guys. This gave us confidence and after awhile, we learned to do away with the modesty. It felt great to be able to say, “I’m a musician” without feeling the need to tack on an apology.

Changing the way we spoke about ourselves as musicians and artists was like tossing tiny pebbles into a sea of conformity, making ripples, making waves, bringing about change that starts from within and spills out into the lives of those around us. The words were so powerful that the more often we said them, the truer they became. Now, when we stepped on the stage we weren’t asking for approval, we were flaunting our talent.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Violence Girl, From East LA Rage to Hollywood Stage - Review

Five Star Amazon review of Violence Girl!

"Read this book, it will open your eyes."
"This is an autobiography unlike any other..not selectively choosing only the flattering memories to tell the reader, but rather openly, willingly, painfully at times & with great humility Alice's recollections are conveyed. As a woman who was part of the same music scene a few years already into her genesis as a frontwoman for the Bags, I am humbled to have shared the intimate details of just how this woman put HERSELF up front. There is a constant thread throughout this is one of hopefulness & truth. The lessons in futility become the fuel for this formidable female who realized her value emanated from within not from the external view..there is great beauty in this book, even within the violent times painful as they must have been. This is a story for everyone..about growing up, rising up, surviving, finding your voice & healing your heart through your own actions. Inspiring, interesting, funny & powerful define this book....these same traits describe the Author. Get this, share it with your daughters. Empowering." - Nancy Sheets, 10/2011

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Violence Girl Trailer

Music video trailer for Violence Girl, From East LA Rage to Hollywood Stage - A Chicana Punk Story by Alice Bag. Published by Feral House. This video features elements, themes and images from Alice Bag's memoir

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fruits of the Recycler and Cart Before The Horse

Geza X joins the Bags and Joe Nanini parades down Hollywood Blvd wearing nothing but a jockstrap and a shopping bag. Read excerpts from my soon to be released book, Violence Girl here.

Order your advance copy at a great discounted price here:

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Bags - Live and Raw - 1978

"Musically in keeping with the fundamentalist pick-up-guitar-and-go punk aesthetic, the Bags frequently trumped "melody" with raw, enraged emotion, speed and overall sound, more hallmarks of hardcore speed thrash; hence they anticipated and set the tone for hardcore extremis to follow." - Brendan Mullen, an excerpt from On Surviving the Manimal and the Origins of US Hardcore.
Here we have a bootleg recording of the Bags playing live in 1978, circulated for years by tape traders despite the nearly unlistenable sound quality. Intro, instrumental and Violence Girl. We've tried to clean it up as much as we could and present it here for your enjoyment.

 Bags Intro and Violence Girl Live by alicebag