Pilar Díaz: Let There Be Latin Rock

By Erica E. Phillips Fri., May 18 2012 at 8:06 AM 

Kevin Scanlon

Kevin Scanlon

As a teenager, Pilar Díaz spent Friday nights at Tower Records in Hollywood with her dad. It was something of a coping mechanism; her mother and sister were killed in a car accident when Díaz was just 11. She preferred the Top 40 stuff, like Donna Summer, Prince and Talking Heads -- "that kind of dance music that's smart," as she calls it now. But her father, an accomplished Chilean folkloric musician who'd moved his family to the United States just a few years earlier, preferred to school her in jazz.

Now an Echo Park resident in her late 30s, Diaz helps anchor Los Angeles' Latin alternative-music scene -- both via her music and by curating the influential Mucho Wednesdays party at the Echo.

Díaz probably is best known as Lady P, frontwoman of the now-defunct Spanglish alt-pop group Los Abandoned, which formed in L.A. in 2001 and took inspiration from acts like Fishbone, Red Hot Chili Peppers and No Doubt. "They had that mix of genres, which is what I think Los Angeles stands for," Díaz says of her influences. "Of course, we had our own twist on it -- with the lyrics being half-Spanish, half-English -- which took it to the next level."

Los Abandoned toured internationally, opening for groundbreaking Mexican alt-rockers Café Tacuba. But it is Díaz herself who remains seared into the memories of the band's followers: Backed by three dudes, she owned the stage, rocking brightly colored retro prom dresses and big hair.

After Los Abandoned split up in 2007, Díaz focused largely on developing the Latin alternative scene here, inviting both established and overlooked local acts to play at La Cita as part of Mucho Wednesdays. (The event recently expanded to new digs at the Echo.) Díaz herself -- who performs solo under the moniker María del Pilar -- was the first artist to take the stage at the event, which also has hosted Latin Grammy nominees La Santa Cecilia.

But perhaps the party's most anticipated show was the Los Abandoned reunion concert late last year. Rapturously received, Díaz says, it "healed a lot of wounds."

That same year she traveled to Chile for a few months to make her second album, staying with family and working with renowned Chilean producer Vicente Sanfuentes. By the time she returned to L.A. at the end of the summer, she had six new songs under her belt. The full-length record is scheduled to drop later this year, and will include a musical ode to her father, called "El Huaso de Los Angelitos," which translates to "The Little Angels' Cowboy." Still attending (and critiquing) her performances, he remains a valuable mentor to this day.

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