NEW YORK NEWSDAY
Nightcrawler / Spain's Distrito 14:
At Home in Queens
BY: Issac Guzman.
EDITION: ALL EDITIONS / SECTION: NightBeat
WHILE RAIN MADE the streets of Astoria a damp,cluttered mess last Friday, I popped into the dark recesses of La Kueva just in time to hear the Spanish band Distrito 14 thundering through its sound check. Distrito 14 had come to New York for its first performances on the East Coast, he second of which will be Saturday at midnight.
With the club nearly empty hours before the band's performance, I heard the same elements that attracted me to the band several months ago, when singer Mariano Chueca mysteriously acquired my address and sent me a few CDs.
Guitarist Francisco Jaraba pealed out languid, dreamy riffs, while the band brewed up its undulating blend of jam-band riffs, folk rock and alterna-pop.
Later, Chueca talked about the band's ambitions in New York. Though Distrito 14 has had significant success in Spain, released six albums and become the first non-Cuban band to tour the eastern provinces of Cuba, it is little-known even among rock en Espanol aficionados.
Radiating more sincerity (and perhaps naivete) than an Oklahoma Boy Scout, Chueca told me that Distrito 14's anonymity didn't really matter. He believes the band's artistic sensibility would draw listeners of all backgrounds.
"We feel that this place has a lot of heart," Chueca said. "The people's minds and hearts are here, and people from all over the world live here. We think Americans will find value in our ideas and our songs." Even those Americans who don't understand Chueca's deceptively simple lyrics will recognize the influence of Jackson Browne, Carlos Santana and the Grateful Dead in Distrito 14's sound. There's also a certain psychedelic element brought on by the band's love for Soft Machine founder Kevin Ayers. That psychedelic influence dovetails with Chueca's desire to write songs that evoke an emotional response.
"We're from the land of Luis Bunuel and Dali," he said. "We look for the connection between the concrete moment and the part that is not rational and that is part of a dream. I tell simple stories, but the story is not important.
The story is just the medium." Even though the band plays just one more show this summer, look for Distrito 14 to return soon. Chueca said he feels at home in Queens. It reminds him of District 14, the suburb of Zaragoza that the band hails from.
"As I came across the Triborough Bridge," he said. "Queens seemed a lot like our barrio, because it's also across a river. When I grew up, it was just a suburb, but now it's gotten used to the idea of being part of the city." Distrito 14: Saturday at midnight at La Kueva, 28-26 Steinway St., Astoria, Queens, 718-267-9069.