LA REPORTA SCENA.

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HIGH ON A COCKTAIL of Louis Armstrong and unrequited love, I hit the streets of my city. Astoria mostly slumbered around me, but I was wide awake — and looking for action.

As it turns out, action found me mere blocks from my apartment. Now if I’ve gleaned anything from the various content on this web zine, it’s that you ShinyGunners are acutely concerned about the health of Spanish Rock in New York City. Rest assured, friends, that rock en espanol is alive and well at La Kueva, on Steinway Street in Astoria, Queens.

La Kueva’s door stays locked all night. I had to knock for the doorman to let me in. After a quick ID check and patdown (I had previously prided myself on never being checked for weapons upon entering a club; so much for that crown of laurels), I entered the Spanish Rock Cave.

The decor at La Kueva is decidedly dark: Skulls, chains and vampire bats bedeck the merlot-colored walls (La Kueva’s logo, incidentally, is a large bat hanging upside-down, silhouetted before a huge full moon, wielding a James Hetfield-style guitar), jostling with autographed press photos of past artists: La Ley, Antigua — all the greats were there. I also spied a huge Abbey Road-era Beatles poster, as well as photos of Hendrix and Nirvana.

The wood paneling and hardwood bar betrayed the space’s past as an Old Man Establishment, probably called the Royal Schooner or something like that. Still, La Kueva’s future is clear.

The long, skinny space is mostly dominated by the bar to the right and glassed-off lounge area to the left. This yields to a small dance area and tiny stage in back. I slid up to the bar casually, as if I weren’t the only Oshkosh-clad Gringo in the place. Corona was obviously the beer of choice, and so Corona was what I drank. A pedestrian mix of what must qualify as middle-of-the-road Spanish pop played on the sound system, with an unrelated set of Latin music videos (Marc Antony, et. al.) playing on the big screen. I asked the bartender if he knew when the band started, but said barkeep, an obvious novice (you don’t return a ten and a five for $15 change — unless you DON’T want a tip) pled ignorance.

Thankfully, a kind stranger offered up the 411 that the live rock was at least an hour off. This stranger was Jorge, who was, as far as I could tell, the Costa Rican me: boyishly handsome, unlucky in love, and uncertain about how to orchestrate a reversal of romantic fortune. He’d just ended a relationship, and was hitting La Kueva in search of Ms. Tonight. “It may take a while,” he confided, “but I’m gonna get the best ass here.” Before long, Jorge and I noticed that the “ass” had hit the dancefloor in a major way. The DJ was spinning a rough-and-tumble mix of Spanish HR, ska and Compeneros music that was putting rumps in motion all over the place. And what wonderful rumps they were! I felt like a George Clooney in a Jennifer Lopez store.

Not that I’d come to La Kueva looking for la romanza. Still, it was mere seconds before I was caught in the crosshairs of a diminuitive R’N‘R Latina. Picture Joan Jett. Okay, now subtract six inches, then add 30 pounds and a Mexican heritage. There you have my impromptu dance partner. But hell, I was game to mix it up to a certain extent, and the fast pace of the music kept things from getting too grind-y (though the lady did insist on trying to remove my jacket, which I kept on “because my keys were in it”). At one point, I was requested to “go up and down and be sexy,” but I didn’t have instructions on me. She asked if I liked rock, and when I said yes, and added that I play the drums, she informed me that she loves “the heavy metal.”

I closed my eyes and continued to pogo to the beat.

Soon enough, my dance partner figured out that I’d never be that drunk and moved on to other game. At this point, the evening’s entertainment hit the stage, a five-piece outfit that sounded like a Spanish translation of Cheap Trick. The crowd knew every word to the Latin arena-rocker that they opened with, and I have no idea whether it was a cover or an original. Needless to say, confidence was very high.

After that first song, though, the keyboardist and lead singer bailed, leaving only a power trio that revealed itself to be the La Kueva house band, specializing in English-language Bar Rock. (“Remember: The more you drink, the better we sound.”) The band bit into Green Day’s Basketcase, followed by that Say It Ain’t So I Will Not Go song, followed by Summer of ’69. (“Who remembers the fuckin’ Eighties?!” shouted the lead singer.) After polishing off Let It Roll by the Doors, the band launched into Smells Like Teen Spirit, at which point I officially gave up hope of a return to Latin rock. But a return to La Kueva on a night featuring a touring act was assured.

I bid goodbye to Jorge, my friend who only wanted a little ass out of life, and made my exit, stopping to add my name to the mailing list. (For “Grupo Preferazion” I wrote in Os Mutantes, though in retrospect I should have put in Los Crudos since Mutantes were Brazilian, and thus rock in Portugese). Against all odds, I had discovered a bona fide R’N‘R community in Queens, New York, and I floated home, borne upon the sweet breath of ninas y chitarras. Viva La Kueva!!

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jake alrich lives and works in new york city, pursuing his opera-singing talents and his booty-shaking skillz.