Although he regularly tours internationally—and he might not even live here anymore—I tend to think of El Vez, the Mexican Elvis, as one of the best things about the city of Los Angeles. One of my very, very first nights out “on the town” when I first moved here involved catching El Vez and the Elvettes—totally by accident—at the Atlas Bar and Grill on Wilshire Blvd. Claiming to be the bastard son of Elvis and Charo, his act was super fun—reminding me of John Sex, Deee Lite or The B-52s—and the sort of multilayered political and racial satire and hilarious dog whistles that went into his material like “En El Barrio” made me an instant fan. Over the years I’ve seen El Vez (real name Robert Lopez) at least a dozen times and it’s always been a blast. He’s a local institution. (Still in high school, Lopez co-founded LA punk legends, The Zeros way back in 1976. He can also be seen as part of Catholic Discipline in The Decline of Western Civilization.)
El Vez doesn’t only do Elvis songs. He might do something by ABBA or The Clash or T.Rex or David Bowie (El Vez had his “Thin Brown Duke” phase), but it’s always ultimately filtered through his “Chicano power” persona, one part Che Guevara, one part Viva Las Vegas. The guy pays attention to the details and the revolutionary politics in his idiosyncratic (and very, very funny) artform. Is it just a novelty act? Well, sure, but only to someone too stupid to get all the jokes. He’s like The Simpsons, even someone thick would enjoy seeing El Vez do his thing.
El Vez will be touring with his Cinco de Mayo review. Dates are listed on his website, where you can also buy a lock of his hair (in a “deluxe” ziplock bag) for just $3.