Check out my profile on Alice Bag for LA Weekly’s People Issue 2012, out today!

Photo: Kevin Scanlon

Never in my life would I have imagined the day where I wrote a 500 word profile on someone that I grew up listening to. A couple of years ago, I only knew Alice Bag through my brother’s milk crates filled with vinyl compilations where she was featured in, in particular Dangerhouse, Vol. 1., played over and over, and over again.

It is now with great honor that I present to all of you, my profile of her for this year’s LA Weekly People Issue!

Alice Bag: She Was a Punk Before You Were a Punk.

I would like to thank Nancy Marie Arteaga and Lalo Alcaraz for having me as a semi-regular guest on KPFK’s Pocho Hour of Power and making our friendship possible!

The five most underrated East L.A. backyard punk bands of all time (my follow up story for LA Weekly’s “Anarchy in East L.A.”)

Here is another bonus story for my “Anarchy in East L.A” piece that I wrote for West Coast Sound, the LA Weekly music blog.

Last week I wrote about movers and shakers on the current East L.A. backyard scene, but there’s a long line of great and influential bands that paved the way for the sub-culture. Don’t get me wrong, bands like The Brat and Los Illegals were pretty awesome, but their greatness is better documented, and, besides, I hear that backyards weren’t really their primary outlet.

Here, then, are five badass bands who haven’t gotten the recognition they deserve. This list includes significant groups from the ’80s up until the present. Most of them don’t really play shows anymore, but they’ll occasionally get together for old time’s sake. (Note: Thanks to East L.A. punk historian Jimmy Alvarado for his generous help putting this list together.)

Check out my actual hand picked list on their blog, complete with youtube videos!

The Five Best East L.A. Backyard Punk Bands: Bonus Story on LA Weekly Music!

Growing up in the East L.A., it seemed like everyone tried to form a punk band. Even I did. The scene goes through bands quickly, as kids graduate high school and get into metal, thrash or New York style hardcore. But there are a proud few that have evolved musically without forgetting their roots.

Here is my personal list of the top five East Los Angeles punk bands that play backyards. It wasn’t easy to compile; after all, lots of groups claim East L.A. for street cred, but aren’t even from the ‘hood! Disgusting right? So, I did my research. (On Monday look for my top five East L.A. punk bands of all time.)

To find out the bands, check out my bonus article on the LA Weekly Music Blog!


“Anarchy in East L.A.” My First Print Feature For LA Weekly Out Today!

(photo credit: Jennie Warren)

Well ladies and gentlemen, here it it. It’s still a trip for me to be honest that I managed to pull this off. First of all, this was the hardest piece I have written to date. If it wasn’t as hard as my cover story for Saveur, “Mexico Feeds Me”, it was damn near close.

I don’t know if any of you know this but music was actually my first love, yes, before food and booze even! Thank god I took an A.P. Music Theory class to diffuse that one, huh? Haha. No, but seriously…to write this piece was like writing a piece of my life. Who would had thought that all that teenage angst and boozed-up neuroticism would come in handy one day?

This piece is dedicated to my old punk band, Bad Influence , RIP! Also, to my older brother Rojelio Cabral for supporting me through the years and feeding my punk-embers with his six milk crates of vintage 80’s punk vinyl. To Jimmy Alvarado for documenting the scene since then, to all my true homies, TRDK, Kiki and Josh for getting me drunk as fuck with two King Kobra’s for the first time on a school night when I was thirteen….and all the rest of you East L.A. drunk punks for making the scene what it is today.

Cheers, drink beer and fuck you…stay punk!

East L.A. Backyard Punk Scene Rages On As uninhibited and intoxicated as ever

By 10 p.m. there are 300 of them, mostly second- and third-generation Mexican-Americans, some with 4-inch-high bleached and spiked hair and some with skinned heads, not to mention piercings everywhere: septum, lips, cheeks. The girls’ faces are thick with makeup. They wear fishnets and band tees for Vice Squad, the Expelled or any other influential punk band from the late-’80s U.K. scene, altered to flaunt bra straps. Their pink Doc Martens have steel toes.

It’s Labor Day and they’ve come to see punk at a house in East L.A., near the City Terrace neighborhood between the territory of the Lopez and Lott gangs.

The three-story house — owned by a couple of dudes hoping to make a few bucks toward their rent — is full, more than full. It’s got a patio on the second floor and a small yard in the back, which is about to burst.

The mostly underage kids have paid $3 to get in, the ones who aren’t friends with the guys running the party anyway. But that doesn’t include refreshments, which explains why their backpacks are heavy with 40-ounce bottles of King Cobra and Miller High Life. They’re also smoking skunky weed from portable glass pipes and puffing grape-flavored Swisher Sweets blunts. Cocaine is trendy again, too, snorted off of CD cases or from the tips of car keys.

