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L.A. Punk Icons Kid Congo Powers and Alice Bag Collaborate On ‘Psychedelic Lounge On a Mexican Beach’ Act. Listen Now!

Their newly created and unexpected “Chicano loungey” hybrid style deviates from their grittier, guitar-driven garage-punk sound. The punk rock lifers debuted the song live at The Broad on March 30th.

Alice Bag and Kid Congo Powers playing at the Broad
Brandon Mitsunaga

“Who’s ready for some loud lounge?”

On a stage in the lobby of the Broad Museum on a rainy recent Saturday night, La Puente-born guitar hero Kid Congo Powers strums a few warmup licks and starts the backing percussion track, keeping time with a few choice power chords. He looks breezy in a bright orange and blue shirt, light pink linen pants, and a crisp Panama hat. 

Across the stage, East L.A. punk luminary Alice Bag, wearing a colorful orange-patterned caftan like a Chicana Mrs. Roper, readies her keyboard and looks at Powers, awaiting her cue. She plays a few mellow notes before singing about someone from her past who left a bad taste in her mouth. 

“I want to set your clothes on fire. I want to fumigate my house. You leave a bad, bad aftertaste,” sings Bag in the sneering vocals so familiar to longtime fans, who have followed her since she burst onto the L.A. punk scene with The Bags in 1977. 

photo by Brandon Mitsunaga for LA TACO

Powers’ signature swampy, reverberating guitar-playing drives “Aftertaste,” the gazy opening song of an eight-song set of original songs written by Powers and Bag expressly for the “L.A. Intersections” event at the Broad

Described by the duo as a “psychedelic lounge act on a Mexican beach,” this unexpected musical project that Powers and Bag also call their “loud lounge act” was inspired by a fateful invitation to write an original song for the Peacock television series, The Resort, which led to the current project. 

Their newly created and unexpected “Chicanx loungey” hybrid style deviates from their grittier, guitar-driven garage-punk sound. The March 30th set at The Broad marked the first time in their illustrious careers that these two L.A. punk icons have collaborated and performed together in their shared hometown of Los Angeles, making local music history and setting the stage for more musical partnerships. 

Alice Bag in a red dress and brown fedora next to Kid Congo Powers in a brown fedora and black suit painted with white designs
Alice Bag and Kid Congo Powers. Photo via Greg Valesquez.

As Seen on TV

For Bag and Powers, their road to The Broad began on a fictional Mexican beach on the set of The Resort, a comedy thriller set in Yucatán that premiered in July 2022. The show’s musical director contacted a representative at In the Red Records, where Bag and Powers are labelmates, and asked if either of them would be interested in writing a song for the show.

As Bag explains, after some back and forth, the two decided to do the song together. 

“We thought, why not both of us?” Bag tells L.A. TACO. 

In a first-time collaboration, Bag and Powers co-wrote a song for the show called “Arenas de Amor.” You can see them perform it as the house band at the resort in the first episode of the show’s first season.

“Don’t blink, or you’ll miss us!” quips Bag. 

Indeed, their appearance lasts only a few seconds, but you can’t miss Kid Congo Powers in a pink suit playing acoustic guitar next to Alice Bag with her shiny silver locks, playing keys, and singing in Spanish at a beach bar.

The two rockers had so much fun playing with their fictional personas that Powers and Bag wanted to keep going for real. 

“We wanted to carry forth the lounge-act vibe and put a whole set together,” said Powers. 

Alice Bag playing keyboard before an audience at The Broad
Photo by Brandon Mitsunaga for L.A. TACO.

“A Lounge Act Gone Awry”

Based on their television appearance, they created characters inspired by what Powers describes as “a psychedelic Chicanx punk lounge act, like a lounge act gone awry.” 

“We’re like the punk rock Chicanx version of Marty and Elayne,” Bag added, referring to another iconic L.A. duo. This husband-wife lounge act entertained audiences for decades at L.A.’s Dresden Room until Marty’s death in 2022

Bag describes her new look as “a cross between Mrs. Roper and a Chicana Elayne on vacation in Mexico.”

Powers and Bag dove into a musical style that was unfamiliar to them. 

“It’s not the kind of music we’d generally play,” said Bag. “When we first signed our contract with the Broad, we thought, ‘Can we do this?’ Are we even going to have a half hour’s worth of material? And by the end, we had way too many [songs].”

