Best known as '70s punk pioneer and frontwoman of The Bags, Alice Bag -- born Alicia Armendariz -- had a hand in pushing women to the front of the musical movement. Though history memorializes bands like The Germs and Fear as the dominating acts of the East Los Angeles scene during this pivotal time, Bag and her counterparts were there, too; In advance of Bag's appearance at Wax Trax Records tomorrow, here's a brief rundown of some of the ways Alice Bag and her work have influenced counterculture over the last three decades.
Serving as the world's introduction to Alice Bag, The Bags made its debut at The Masque in Hollywood in1977. Co-founded by friend Pat Bag (Patricia Rainone, later Patricia Morrison of Sisters of Mercy, The Damned and The Gun Club), the women took gender completely out of the performance equation by playing with paper bags over their heads. The Bags would go on to make music together for less than half a decade, but Alice persevered in bands like Castration Squad, The Boneheads, Alarma, Cambridge Apostles, Swing Set, Cholita -- the Female Menudo, Las Tres, Goddess 13 and Stay At Home Bomb.
In Penelope Spheeris' 1981 documentaryThe Decline of Western Civilization
, The Bags stand out as not only one of the few female-incorporating acts of the era, but possibly the most fearless in the pursuit of creating a well-informed ruckus.
Educator and Chicana activist Growing up in a Spanish-only speaking household, Bag would encounter resistance and discrimination from an English-only education system in Los Angeles. The experience not only informed Bag's later work as a bilingual instructor, but placed her at the forefront of the Chicana punk movement. To this day, Bag continues to be a voice for Mexican-Americans and their roles in the formation of the modern music story.
Author Speaking her mind through art and activism, it wasn't until 2011 that Alice Bag shared her version of the bigger picture with the publication of Violence Girl: A Chicana Punk Story. The book allowed Bag to tell her own personal history, but also the shared tale of growing up (and into) punk as a woman. Bag gets real about her exposure to domestic violence within the Armendariz household, her family's economic struggles and her own experience as a mother. She speaks about personal relationships with other powerful figures within the counterculture like Vaginal Davis, bandmate Pat Bag and Dinah Cancer, creating a storyline that continues to evolve today.
Feminist Though feminism is inherently part of all of Bag's work, she continues to be a vocal advocate for equality -- challenging the archaic notions of patriarchy, speaking for those who do not have a voice and disseminating information about the global workings of the modern feminist movement. Through her website and blog, Bag has taken up Pussy Riot's cause; The female performance troupe is currently in prison after one of it's flash acts of art activism. Bag says of Pussy Riot's importance:
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The punk feminist group Pussy Riot immediately captured my attention and my heart with their bold "flash concerts" in public spaces, their unapologetically pro-feminist and anti-fascist politics and their brightly colored dresses and balaclavas. I've had some experience with performing anonymously and I loved the concept that these women embodied: Pussy Riot is above all else an idea. If one member is captured, another woman will don the balaclava and take her fallen comrade's place in line.
That idea is now being put to the test. Pussy Riot dared to publicly challenge not only the established symbol of patriarchal power in Russia (the Russian Orthodox Church) but the seat of military and political power itself: the Putin government. And they did it in an audacious, thrilling, punk rock way. In doing so, they risked everything - perhaps more than they could have imagined at the time.