Word of the event was sent out to the faithful via mass text shortly before showtime. The best part is that most of the bands advertised have actually shown up; they tend to flake if they lack functional equipment or can’t get gas money. On the second floor, the Stomp Outz perform their British-working-class Oi! songs, uncomplicated repetitions of two-finger power chords at upbeat tempos. Then the frontmen of Corrupted Youth screech their throats out to “The Beer for Breakfast” and “Confusion.” The guitarist and rhythm section are playing so fast they can’t always keep up with each other.

To be honest, though, the sound doesn’t really matter, just so long as it’s danceable. A mosh pit erupts right in front of the Stomp Outz, causing the guitarist to nearly topple over his guitar amp. A small coed group goes around in circles, its members pushing everyone out of their way, using all their might. If someone falls out, someone else picks them up and throws them right back into the pit. It’s usually very friendly, believe it or not.

Unfortunately, just after 1 a.m., a couple of inebriated kids let their ghetto egos take over and start a fistfight out on the front lawn. Others quickly jump in and throw punches to impress their friends. The full-blown ruckus likely causes one of the neighbors to call the cops, and L.A.’s finest quickly roll up. (They always seem to make it to these get-togethers, sometimes wearing riot gear and shooting powder balls.) This time they give the members of one of the evening’s bands, Who Gives a Fuck, a $400 ticket for loud and unreasonable noise.

Making lemonade, party organizer Ignacio “Nacho Corrupted” Rodriguera immediately suggests throwing a fundraiser backyard party for the group, to be held the following week.

Every Friday and Saturday night in East Los Angeles, whether the weather is decent or not, you can usually find three or four backyard punk gigs, populated by the angrier demographic of Chicano adolescents who are too young to legally get fucked up at bars but harbor an innate passion for desmadre (chaos!).

There are no promoters, no contracts, no set times and no set lists, just an informal network of eager young artists ready to play at a moment’s notice. They tend not to care if they get paid, so long as they get to show off their stuff and score a few beers.

I grew up on the Eastside and discovered these DIY parties as a prepubescent. Despite its reputation, my end of town is not all bald dudes and gang warfare; being into punk rock, metal or skateboarding can help you escape that life. After all, as I discovered, if you have long hair or tight pants, you are considered a “rocker” and usually left alone.

“In backyards, it feels more at home. It’s way wilder and has bigger pits than at bars or venues,” says Edgar Fernandez, the drummer and lead singer for popular local band the Zoo, who play backyard shows every weekend. (Their members hail from Garfield High School, made famous by Stand and Deliver.)

The scene has been strong for decades. In the 1970s, Los Lobos made a name for themselves at residential ghetto venues. In the early ’80s, a faster and more raw sound was born, highlighted by bands like the Brat, Thee UndertakUers and the Stains. In the ’90s, Boyle Heights’ own Union 13 were signed to Epitaph.

Their sounds often reflected the angst and frustrations of Mexican-American residents, struggling with identity crises. (There are Guatemalans and Salvadorans in the mix as well.) As an L.A. native whose parents were born in Mexico, I can sympathize. In Mexico I’m sometimes called a Pocho — a derogatory term referring to American-born kids. Here in L.A. I’ve gotten plenty of strange looks in fancy Westside restaurants.

But back to punk: In recent years it has fragmented into multiple subgenres. There’s street punk, which is faster and more relentless than the traditional hardcore of groups like Black Flag. (You may have heard it in Larry Clark’s 2005 film Wassup Rockers, which is actually pretty decent.) Ska-core is a ska/punk hybrid, while grindcore and krust are probably the heaviest and most ear-damaging — something like a rusty car’s engine about to break down. DJ parties also have become very popular. But no matter the genre, the themes remain the same: anti-authoritarianism and teen angst.

In 2011 it’s fair to say the backyard scene is as strong as it’s ever been. “It waxes and wanes, but it never really dies out,” says Jimmy Alvarado, an East L.A. punk historian who is preparing a full-length documentary titled Eastside Punks.

The guy best known for keeping the movement vital nowadays is Rodriguera, who threw the Labor Day party and is also a singer in Corrupted Youth. “I love punk, there is a lot of unity, we treat each other like family,” he says. Born in L.A. and raised in Culiacan, Mexico, Rodriguera is tall and pale; he wears tight pants and porcupine-like spiked hair. He’s the type of guy who will call you in the middle of the night to ask if he can move the gig to your house.

