Though he'd never met Miguel Joya, Al De La Riva was often mistaken for him. Random women would come up and hug De La Riva -- a 28-year-old veteran of the East Los Angeles backyard scene -- and guys would put him in headlocks, thinking he was Joya, who sang in local d-beat band Exocet.
De La Riva and Joya ended up becoming best friends, until the latter tragically passed away of a heart attack at age 27 last week. De La Riva has helped to organize a benefit this Saturday in Lincoln Heights to help his friend's family with the financial burden of his loss.
De La Riva notes that the pair hit it off immediately, sharing a similar sense of bawdy humor, and a taste for hardcore punk. In fact, many had strong feelings for Joya, who was always referred to simply by his surname. He had had a reputation for being outgoing, making friends wherever he went. "He'd meet people in line at liquor stores and invite them to parties," says De La Riva.
Several months ago, the mutual friend who introduced the two of them passed away, and they contemplated their own mortality. "We would talk about how we wanted to be mourned," De La Riva says. Rather than being mourned, Joya wanted to be celebrated. He wanted all of his friends' bands to play a gig, headlined by Iron Maiden.
At present time, Maiden have not responded to requests to play the benefit show. However, 10 bands are confirmed. "When word got around that he passed away everyone wanted to know when there was going to be a benefit gig and when we were going to have shirts," De La Riva says.
Local epic crust punk band Temple of Dagon were quick to join the bill, followed by Mundo Muerto. Inland Empire d-beat vets Holokaust are re-forming specifically for the event. "He was so good to everyone. Now it's our turn to be good to him," says Kyle Hertz, frontman of Temple of Dagon. De La Riva shares the sentiment. "I wanted his parents to know how loved he was."
The benefit speaks to a harsh truth about human mortality. "Funerals are expensive," says De La Riva. Joya's passing has left not just an emotional hole, but a financial one. "I don't want them to worry about money," he says, "I want them to be able to mourn him."
In death, Joya is doing just what he did in life: Bringing people together. "A lot of people would put their differences aside because they wanted to party with him," says De La Riva. "He was definitely the foundation of our group of friends."
Joya's family are also accepting donations through GoFundMe.
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