El Vez

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El Vez

In a world filled with Elvis impersonators there is no one like ex-punk rocker turned politico, Robert Lopez. Under his stage name El Vez he can best be described as a combination of Che Guevara, Elvis Presley and Zach De La Rocha rolled into a gold lamé mariachi suit. For nearly 30 years El Vez has been touring the world spreading his message of peace, love and rock ‘n’ roll.
This year El Vez plans to sweat it out and spread a little Christmas cheer Down Under with his Merry MexMas Eve show at the Corner Hotel in Melbourne. “On Christmas Eve my crackerjack band and the Lovely Elvettes, Priscilita and Lisa Maria, will play all our Christmas hits, including ‘Santa’s Got a Brand New Bag’ and ‘I’m Dreaming Of a Brown Christmas’, with lots of sexy Santa costumes – we have at least eight costume changes planned,” he says.
El Vez’s high-octane show will be turned up a notch for the opening night of Falls Festival, alongside Weird Al Yankovich and Art vs Science, among others. His show is called God Save The King and promises to be a musical extravaganza. “My Memphis mariachi band will mix and mash-up all your Elvis favourites, as well as rock ‘n’ roll from every decade since the ‘50s. From glitter rock to punk rock and heavy metal, we play it all – with me shrouded in an Elvis-type jumpsuit of course!” El Vez laughs.
Expect to hear some of the King’s classics with a Latin twist and presented through the eyes of a man passionate about Chicano culture. ‘In the Ghetto’ becomes ‘En El Barrio’ and ‘Suspicious Minds’ is reworked to become ‘Immigration Time’, while Elvis’ motto of ‘Taking Care of Business’ is transformed into an ode to the undocumented workers of America. “I know Australians can’t vote for American presidents, but I plan on running my El Vez For Prez campaign next year – and the Australian audiences are going to be my test market!”
While El Vez is as outspoken and outlandish as ever, he says that his passion to use music to effect change was alive in him at a young age. While still in high school he and his buddies formed The Zeros. “I was 16 in 1977 and in a punk band. It was a great time,” he smiles. “I remember playing at the Whiskey a Go Go in West Hollywood and then driving home to be in school the next morning in San Diego.
“I think the early days of punk rock were the best,” El Vez continues, “because later when hard core came around, it narrowed the genre. It became more homogeneous and homophobic – a very male dominated offshoot of rock ‘n’ roll. But in the beginning the punk scene was boys and girls, black and white, gay and straight, and all sorts of different styles of music. Some people were taking cues from Frank Zappa, some people were into rockabilly, and other people would write short punk rock tunes . . .
“It was the misfits gathered together, and everyone was looking for something new. To me it was a very romantic time. In fact, I just did a chapter for my friend Joe Doe’s book [of legendary punk band X] – it’s coming out next year. My chapter was on the Californian punk scene from ‘76 to ‘78. I’m so glad I got to grow up in that era and be part of that movement as a kid. It’s that fearless attitude and DIY spirit that’s made me the performer I am today.”
Written by Natalie Rogers
When & Where: Corner Hotel, Melbourne – December 24, Falls Music & Arts Festival, Lorne (Dec 29-Jan 1), Marion Bay (Dec 29-Jan 1) & Byron Bay (Dec 31-Jan 1), Karova Lounge, Ballarat – January 2