Saturday, March 7, 2015
“Who here doesn’t speak Spanish?” asks De’Anza Paredes about halfway through her six-song set at the release party for her debut EP, Despertar. Scattered hands are tentatively raised — most hover around chest height, as if hoping she won’t catch them.
The self-dubbed “alt-Latin siren” smirks. “OK, so like 10 people. You gotta get on that.”
De’Anza is Angeleno-by-way-of-Santa Fe. Her father (who flew in from New Mexico for the weekend and was working the merch table) says she fell in love with the city during a high school road-trip. In 2004, she hopped a plane to the City of Angels and didn’t look back. She got a momentum injection last year with a feature in MTV Tres’ La Hora Nacional. Since then, she’s sprinted across the local radio circuit and jammed out on LATV’s Rokamole.
De’Anza herself breathlessly describes all this as “growing up, you know” — coming to her own after years of trying to figure out “what she wanted to say.” The bubbly artist at the center of the evening spent the two hours before sound-check working the crowd, bouncing from person to person, giving hugs, switching from Spanish to English and back again. At its peak, roughly a hundred people wandered into KGB Gallery for the release – a diverse crowd where the common denominator seemed to be plastic-framed glasses and a penchant for jangly jewelry.
Everything at the event seemed to have been supplied by a relative, or a friend of a friend. The abstract artwork that lined the walls was marshaled by De’Anza’s manager’s uncle; the lush bouquets that decorated the hall were from De’Anza’s student’s father, a flower supplier. Her mother and father took turns selling CDs and T-shirts, while also standing on a bench and videotaping the actual show. Drinks were supplied by the Hacienda Heights-based Brewjeria Brewery, while local vendors sold leather wallets, red clay mugs and bead jewelry in the parking lot. The white-washed concrete building — a former warehouse converted into studio lofts — provided plenty of room for the throng.
Sound problems and technical difficulties seemed to stall the actual music, although an hour-long DJ set by Wil-Dog of Ozomotli helped keep the crowd from getting too antsy. Opener Fernanda Karolys finally slid into her set around 11 with a distinctly more pop-Latin sound than the gig’s headliner. Her sensual voice seemed to be one of her strong points, but the bass of a bandmate’s drum machine threatened to smother her soprano entirely (it’s possible that not all the technical issues were de-bugged by go-time).
De’Anza herself is a force of nature behind the microphone, gesturing at the audience, smirking at her bandmates, swerving hips clad in skin-tight gold lame. She expertly worked the crowd with winky banter (“Thanks to everyone who came from far away to be here — including those who came west of the 405”), flipping between Spanish and English without batting an eye.
Between her hypnotic alto and her trusty vihuela (a five-string, guitar-like instrument typically used by mariachis) De’Anza cuts a confident figure on stage — and her music reflects that assuredness, borrowing from traditional mariachi layered with a generous helping of smoky vocals and distinctly contemporary beats. And although one of her final songs paid tribute to an old Santa Fe folk song, she is clearly a creature of modern Los Angeles.