The interview is over. The members of Leyenda Oculta trudge single-file down the stairs of Juan Rodriguez' home, then crowd into the tiny 10-by-10-foot room where they practice. Rodriguez' huge drum kit takes up half the space. Singer-guitarist Gabino Ramirez and bass player Antonio Garcia set up their rigs on along the left wall. Lead guitarist Angel Martinez occupies the right-hand corner.
I hope they play "El Rey." It's the first Leyenda Oculta song I ever heard. I've made no secret that it's my favorite and, not even 10 minutes ago, sitting on the black leather couches in Rodriguez' living room, the band said how they love when people shout requests at their shows. So, when Ramirez strikes the song's opening E chord, I'm inwardly giddy. But I play it cool, resisting the urge to sing along.
For all I know, the chugging, fist-pumping 12-bar blues tune, which sounds like it's straight from a Robert Rodriguez movie, is simply the first song in their set. If not, it'd make one hell of an opening salvo. I choose to pretend that, right here and now, it's a crowd-pleaser.
It takes me back to the day in December when, while seeking content for our "Live" column, I noticed Liquid Joe's had booked a rock en Español night. I hopped on YouTube and found a clip of Leyenda Oculta playing "El Rey" at a Halloween show at the Manhattan Club in 2008. The audio quality sucked, but YouTube recommended another clip—the studio version of the song. I played it repeatedly.
When I found Leyenda Oculta on Facebook, and saw they'd been playing since 2003, I wondered how I'd missed them. Interestingly, Leyenda Oculta means "hidden legend." That makes sense, especially after learning how the group is pretty big in Utah's modest—but growing—Latin rock scene. From 2003 to 2007, they had a well-attended Saturday-night gig at the now-defunct Manhattan. Whenever a big band like blues rockers El Tri—who, in Mexico, are like the Rolling Stones—comes to Utah, Leyenda Oculta opens for them. Same goes for shows by other big bands from Mexico, like rap-rock group Molotov and heavy metal outfit Rata Blanca.
The local rock en Español microcosm encompasses nine bands: De Despedida, 4D, La Calavera, Cenizas Ajenas, Call Musor, DulceSky, Infusion Rock and Niebla. Much like the general Salt Lake City-area music scene, the Latin rock scene is incestuous; many of the musicians play in more than one band. Leyenda's Martinez also plays in 4D, and Garcia is in La Calavera. And they're all, with the exception of DulceSky, virtual unknowns.
That should change soon, as the rock en Español night at Liquid Joe's grows in popularity. It started in September 2015, and has continued each month since. Rodriguez says the night is getting so popular that "they might give us a Friday." It's already happened, actually: La Calavera held their CD release show at Liquid Joe's last month, with Leyenda Oculta and DulceSky as their support acts. The next rock en Español night happens this Thursday, March 31 with Leyenda Oculta, 4D, La Calavera and Niebla.
There's a new Leyenda Oculta video on YouTube, taken from the La Calavera CD release show. It's a performance of "Viva El Rock & Roll" ("Rock & Roll Lives"), another track from Leyenda's self-titled CD. It's similar to "El Rey" in that it's a blues-based rock number and has the same crowd-pumping energy. There's a lyric in there that explains why Leyenda Oculta, and their peers in the local rock en Español scene, continue to play hard, even while existing—for now—below the radar. "Quiero que nos escuchen en toda la ciudad," Ramirez sings. Translated, it says, "I want us to be heard throughout the city."
In the meantime, Leyenda Oculta plays for themselves, their friends in the other bands and the fans. "We love it when people shout out the names of our songs," Ramirez says. "And when they sing along."