Iconic punk rocker, feminist, author, educator and musician Alice Bag had an album release party at the Echo on Saturday night, she was releasing her self-titled solo debut album on Don Giovanni Records, and the punk explosion that happened during her show forced me to climb on stage at the risk to get crush by an enraged and empowered crowd. It was an intense and wild punk show, ‘It was like in the 70s’’, told me a man who was still using an old fashioned camera (with a real film inside!) and who used to shoot bands at the beginning of the LA punk scene – he shot X and of course the The Bags, back in the days.
On Saturday, the Echo was certainly the place to be, and first, girl gang Fatty Cakes and the Puff Pastries from Fresno California opened the show, with their minimalist take on the riot grrrl phenomenon. A killer bass, a toy glockenspiel and a drumset were about their only instruments beside their girlie dissonant and chaotic half-sung half-spoken harmonies. Their set was totally stripped down, the attitude of these girls totally badass and irreverent, while they were singing songs like ‘Feminist Gold 2K’ and ‘Minimum Rage’. They were talking about aol messenger or Instagram and they were hilarious or totally annoying depending on your age and sex. The ‘Fatty Cake’ one (I am sure she called herself that way) was hitting her toy glockenspiel and making conversation between the songs like a MC, while the two back-up singers among the Puff Pastries were singing their anger (‘I Hate her’ was one of the choruses) with the moves of go-go dancers. I think I recorded their most melodious and catchy song, and did I say they looked like punk witches?
After these crazy feminists, I was really hungry for a big fat piece of cake, but it was time for Generacion Suicida, a moniker which was already announcing a full program for a quartet of young Latinos singing punk songs in Spanish. They appeared in full punk attire, black leather jackets, a Cramps tee and dark glasses in the dark and it smelt danger. They played ultra fast music, sped up as if they wanted to beat a record, accelerating and getting aggressive while their frontman was biting the dust and the mic. As there were a lot of people in their 40-50s among the crowd, things were first a bit slow, and I thought, with a younger crowd we would already see body parts flying in the air with this kind of music, but I had spoken too soon, the next minute the crowd went crazy and the rest of the set got rowdier and rowdier. I ended up sitting and crouching on stage to avoid the chaos. Generation Suicida were restless, they played a frenetic set of aggressive punk surf, faster than light, speedballs on fire with the urgency of a hardcore band.
Alice Bag arrived on stage with the pinkest look ever, dress, gloves and hair pretty in pink, backed up by a full band, which kept changing all set long. If I recognized Sharif Dumani on guitar, Allison Wolfe and Mecca Vazie of Sex Stains, there were many other musicians and singers and among them Rikki Styx on drums, Abby Travis on bass, Lysa Flores on rhythmic guitar, Kristian Hoffman, Genevieve Atkerson, Alice’s daughter-in-law, Chelsea Velasquez, Candace Hansen, Dave, Fiona, Donita Sparks of the band L7 and probably some others! I couldn’t keep up with all these names and people succeeding on stage, switching drums or bass with another. Starting from this, everything went very fast with a ferocious rhythm till the end, can this woman still put up a fierce punk show? Yes she certainly can, nobody was touching the ground at this point and I was definitively on stage for the rest of the show. She mostly performed songs from her new album, opening with one from the Bags’ (‘Babylonian Gorgon’) and setting the crowd on fire, especially the young Latino girls on my side… and the fact these girls were not even a project in the late 70’s speaks volume regarding the Bags’ punk power. Her new songs were ferocious and powerful but also diverse, with the 60’s girl-group infused ‘He’s So Sorry’, a sort of Alice’s wink to the Ronettes around the very serious message of domestic abuse, which let me catch my breathe for a few minutes. But not for long, Alice burst again with aggressive but very melodious songs, letting us know that ‘No Means No’ — a song about date rape — or raging about the education system with ‘Programmed’… ‘Education be damned we are being programmed!’, the best line I have read coming from a teacher! The message is clear, Alice is still very angry at 57, angry about abuse, injustice and education, but she screams her rage with allure, while empowering all generations alike.
She had a message for young women with ‘Modern Day Virgin Sacrifice’, a punk song she said she wrote for her daughters to condemn the negative messages from the media and the modern stereotypes about beauty. The response from the young women around me was overwhelming, I moved even further from the edge of the stage, anticipating another tsunami of empowered girls, and after one more Bags’ song, more screams, she decided to dedicate her last song to Donald Trump, the appropriately titled ‘Poisoned Seed’, and when you think it isn’t possible to top the energy level, there is more fury, madness, indignation, frenzy and ferocity in store to be unleashed. Alice Bag is back with a vengeance, she has a lot to say in these troubled and confused times and she is using the same outlet than she was using decades earlier, but this time she manages to combine violence with grace and the best pink dress I had ever seen on a punk rocker.
Babylonian Gorgon (The Bags)
He’s So Sorry
No Means No
The Touch I Crave
Modern Day Virgin Sacrifice
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