Sound & the Fury
The invisible friends
Published: April 18, 2012
A year after the release of their first album, 1995's A Typical and Autoctonal Venezuelan Dance Band, Los Amigos Invisibles moved to New York and soon after got a call from an enthusiastic David Byrne, who'd found the album at a local record store and turned into an instant fan. They hung up on him.
"We didn't believe it was him," guitarist and main arranger José Luis Pardo told the Current from South Padre Island. Byrne, former leader of the Talking Heads, wanted to sign the band to his Luaka Bop label, then distributed by Warner Bros. So he called the cell number listed on the record. "A friend of ours used to call and ask about prices for quinceañeras," said Pardo, "or he would pretend to be David Bowie." So when a very real Byrne called, they basically told him to fuck off.
Eventually, Byrne signed them, and 1998's The New Sound of the Venezuelan Gozadera earned rave reviews and a Latin Grammy nomination as Best Latin Alternative album. But in 2000 things started to change in the industry and there was no longer any budget for up-and-coming bands. Warner let Luaka Bop go, and Los Amigos moved on, increasingly working as independents (they're now part of the Nacional Records roster). After a string of nominations, their Latin Grammy for 2009's Commercial was a vindication for the band.
"It was ironic that our most deliberately crowd-pleasing album won in the Best Latin Alternative category," said Pardo of their danceable mix of Latin rhythms, funk, and disco. The band — which has been playing together for 20 years with the same lineup and is a terrific live machine — is working on their next album, which will have more English-language songs and an immigration theme. Their San Antonio debut will be April 18 at Sam's Burger Joint ($20, 330 E Grayson) and will be opened by Peruvian psychedelic cumbia band Money Chicha, from Austin.
"We're still playing, we still haven't killed each other onstage, and we're still having fun," said Pardo.
If you go to Sam's, you will too.
> Email Enrique Lopetegui