El Vez: Breaking Barriers and Building Walls

Robert Lopez wraps up the year with El Vez at the Casbah

El Vez at the 930 Club 573

You may have seen a poster of a Ricky Ricardo-looking fellow with a santa hat around town.

That would be Robert Lopez -- and he is literally all over the place: DJ gigs in Pittsburg, performing at Teatro ZinZanni theatre in Seattle, writing scripts, touring Europe, and playing with the Little Richards in San Diego (to name a few). Now, Lopez brings his variety show, El Vez (the Mexican Elvis), to the Casbah on Dec. 23 for a “Mex-mas” show decorated with political innuendos and tributes.

The project began in 1988 right here in San Diego. The Elvis-inspired cover songs are performed by top-notch local musicians along with the theatrical touch of Lopez -- creating a show that may come off as extravagant and peculiar.

I caught Lopez over the phone after yoga, although the excitement in his voice suggested that he hopped off the treadmill rather than a yoga mat.

“This show is almost like a year wrap-up of doing tributes [such as] Leonard Cohen, and David Bowie," Lopez told me. "There will be some Fidel Castro stuff in there -- a really political show. A lot of anti-Trump and the show ends with us building a wall. I just put this show together in about a month [before the elections], but with how the elections went, it just inspired me to speak up and creatively say what is on my mind.”

With El Vez zoning in on 30 years, Lopez always has a different agenda in mind. Whether he is tackling politically-present issues, or mixing Beyonce songs with Charlie Brown, Lopez keeps El Vez interesting to himself and to his audience.

“It was funny to me that Trump used the Rolling Stones’ 'You Can’t Always Get What You Want,' so we’re kind of taking that back, but switching it with 'St. James Infirmary' [Louis Armstrong] and mixing it with 'Strange Fruit' [Billie Holiday]. It’ll have a little Beyonce. That 'Formation' song gets thrown into it, so a real funny mix of stuff.”

Joining Lopez will be some local musicians including Jason Hanna on trumpet, Pat Beers of the Schizophonics (who you can also see at SoundDiego LIVE on Jan. 20) and some elf back-up singers. Even though Lopez moved to Seattle 15 years ago, he remains a large contributor to San Diego’s music scene. According to him, he comes down to San Diego every couple of months (for family and the Little Richards). He shared his opinion on the differences between the two cities.

“I do not have have the community that I have in San Diego with all of my friends there, like ‘Oh, come play with us in this show’ or ‘Let’s make a new project’ and I think everyone [in San Diego] inspires each other to be better and to do more, which I really enjoy. I don’t have that in Seattle, that’s why I keep coming to San Diego [laughing].”

El Vez headline the Casbah on Friday, Dec. 23 with the Bassics and Pony Death Ride opening. Tickets are $25 at the door.

Musician, people-pleaser, lover, fighter and writer Matthew Craig Burke has been spewing musical words of wisdom since never. He lives off of peanut butter sandwiches, beer and Beck Hansen. Follow his updates on Facebook or contact him directly.

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