Let Me Entertain You: ¡Viva Christmas! With El Vez & Los Straitjackets and The Lovely Elvettes @ World Cafe Live 12.4.09

The first time I saw Los Straitjackets, it was at the TLA for their Christmas show several years ago (2004, possibly), when they performed their surf-ified holiday music with the help of Kaiser George and The World Famous Pontani Sisters. In the years since then, the masked men have collaborated with several vocalists, including Jim “Reverend Horton Heat” Heath, Big Sandy and El Vez. Part Elvis impersonator, part human firecracker, El Vez and his Lovely Elvettes help to bring a great deal of kitsch and camp back to Los Straitjackets’ live show.

Seeing as how everyone has heard every interpretation of every holiday song ever written, it takes a great deal of showmanship and creativity to keep those stodgy old seasonal tunes fresh. Los Straitjackets do it the way their forefathers, The Ventures, did: incorporating musical themes from non-holiday songs (including their own originals) into renditions of Christmas classics. From that, we get “Here Comes Santa Claus,” with a few bars of “Carhop” (from Los Straitjackets’ debut), and the bass line from “La Bamba” starts off “Feliz Navidad” (on their Christmas album, at least…more on that later).

El Vez does a similar trick, interpolating lines and refrains from other songs until they twist and melt into a vaguely holiday cocktail. Oh, and he also wanders in and out of colloquial Spanish in each song. You’d think that blending “Silent Night,” “In The Ghetto” and “Champagne Supernova” as being tricky enough, but El Vez does it while rarely staying in one place on the stage. As El Vez and the Elvettes changed from one outlandish costume into another, Los Straitjackets “serenaded” the crowd with some instrumental versions of “Silver Bells,” “It’s A Marshmallow World” and “The Christmas Song.” El Vez also brought some of his renegade politics to the show, offering himself as Presidential candidate for 2010 with a platform of “the world’s supposed to end in 2012, so what have you got to lose?”

This was the third night of the 2009 ¡Viva Christmas! Tour, and there were still a few things that needed to be ironed out. Then again, that might have just been part of the show. El Vez, who boasts an incendiary version of “Feliz Navidad” asked his masked band to play the song very “punk rock,” but they kept playing the same, mid-tempo version that appears on their own album. After a few tries, it was clear that they had to move on, eventually returning to the song in the encore. The show was such constant and consistent fun, though, that any flubs (intentional or not) can be easily forgiven.

For their encore, two mysterious bundles were placed on the stage. Los Straitjackets came out by themselves to play the only non-holiday songs of the night, fan favorites “Itchy Chicken” and “Tailspin.” When El Vez and the Elvettes returned to the stage (wearing their own wrestling masks, of course), the two bundles were revealed to be massive air-blown inflatable characters of Santa and a snowman. El Vez tried to wrestle the giant cartoons to the ground, but the band’s very busy roadie prevented too much damage. As the whole band took a bow, they were greeted with thunderous applause and uncontrollable smiles from the roomful of pompadoured, tattooed fans.

Click the picture above to see more pictures of Los Straitjackets and El Vez in concert!!

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~ by E. on December 9, 2009.

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