El Vez Sighting

God works in mysterious ways. How else to explain the sudden appearance of a press release about Elvis on the office bulletin board? Well, maybe the "PLEASE POST THIS ON YOUR BULLETIN BOARD" it requested in polite italics, pulsing with the gentle insistence of ALL CAPS, had something to do with it, but there it was nonetheless: "The Phoenix Friends of C.G. Jung present a workshop concerning Elvis."

A bunch of Jungian analysts sittin' around talkin' about Elvis. As my big-haired cousin Sue Ann, who loved The King so much she named her only son Aaron, would say: "Don't that beat all?" The Jungians have dressed up their workshop with a sequined jumpsuit of a title, "An American Hero's Journey: Archetype of the Soul's Struggle," but it's Elvis they're talking about. And it's El Vez they're talking about, too.

El Vez, the Mexican Elvis. El Vez, El Rey de Rock 'n' Roll. El Vez, a.k.a. Robert Lopez, who's opening his fall "Boxing With God" tour on Wednesday, September 5, at Nita's Hideaway in Tempe.

If Elvis is the archetype -- and the Jungians have it that Elvis as archetype represents the struggle between one's true self and one's false self -- who better than El Vez to represent a contemporary interpretation of that archetype?

The Jungian struggle between the true self and the false self can't hold a Virgen de Guadalupe devotional candle to the "Are you Mexican enough?/Are you too Mexican?" dilemma faced by Mexican Americans. And El Vez is the guy who puts the "arch" into this archetype, whether he's cleverly borrowing from the Elvis lexicon -- "In the Ghetto" becomes "En el Barrio," "Blue Suede Shoes" is retread as "Huaraches Azules" -- or exploring the anima of Chicanismo in "Never Been to Spain" and "Soy un Pocho." (Check out if you want to learn more about pochismo, or if you're simply feeling irony deficient.)

The story of El Vez has no deficiency in the irony department. Back when he was just Robert Lopez -- when he was still in high school, ese -- he cut his musical teeth as rhythm guitarist and vocalist for The Zeros, a Southern California punk band. It's doubtful the thought ever crossed his mind then that someday he would make his living off of what some would dismiss as a novelty act.

But the true novelty of El Vez isn't in his Elvis-meets-East L.A. costumes; his back-up singers, the Lovely Elvettes; or his band, the Memphis Mariachis. His true novelty lies in the breadth and diversity of musical references and styles he can pack into a performance.

Just as Elvis had his many sides -- rock 'n' roll Elvis/gospel Elvis; Hawaii Elvis/Las Vegas Elvis; skinny Elvis/fat Elvis -- El Vez has his. The "Boxing With God" tour promises to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee as it showcases gospel El Vez in fighting trim. He may not be an Oscar de la Hoya in the ring, but at least he can sing.

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Laura Pimentel
Contact: Laura Pimentel