Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Violence Girl by Alice Bag

Alice Bag wrote her memoir Violence Girl as a series of blog posts. She doesn't consider herself a writer. In that sense, this is a DIY punk book!

Growing up in the 80's hardcore era, The Bags were not well known to me for some reason. I don't know if their records were out of print or what but I don't remember hearing them until after Bikini Kill started. At the time, the NW was extremely isolated and there were huge gaps in my knowledge of punk history, which was not yet well documented and largely accessible only through private collections and oral history. I don't remember The Alice Bag Band from The Decline of Western Civilization for some reason either. I saw the movie a few times as a teen, once when it showed at Evergreen before I started going to shows (possibly when it came out?) but I mostly remember Darby and Black Flag. In the late 80's/early 90's Olympia got a video store and suddenly you could rent a handful of punk movies, which we circulated to no end (along with Over The Edge, which we watched constantly.) When I interviewed DC punk/artist/photographer Cynthia Connolly for Jigsaw in the mid-90's she talked about going to shows in LA and raved about how influential Alice Bag was. That's when I started wanting to know more about The Bags and more about some of the female contributions to the early LA punk scene that I had missed out on by being too young and not living in California. So this book was a revelation to me. I wish it would have been around when I was a kid but it's really cool that it's available now.

Violence Girl doesn't talk about punk until you are already over a hundred pages into the story. I remember yelling on the couch: "SHE IS TALKING ABOUT PUNK ROCK!!!!" But the build up is great and the book totally pays off. Up until that point we get to know her as a misfit Elton John freak growing up in East LA not fitting into the Chicano/a community she was born into and we get the complicated story of her family, which was loving but also filled with violence. She writes about her experience with candid honesty, wisdom and humor. Another aspect of this book that I appreciated a lot was getting to hear about Alice Bag's life long interest in philosophy. One of the most exciting moments of the book for me was hearing her recount her falling out with Darby Crash, for philosophical reasons, who made fun of her because she believed in god. (She was raised Catholic, he was a Nihilist). When she performed and read from her book at the Olympia Timberland Library I hoped she would talk more about this but recognizing that someone probably doesn't want to talk about their dead friend in a public setting I didn't really want to bring it up in the Q&A so I just asked her to discuss philosophy a bit and she talked about how she has always been a very philosophical person, interested in exploring ideas and really analyzing what things mean. This tendency really comes through in her book, which is constructed as a series of anecdotes that are insightful as well as entertaining.

If you don't know about her Women in L.A. Punk site you should totally read everything on it, it's completely great and inspiring.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Your care for Alice's feelings during the Q&A at the TRL was very considerate and respectful.