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Tongo Hiti, Lysa Flores, El Vez
The Earl
August 2008

Text and photos by Frederick Noble

El Vez is one of those artists I heard so much about over the years I finally had to see him for myself. After that first time, at the Echo Lounge on the El Vez for Pres 2004 tour, I regretted ever skipping the other times he came through town. I haven't missed a show since, and even a Sunday night gig wouldn't keep me away this time.

But first up, Tongo Hiti, one of the many Mike Geier efforts. This particular ensemble does covers of random popular tunes in a vaguely Hawaiian style, perfect for their gigs at Trader Vic's but somewhat out of place in any other setting.

Tonight's set included a visit to my own personal experiences in 10th grade with Joe Jackson's Stepping Out, a few seconds of U2, and Holy Diver by Ronnie James Dio.

But the crowd's favorite was a Metallica-tinged cover of Celine Dion's launchpad hit, My Heart Must Go On. I don't think there was a person in the place who wasn't grinning ear to ear.

Not mentioned in the lineup before the show, we were surprised to see another act setting up. But it was a pleasant surprise, once Lysa Flores started playing. She does some Spanish-language songs and some in English about the Mexican-American experience, all in a style vaguely reminiscent of local acts Tiger! Tiger! or Ultrababyfat - 90's riot grrl kinda stuff. Good, and she ain't exactly unpleasant to look at either.

But eventually the stage was set, with Lysa Flores and others as band members, and a spotlight shone toward the back of the room where El Vez himself appeared, in full Uncle Sam attire. He made a stump speech of sorts then moved through the crowd shaking hands and kissing babies before taking the stage.

As you might expect from a gay, minority, California-living artist, he's not exactly keen on the current administration and he's not afraid to say so. Or sing so. He tore through Alice Cooper's Elected, then on through dozens, if not hundreds, of musical reference jokes - more snippets of rock and roll musical history than you could shake a ballot at. As if weaving together random rock references, political statements and satire weren't enough, there was dancing and costume changes galore.

By the end of the show I was blown away yet again. I bought a poster, a spoof of the classic Uncle Sam "I want you" with El Vez as Uncle Sam, "You want ME."
El Vez autographed it, "From a king to a prez."
It hangs on the wall of my government office.


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