It’s the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll fairy tale: A band comes to New York with 20 copies of their debut album and one of them ends up in the hands of a rock star. He picks up the phone and offers them a record deal.
“We went from being underground, playing at clubs for 200 people to touring all over the country,” says curly-haired guitar player José Luis Pardo, 38, as if he’s still grasping what happened in 1996.
Since then, Los Amigos Invisibles have released five studio albums of funk, lounge and Latin American rhythms mixed with raunchy lyrics, won a Latin Grammy for their latest release, 2009’s “Commercial,” and become New York City residents.
This year, Los Amigos are celebrating 20 years since Pardo formed the band with two high school friends and their neighbors. The six original members are still together in what Pardo describes as “a marriage without sex or jealousy.”
“We never expected to be making a living out of music 20 years later,” says the Fort Greene, Brooklyn, resident while traveling between concerts in North Carolina and D.C. “I’m still in awe of the fact that this is my job: to get up and play the guitar.”
On Friday, they perform at the Highline Ballroom, their first city concert since playing SummerStage last July. More than a homecoming after a coast-to-coast tour, the show will be the central piece of their two-decade anniversary.
Coming a few days before the release “Not So Commercial,” a collection of “Commercial” outtakes, the show will be taped for “La Casa del Ritmo,” a documentary about the band’s ride directed by Juan Miguel Marín, a New York-based Ecuadorian musician making his film debut.
The movie became a reality thanks to Los Amigos’ loyal fans. Short on cash, Marín used the Internet website Kickstarter to raise $30,000, getting donations from almost 600 devotees who will see their name in the movie’s credits.
At one point in the still-in-production film that Marín hopes will hit the festival circuit later this year, Pardo recalls how at age 10 his father took him to buy a record as a reward for getting a haircut.
The shopkeeper at the Caracas store gave him two options: prog-rockers Genesis’ eponymous 1983 album and “Purple Rain.” His father chose for him, favoring Prince‘s 1984 classic because of the impressive shot of the singer on a motorcycle on the cover.
“Sometimes I start to think how different my life would have been,” Pardo says poignantly to the camera, his eyes shining at the memory of his first encounter with funk music, “if I had chosen the other one.”