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Alice Bag and the Los Angeles experience

The Autry hosts a series to explore the relationship between environment and art.

September 16, 2013|By Erik Himmelsbach
  • Alicia 'Alice Bag' Armendariz will appear Wednesday, Sept. 18, as part of "La Cena Salon Series: The Urban Landscape" at the Autry Museum.
Alicia 'Alice Bag' Armendariz will appear… (Courtesy of Angie…)

The Autry Museum's three-part La Cena Salon series concludes September 18 with tapas, booze and a quintet of Latino artists riffing about Los Angeles' urban landscape and its effect on their work.

The curators of the event were smart to choose feminist author and musician Alicia Armendariz as one of the artists for the event, as a significant geographic chunk of the city served as her own creative canvas. As Alice Bag, her nom du punk, she's left bold chalk marks all over town. For nearly three decades, Armendariz has tweaked and/or defied traditional cultural and gender boundaries in bands such as Castration Squad, Tres, Cholita and Stay At Home Bomb. It was a rich — and loud — journey that began when she co-founded the punk band the Bags in 1977 as an outlet for the displaced teenage Chicana from East L.A. who insisted that her voice be heard amid the sweaty desperation of the Hollywood underground.

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Armendariz, 54, grew up in an Eastside that was very traditional, with a very specific Latino-centric sense of community. “I have very good memories of dancing at [legendary East L.A. dance palace] Kennedy Hall and going cruising and listening to Huggy Boy [on the radio],” she remembers. “But I was also listening to rock stations that were playing music that was appealing to different areas of the city.”

Her curiosity and desire to perform led her to Hollywood, the landscape of which was undergoing a revolutionary youthful infusion. Expression through punk felt right to her. “I was a performer. I just had something creative to say and the package that it came in was not something that I had thought about,” Armendariz says. “When I was on stage, I wasn't thinking, ‘I'm a Chicana woman.' I was thinking I have something to say and I want to say it in a creative way.”

She found a home in the diverse new community — on stage, hanging in the clubs and living in her Hollywood apartment, the legendary punk crash pad the Canterbury.

“The place was a dump,” Armendariz says. “There were drug dealers, it was just a very inexpensive little apartment building where the person who ran it didn't care if you had blue or green hair. It was like a little fraternity.”

The Hollywood landscape was intoxicating to a young girl who'd spent her life growing up in insular East L.A.

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