He’s tried doing that with me — a couple of times, actually. But I’m finished as a host, ever since the bash I threw in my parents’ apartment parking lot for my 21st birthday party last year. Sure, it was a good time. About 200 friends showed up, including some I hadn’t seen in years. They brought weeks’ worth of booze.

Unfortunately I ended up gashing my head, due to the actions of some local gangbangers who didn’t understand the concept of friendly slamdancing. Instead, they used the opportunity to beat up on drunken kids (namely me).

But, to be honest, even though I found myself in the pit with blood dripping down my face and all over my shirt, I really didn’t care. It was fun. It was punk.

For an awesome slide-show of the backyard show I talk about on the story, check out the complete article on the LA Weekly Music website.

The Vibrators and Circle One, My Review of Their Show Last Night on LA Weekly Music!

I still can’t believe I am actually “working” punk rock shows! Nonetheless…cheers! Enjoy my review of the epic show last night up on LA Weekly’s Music Blog, West Coast Sound.

By Javier Cabral

The Vibrators and Circle One
The Airliner

Better than: Going to Artwalk!

You know it’s going to be a decent show when the parking lot behind the venue is packed with a bunch of tailgating teenage punks. There were more than twenty cars last night at The Airliner, whose occupants were drinking and doing other things, preparing themselves for The Vibrators.

I sneaked away after a few craft beers myself..

…The UK charm-punk band that hit the top 40 charts in 1977 pleased everybody with their British-accented lyrics. They jumped right into their sing along oldies-but-goodies, like “Pure Mania,” “Whip’s and Furs,” and “Troops of Tomorrow,” mixing in newer stuff of course.

I was a little curious to see how the classic punk band would sound without their original vocalist Knox, since he officially left the band just earlier this year. No one seemed to really care that…

Click on the excerpt to read the rest on the West Coast Sound!

Also, I will try to include a couple of extra bits and bonus info when your read it on my blog. What’s the exclusive tidbit for this post? Hmm….well, The Airliner has an open kitchen that serves gourmet fries all night long! Veggie tempura fries with Wasabi Aioli? Hell yeah!

Ohh yeeah, I discovered that I write best (i.e. don’t over-think, therefore way faster!) when I am a little buzzed. Those craft beers happened to be a sampler 12 pack from Red Hook Brewery, plus I took a little mini shot of some Jager, haha.

Drinking and writing is so much fun!

My First Music Review For LA Weekly Now Up!

Well, I finally made the freelancing leap over to LA Weekly.

This is kind of my be my dream freelancing job that I never thought I could accomplish. Who would of thought? Me? Writing professionally about punk rock? Well, dreams do come true I guess. Ok, it’s not as easy as it sounds…trust! I stayed up until 5 AM working on this sucker for you guys. And well, a show feels different when you are jotting down notes and snapping hundreds of pictures instead of getting drunk and crowd surfing in the pit. But nonetheless, I love every single thing about it and would not change anything about my current position in life. I am ready for anything and I am finally ready for this new responsibility.

Thank you to all my homies who supported me over the years and to the never ending cycles of rebellious youth who never fail to refresh my own pledge to stay punk.

Now, without further adieu, I present to you all my review for The Casualties, JFA and Angry Samoans show last night!

By Javier Cabral

The Casualties, Angry Samoans and JFA
House of Blues

Better Than…staying home and getting ready for the first day of school.

What happens when you bring together the most fundamental old school and new school punk rock bands from both the East and West coast? World-class, rebellious fun! And one of the best venue-hosted punk shows I’ve been to in a while.

The lineup of bands seemed almost too good to be true. But The Casualties are an alternative music force to be reckoned with, often among the first bands a young punk falls in love with. Having them play a show with some of California’s top, integral ’80s hardcore bands was a great idea. This show had actually been sold out a week prior, but that didn’t stop many determined punks from still finding a way to get inside somehow. Everyone seemed to have a soft spot for the New York-born “street punk” band, a style known for its exceptionally fast, loud riffs and raw verbiage.

It’s technically on the LA Weekly music blog, West Coast Sound, so click on this sentence to read the rest of it.


And Now A Public Service for Los Angeles Street Punx: Tonight’s Set List For The Casualties Show!

I know it’s super last minute as all hell and the show is in like three hours but in my attempt to blog more (and facebook/tweet less) here you guys go!

Death Punch 8:00-8:30 PM
JFA 8:45-9:30 PM
Angry Samoans 9:45-10:30 PM
The Casualties 10:50-11:50 PM

Can’t make it out or couldn’t score a precious ticket? Doooon’t eeeeven trip! I got your back, my full review of the show will be up tomorrow morning on LA Weekly

CHEERS and fuck you stay punk!