By Alex Distefano
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By Nate Jackson
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As the energetic front woman of local Latin alternative favorites Los Abandoned, Pilar Díaz (or “Lady P” as she was known at the time) made Orange County venues her stomping grounds. The band spent years cultivating an audience south of Los Angeles County before breaking up in 2007. “We started out playing Chain Reaction, and then went on to Detroit Bar,” the singer/songwriter reminisces. “We also used to do shows at JC Fandango’s, but our main gig was playing for every Latin alternative band coming through the House of Blues in Anaheim.”
After a tearful final performance with Los Abandoned three years ago at the Tar Fest, the Chilean-born, Van Nuys valley girl set off in search of finding her voice as a solo artist. She landed a Visionary-in-Residence sponsorship from the Quiksilver clothing company that helped her to record and release an eight-song, self-titled album in April 2009.
Díaz’s new sound, anchored in the relaxed strums of the ukulele, marked a mature departure from her previous work—both melodically and lyrically. Since finding her rhythm anew, Díaz has kept busy performing her genre-mashing eclectic music in venues all over Los Angeles, as well as playing shows in such cities as Austin, New York and even Madrid, Spain.
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“I was asked to be a part of a Latin-American songwriter festival that just started in Madrid and was curated by Jorge Drexler,” she says proudly about taking her music across the Atlantic. “The idea of the festival was to have up-and-coming Latin American singer/songwriters, and I was the U.S. Latino representative—a.k.a. ‘the bilingual chick!’” Díaz then laughs.
Despite traveling the world with her music, Díaz hasn’t had a chance to perform in Orange County until recently. Having seen her loyal OC fan base trek up to Los Angeles to watch her open for Latin alternative acts such as Aterciopelados and Natalia Lafourcade, Díaz is more than happy to return the favor. And when Díaz takes the stage, she’ll be performing as part of an assembled trio that has included a reunion with former Los Abandoned drummer Anthony “Dulce” Reyes. Her current lineup has been playing shows together for the past year or so; she had to cut down on accompanying musicians after Quiksilver’s sponsorship money ran dry.
The experience turned out to be a blessing in disguise. “Tony’s always been my dream drummer, and I got chick guitarists, too!” Díaz says, excitedly referencing the rotating services of Gloria Estrada of La Santa Cecilia and Mexico City musician Fernanda Ulibarri, whose credits include joining Julieta Venegas on her unplugged tour. “It’s bitchen!”
And the binational vibes don’t stop there: Diaz shares the spotlight with Los Románticos de Zacatecas, the Strokes sound-alikes who are traveling north for the show. “I’m really excited to play with bands coming out of Mexico in general,” Díaz mentions. “There is a really good new wave of killer creative musicians. It’s been bubbling for a few years, but now they’ve finally been able to come to the States.”
Díaz is still touring in support of her debut, but Friday’s audience will also get a preview of her new material. She has enjoyed grassroots artistic support throughout her solo career, including music videos directed for four singles off the album. And the lighthearted pro-immigrant anthem “Ilegal En Estyle” has even turned into a T-shirt line. “Dewey Tafoya, who works at Self Help Graphics in East LA, donated the original T-shirts and design,” she says. “It’s been nice to have people connect with my solo act and going out of their way.”
In between teaching music to kids at youth shelters, Díaz is preparing for the future and beginning the songwriting process anew. “I just started working on drafts of new songs and ideas. I’m still looking at quite a white canvas,” she says. “There’s just a lot to say right now.”
Pilar Díaz performs with Los Románticos de Zacatecas and Yellow Red Sparks at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art, 117 N. Sycamore, Santa Ana, (714) 667-1517; www.occca.org. Fri., 8 p.m. $5. All ages. For more info on Pilar Díaz, visit www.pilardiazmusic.com.
This article appeared in print as "Backen Estyle: Chilean singer/songwriter Pilar Díaz readies to rock Santa Ana with her bitchen new band."