Andrew H. Walker, Getty Images Nine days after the deadly tornado that touched…
- Posted on Dec 6th 2009 10:00AM by Kenneth Partridge
Those words sum up the shtick of singer and conceptual artist Robert Lopez, the former Los Angeles punk rocker who created the El Vez character in 1989. Saturday night, as he and masked surf-rock kings Los Straitjackets put on their 'Viva Christmas!' holiday-themed show, El Vez did more than just make the case for why he should be president. He skewered pop stars old and new, refashioned Christmas favorites as political statements and parodies of rock songs, and hammed it up like Vegas-era Elvis.
"Are you ready to have a rocking Christmas?" El Vez asked early in the show, speaking in the exaggerated accent he uses to lovingly poke fun at Mexican culture and comment on the serious issues facing his community.
At that point, El Vez, sporting his trademark Elvis pompadour and mustache, was still wearing a Santa Claus outfit, a costume he would soon rip off, only to reveal leather pants and a wife-beater. During the James Brown homage 'Santa's Got a Brand New Bag,' he demonstrated the cleverness that defines his act, mixing the "na-na-na-na-na" chant from seminal East Los Angeles group Cannibal & the Headhunters' 'Land of a Thousand Dances,' a major hit in 1965, with the "fa-la-la-la-la" refrain of 'Deck the Halls.'
From there, the rock and pop culture references came fast and furious. On 'Mamacita, Donde Esta Santa Claus?' El Vez nicked the guitar part from the Velvet Underground's 'There She Goes Again.' He stitched pieces of Three Dog Night's 'Joy to the World' into the holiday song of the same name, and on the grand finale, '(I'm Dreaming of a) Brown Christmas,' he segued into John Lennon's 'Happy Christmas (War Is Over).'
Although the show felt a little long, and the frequent costume changes and hit-or-miss nature of El Vez's comedy made for a few duff moments, the singer was, generally speaking, a burning Yule log of tongue-in-cheek entertainment. Best was 'En El Barrio,' his parody of Elvis' 'In the Ghetto,' a tune that allowed Los Straitjackets and the Elvettes, El Vez's duo of dancing backup singers, to break from punk and surf and rock out with faux-gospel abandon.
El Vez combined the song with 'Souped-Up Chevy Nova,' an ode to the vehicular tastes of Mexican-Americans. This, of course, was set to the tune of Oasis' 'Champagne Supernova.'