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Los Abandoned rocks to the max

The multicultural rock band, with sly lyrics in Spanglish, pulls out the stops at the Troubador.

September 13, 2006|Agustin Gurza | Times Staff Writer

Just before taking the stage Monday night at the Troubadour in West Hollywood, the exciting lead singer of Los Abandoned doubled as her own stagehand, setting up mikes and instruments while the packed crowd watched impassively. She didn't look like much of a star, with her loose pullover and disheveled shoulder-length hair falling in her face.

But moments later -- poof! -- she reappeared in a hot purple tunic and black tights, having transformed herself into Lady P., the alt-Latino quartet's captivating centerpiece. In a flash, she had gone from grunge to glamour, her brown hair still disheveled but in a fabulous way. The young fans finally noticed, cheering as if a different person had suddenly materialized.

"That's my wife," a man said to his buddy. "She just doesn't know it yet."

The fan's piropo, or street-corner compliment, had shades of the creepy affection in "Stalk U," one of the band's first songs, performed Monday by Lady P. with a particularly demented edge. It has the hallmarks of the band's style: an unpredictable but catchy pop melody, driving rock undercurrent and curiously off-kilter world view.

"Baby, baby, how was I to know that I would become one of those people that you read about in the paper / Driven by a sad obsession / I didn't, I didn't, I didn't mean to stalk you."

A touch of such obsession can help a band stick to its search for elusive pop stardom. After five years of hand-to-hand combat in the indie-band trenches, Los Abandoned has emerged as one of the most polished bands from the city's immigrant melting pot, complete with an artsy concept and a memorable logo -- a crooked, hand-drawn heart cracked in half -- that was lighted up as an emblematic backdrop.

Monday's concert celebrated the release of the group's first first-length album, "Mix Tape," produced by David Trumfio for Neil Young's Vapor/Sanctuary imprint. Its powerhouse performance proved that Los Abandoned deserved to be the only Latino band on the roster.

Five years of playing together has made for a tight and finely timed unit, still with three of four original members. Los Abandoned started as a garage band with no aspiration beyond soothing the broken hearts of its co-founders: Lady P., who had come here from her native Chile, and her gringo co-writer Don Verde, a guitarist and L.A. native.

The duo was soon joined by bassist Vira Lata from Mexico City. Rounding out the rhythm section is the newest member, a Chicano drummer named Dulce.

Though still unabashedly bilingual, this is a far more rocking band than it was four years ago when it won a local competition sponsored by La Banda Elastica, a respected rock en espanol magazine. Los Abandoned took the stage Monday with punk mode at full throttle and rarely let up, stirring up a multi-culti mosh pit that, like the band itself, got vigorous but remained good-natured.

The group's one-hour set featured mostly songs from the new album. But some, such as the immigrant lament "Van Nuys (Es Very Nice)," were almost unrecognizable in their live rock reincarnation. On the album, the tunes have instrumental subtlety and sonic textures that didn't survive Monday's electronic buzz saw.

What does come across on stage, though, are Lady P.'s star quality and sex appeal. As demonstrated when the show started, she's the girl-next-door transformed into an impassioned performer alight with self-confidence and a sensual energy.

"Nada mio es fake / Ven y tocame" (Nothing about me is fake / Come and touch me) she sings in Spanglish, overshadowing the tune's sly satirical meaning with her seductive title line.

Lady P. creates a magnetic attraction that led another male fan at one point to shout out in mock distress: "Why don't you answer my phone calls?"

That's the kind of stalking a good band can thrive on.

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