Portraits of Latino Women of The LA’s punk scene by Angela Boatwright

Photos by Angela Boatwright / Text via Dazed Digital

I feel pretty lucky that I can call the super talented Angela Boatwright a friend. Her photos have always been some of my favorites, and since moving to LA she has really taken her career to the next level. A couple of years back, she created the killer documentary Punks: We Are All We Have about the DIY backyard punk parties in East LA. Now she is focusing on the young women of this strong scene. On a personal level, seeing these Latina women get their props is important because they have always had a very strong presence in the LA Underground punk scene.

Check out this killer feature that Dazed Digital just ran on Angela Boatwright’s most recent project, plus they interviewed some really interesting women as well!

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Photographer Angela Boatwright shares her photos from the DIY backyard punk community, as five musicians tell us about the women that inspire them

When the first wave of punk hit Los Angeles in the mid-1970s, it was a predominantly male scene – but women quickly brought their voice to bear. While many musical trends have come and gone over the past 40 years, punk continues to speak to a new generation of teens.

Punk’s DIY ethos empowers people to be the change they want to see in the world, giving them an outlet for their rage at injustice, hypocrisy, and fraudulence. The artists do not need formal training – just guts to get up on the stage and expose themselves.

While making the documentary Los Punks: We Are All We Have over a four-year period, photographer and filmmaker Angela Boatwright connected with a group of young women in East LA’s backyard punk scene, a DIY movement led by the city’s Latinx youth, and created an incredible collection of never-before-seen photographs – presented here for the first time.

Boatwright’s work inspired us to delve deeper into the culture’s history. Here, we spotlight five women in the LA punk scene who share their thoughts on the women who inspired them to join the cause.

KIWI MARTINEZ (GENERACION SUICIDA) ON ALL OUT ATTAK

Kiwi Martinez is the lead vocalist and drummer for Generacion Suicida, a Killed by Death-style punk band that plays melodic, undistorted punk music steeped in the traditions of the late 1970s, with the sped-up urgency of the hardcore scene. Founded in South Los Angeles in 2010, Generacion Suicida stays true to their Latinx roots, performing Spanish-language songs that deal with alienation and frustration with their environment. Their motto: “Musica del barrio, para el barrio.”


Kiwi Martinez: Reflecting back to my teenage years when I first got into punk, it was uncommon to come across women active in the LA punk scene. If I am not mistaken, the first time I heard and witnessed a woman in the scene was when I was 14 and attended a backyard show featuring All Out Attak (with Vanessa Attaks singing lead vocals).

Vanessa had a strong presence in the way she presented herself. She was bold, aggressive, and confident. It definitely made an impact because it empowered me as a woman. She embodied the aggressive attitude and boldness of LA punk. Her performance style stood out the most because to me it appeared that she created a safe space to express herself. That’s something that I ensure to have for myself when I perform with Generacion Suicida.

 

Stephanie in her room in Santa Ana (September 2013) Photography © Angela Boatwright

ALICE BAG (THE BAGS) ON BESSIE SMITH

Alice Bag is a singer/songwriter, musician, author, artist, educator and feminist. Alice was the lead singer and co-founder of the Bags, one of the first LA punk bands, which got its start in the late 1970s. Alice went on to perform in other groundbreaking bands, including Castration Squad, Cholita, and Las Tres. She is the author of Violence Girl and the 2015 self-published Pipe Bomb For the Soul, based on her teaching experiences in post-revolutionary 1980s Nicaragua.

In 2018, Alice’s released her self-titled debut solo album on Don Giovanni Records. She will release her follow up album, recorded with her touring band, The Sissy Bears, later this year.


Alice Bag: I discovered Bessie Smith by accident. I was 11 or 12 years old when I went with my sister to see Lady Sings the Blues, in which Diana Ross portrays Billie Holiday. In the film, a teenage Billie Holiday is playing a Bessie Smith record over and over again and like the Billie character, I became obsessed with the song ‘T’aint Nobody’s Business If I Do’. There was something powerful and forceful in her singing style but at the same time, she managed to convey a sense of vulnerability in her timbre. Her voice wasn’t necessarily pretty; she wasn’t trying to smooth out the rough edges and perhaps because of that, her music comes across as honest and emotional rather than slick and rehearsed.

Smith was punk in spirit. She challenged the status quo just by being herself. She lived life on her own terms and became a respected performer and successful businesswoman, a huge feat for anyone but especially for an outspoken black musician who grew up during a time when segregation was the law and lynchings were common. She was also bisexual, so she was bucking convention in a very personal way.

I found Bessie’s unapologetic acceptance of who she was to be very inspiring. Bessie exuded self-confidence in the way she carried herself. I identify with Bessie Smith in many ways. Like her, I’m a person of colour, I’m bisexual, I’m outspoken, and I don’t shy away from confrontation. I admire the way she lived her life – and I’ll never get enough of her music.

 

Alice Bag at Flat Top Lincoln Heights, Los Angeles (December 2017) Photography © Angela Boatwright

 

 

 

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