“Our show is eight original songs we created for this one event,” said Powers, “but it seems to be growing [beyond The Broad set].” 

In writing these new ‘loungey’ psychedelic tunes for the Broad show, Bag and Powers drew inspiration from a variety of musical and pop culture sources, including the Jungle Cruise ride at Disneyland and Marty and Elayne’s own act. 

Bag “has been listening non-stop to the “MegaLesbiana” Chilean punk rock band, Horregias, while Powers says he’s been listening to “lots of Barry White and the Love Unlimited Orchestra.” 

Both expressed enjoyment in creating something new and departing from their usual garage punk rock sound. 

“We’re taking the lounge genre and putting some fun weirdness to it,” said Powers. “We’re serious about the songs, but we’re using humor and light, exploring and having fun.”

Bag adds, “Working with Kid was like being on an extended play date. ‘Do we use synth or no synth? Maracas here or no?’ The lounge stuff gives us the chance to do something unexpected and defy expectations, both our own and others’ expectations of us.”

“Loud Lounge” at the Broad

Kid Congo and Alice Bag performed nine songs at the Broad, including an encore. The set was trippy, quirky, and a blast to witness. Fans of Kid Congo and Alice Bag will recognize certain signature moves and vocalizing, but the fun part was hearing the familiar elements expressed as entirely new musical arrangements and styles.

Powers and Bag mix cumbia and reggaetón with house beats and synthesizers to create a moody (and sometimes loud) mix of bouncy, groovy, psychedelic songs. 

On “Jungle Cruise,” inspired by the Disneyland ride, Powers slide-strums his guitar for a Pacific island effect while Bag plays keys with an organ effect. 

Other songs were inspired by Powers and Bag’s experiences and early career influences. 

As Bag puts it, “We wanted to incorporate stories from our books in the songs,” referring to their respective memoirs, A New Kind of Kick and Violence Girl.

For example, the song “The Prez” tells Kid Congo’s story of being the Ramones’ fan club president when he attended La Puente’s Bassett High School. 

The memorable “David Bowie Was My Gateway Drug” is about the music that meant so much to a young Alice Bag. The bouncy, space-age homage reflects Powers’ and Bag’s admiration of Bowie, whose music, sings Bag, “was the medicine I needed/at last the loneliness abated.”

The duo closed the set with their rousing cumbia tune, “Put Down Your Weapons,” a call and response song encouraging audiences to “raise up your voices” and demanding a “ceasefire now!”

The set was overall fun, quirky, and unexpected, but still totally a Kid Congo Powers and Alice Bag production, a collaborative sound only they could create.

What’s Next for Kid Congo, Alice Bag, and “Juanita and Juan?” 

“We thought of calling [our duo] ‘Juanita and Juan,’ a lyrical reference to a song we both like,” explains Powers. “But we’ll also use just Kid and Alice.”

Whatever they call their new Chicanx lounge act, Powers and Bag are just beginning their musical adventure together, even more significant given the two emerged from the same L.A. punk scene of the late 1970s and shared many of the same experiences as queer-identified Chicanxs going to shows and playing in bands. 

Their first time recording together came when Powers, who lives in Tucson, invited Bag, who had just moved to Arizona after 18 months in Mexico City, to sing on the new Kid Congo and the Pink Monkey Birds’ new album, That Delicious Vice, due out on April 19. Bag co-wrote and sang on a track called “Wicked World,” the first single from the album.  

“One thing I want to make sure to tell people is: even though we collaborated on the Pink Monkey Birds’ new record and we made a video together for ‘Wicked World,’” said Bag, “it’s very different from what he and I are doing together in the lounge act.” 

Bag and Powers look forward to picking up their work as “Juanita and Juan” after Powers is back from touring with the Pink Monkey Birds, who kick off their That Delicious Vice tour in Australia on April 18. Spanish language editions of both rockers’ memoirs will also come out by year’s end. 

“I am hopeful that Kid and I will be able to record a full album once his touring with Pink Monkey Birds slows down,” says Bag. “We could have a full-length lounge act, some readings from our Spanish language books, a whole thing.”

In the meantime, Bag will be back in Mexico while Powers prepares for his Pink Monkey Birds tour, which stops at the Lodge Room in Los Angeles on October 24

The funky lounge act is “a jumping off point for us, for sure,” said Bag. 

Powers agrees. “I think it’s the most punk thing we could possibly do, is go against what people expect.”

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