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Network Awesome's Women of Punk week: Trashing of the Troubadour

July 22, 2011 |  7:34 am


You can lose a lot of time on YouTube, its more intellectual, surrealist-loving cousin UbuWeb, or the tube substitute Hulu, but for a repository of hungry, feisty, stylish, smart punk women, sometimes trashing the venues we know and love best, Network Awesome cannot be beat.

This week, the video channel that refers to itself in part as "TV about TV," started by music producer and all-around ideas man Jason Forrest, is devoted to the women of punk rock. If you tool around, you can stumble on many beautiful curios rescued from the vaults of time, including Wendy O and the Plasmatics performing on “Solid Gold” in 1981, with Lady O donning a scandalous leather-kini that’s probably illegal in most states south of the Mason-Dixon line. The Mo-Dettes, the short-lived ‘80s punk act, has a lo-fi video for “White Mice,” a tight number with a staggered strut of a bass line. Other favorites: Feministic political collective Delta 5’s “Anticipation,” something like a more calm and collected Gang of Four song, and a video of the recently departed Poly Styrene, dressed in pastels and with bows in her hair like some crazed incarnation of a '50s diner waitress.

For local lore and legend, one of the highlights is the collection of songs from the Bags, Alice Velasquez and Patricia Morrison’s rowdy punk outfit that flamed high in the Los Angeles scene in the late '70s, only to snuff out a few years later. The members wandered off to other bands, like Velasquez’s Castration Squad, which played at the Vex, a club set up in the influential Self Help Graphics to give space to Chicano punk rockers.  

But in 1978, it was still the Bags ruling the fanged night. In this series of videos, they’re playing at the Troubadour in the first punk show –- and one of the last for a few years –- that the venue hosted, according to a Network Awesome interview with Velasquez. Things went terribly awry, an incident referred to as the "trashing of the Troubadour," captured in Brendan Mullen and Marc Spitz’s “We Got the Neutron Bomb,” capping off with a fight between Bags drummer Nickey Beat, Velasquez’s boyfriend at the time, and Tom Waits.

The raspy anti-crooner in the pork pie hat apparently fancied Velasquez and said so at an earlier run-in at Cantor’s Deli. Sometime before their set, Beat commandeered the mike and hurled insults at Waits, who didn’t respond. According to the version of the tale printed on alicebag.com, Velasquez also remembers “seeing a chair fly right over his head” –- one of many thrown by enthusiastic fans that night –- “but he didn’t flinch.”

Unfortunately for afficianados of musician brawls, the fight isn’t captured on film but the rising tension that the Bags specialized in is palpable, even from the crappy black and white video. In the gender-scrambling outfit of a man's button down and sexy stockings, Velasquez shakes and shimmies herself right into history’s TV eye.


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--Margaret Wappler