For Nick Pena, frontman of Santa Fe's Latin rap-rock trio La Junta, school taught him a somewhat unintended lesson. "In high school," says Pena, "I was never really a good son or a good student. Looking back, I think that if it weren't for my art and music classes I wouldn't have stayed in school."
Once Pena realized what was of the utmost importance to him, he decided to join Santa Fe's Fine Arts for Children and Teens (FACT), a nonprofit organization that helps supplement the education of Santa Fe's students who may not have enough access to art in their daily curriculum. Pena was himself a student in FACT classes when he was younger.
After reading an article denouncing the low graduation rates of many of the public high schools in Santa Fe, Pena decided to throw a benefit concert to help support them.
That's where La Junta comes in.
Pena says his band of about five years was never exactly meant to come into existence. "I never really wanted to start the band," Pena matter-of-factly explains. "None of us did. We all just kind of began playing music together and eventually people would start to come see us jam and it just went from there."
La Junta has the advantage of being a band that enjoys each other's company both on and off the stage. Their bond goes back several years to when the group's members played high school sports against one another. "Through the years we just became really close with one another, and I don't know if there are too many bands that consider their band their best friends; so that makes us somewhat unique."
Pena admits that the usually warm but occasionally ferocious acoustic guitar and torridly paced rhyming of La Junta doesn't quite fit into the Santa Fe scene. "I think with some venues out here, they're scared to book you if you aren't, say, straight blues or straight Latin," Pena says. "But I think the diversity of our sound reflects the diversity of Santa Fe and where we all grew up, and people are really starting to catch on."
La Junta's benefit concert is on Saturday, March 17, at the Santa Fe Brewing Company. La Junta, Crazy Fool, Sapphire and elite guitarist Tim Reynolds will perform. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door and can be purchased at the SF Brewing Company or at FACT's headquarters (1516 Pacheco Street) or by calling FACT at (505) 992-2787. Proceeds will go to help Santa Fe public high schools and FACT.