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Smart Alex's Home Bar Advantage: Muy Loco for Rock en Espanol, Los Mysteriosos Elude Genre Traps

Getting shows as an unknown band can be difficult, unless your bass player owns the most popular spot in town. Just ask Los Mysteriosos, a Long Beach/OC quartet whose bassist is Alex Hernandez of Alex's Bar fame. "We've made the rounds at all the usual spots," Hernandez says, "but I can pretty much put us on any bill in any slot. It's an unfair advantage, for sure."

Hernandez and drummer Reuben McChancey joined Los Mysteriosos three years ago, after guitarist Dan Saifer and singer/guitarist Gus "El Mysterioso" Contreras needed a new rhythm section once their previous act, Songre del Toro, broke up. The bar owner skipped the audition process and told Contreras he was in the band. Six weeks later, the group played a Cinco de Mayo show that turned out to be part celebration and part disaster, Contreras says.

"Reuben and Alex had been playing their instruments for six weeks," the singer says. "It was a lab experiment that turned out to be great. There were a couple of botched ones there, but by the last song, we were a good five or six shots into it, and it felt right."

Anyone who has been to Alex's Bar knows it is home to Pabst-drinking, neck-tattooed punk fans. But that doesn't mean Los Mysteriosos are a carbon copy of that vibe. Nuances such as all-Spanish lyrics, Hernandez's mariachi-style bass lines, open guitar chords, hard-hitting drumming and romantic leads create a sound that would fit well as a score to a spaghetti Western. Contreras' passionate voice takes listeners through stories that deal with heartbreak and tragedy, but not in a wussified emo way. "All traditional Mexican rancheros sing about the same thing," Contreras says. "It's about love and lost love. Our songs are pretty much the same thing."

Los Mysteriosos are too Spanish to fit into generic rock circles, but they've yet to infiltrate the rock en español world. This type of musical purgatory doesn't bother the members, who say they enjoy being misfits.

"We haven't tapped into the rock en español community at all," Contreras says. "Other than the melody of the song, we're the furthest thing from being traditional."

"I don't listen to too many rock en español bands. It's hard booking the band because we don't fit into any genre," Hernandez says. "I think this helps us because people walk away saying they haven't heard anything like us."

Similar to their lyrical themes, Los Mysteriosos have firsthand knowledge of loss, albeit in a much less serious manner. The group was in an Anaheim studio laying down five songs for a friend who was learning how to use recording equipment when the engineer's computer crashed, causing the band to lose its material. Like a wounded matador, the band picked itself up and started over again. "Some call it the chupacabra curse," Contreras says. "It wasn't a person's fault; it was technology. There was so much passion in the hard drive that it blew up."


Los Mysteriosos perform with the Soft Hands and Bella Novela at Alex's Bar, 2913 E. Anaheim St., Long Beach, (562) 434-8292; www.alexsbar.com. Thurs., Oct. 25, 9 p.m. $3. 21+.

 
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