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Rubberneckin’

A conversation between Brown’s Island headliners El Vez and Doug MacMillan of the Connells.

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The other two acts on the bill could hardly seem more different: El Vez and the Connells. The former is a flamboyant Mexican Elvis impersonator with a cult following, the latter a veteran North Carolina alt-rock group. Where the Connells have produced moody gems like the song “’74-’75,” El Vez has poured pico de gallo over pop classics to create such records as “Graciasland” and “Say it Loud! I’m Brown and I’m Proud!”

Style Weekly asked Connells lead singer — and El Vez fan — Doug MacMillan to catch up with El Vez. As it turns out, Saturday won’t be the first time they’ve shared a stage.



Doug MacMillan: I wondered if you had maybe remembered that we met, very briefly, a few years ago at the Cat’s Cradle in Chapel Hill. I was in a group — the name of which none of us can remember — that opened for you. We did mostly a tribute to Prince, with a couple of other gems thrown in — Zep’s “Tangerine,” Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ the Crazy Life.” Either way, that was my first El Vez experience, and my bandmates and I were blown away.

I’m anxious to see how your performance will differ from my indoctrination show. Any chance we’ll see the ’68 leather comeback suit?


El Vez: I can’t remember the last show you saw, although I remember the venue and the night. It was a particularly odd night for us. A new crew person, a friend of a friend, quit on us that night, and it was very odd. He was odd.

No ’68 comeback special suit in this show. It’s a Cinco de Mayo show of sorts, touching on some roots of the Latino experience and, of course, the song “Cinco de Mayo” from my “Graciasland” CD. It’s the only time we play that song.

DM: Does Cinco de Mayo mean a great deal to you, or do you view it the same way that the Irish view the American St. Patrick’s Day?

EV: In real Mexico it’s not much. It’s like the battle of Bunker Hill or something minor like that. Mexican Independence Day is on Sept. 16, and in Mexico that is like the Fourth of July. It’s bigger in the U.S., perhaps for commercial reasons — sounds good, easier to market? To me it’s a good day. I’m always busy around then. To a Mexican Elvis impersonator, Cinco de Mayo is like Christmas.



DM: I’m sure that you must have some very rabid fans. Are there any that frighten you, are stalkeresque?

EV: Naw, if they stalk too much I put them to work. Nothing less glamorous then seeing how things really are. We have had fans follow us across Europe, go to London from New York, get their personalized license plate names after me, get tattoos made from my signature, make portraits of me in dried beans, peas and rice.



DM: When you try something new during your performance, are some of the more die-hard fans less accepting? We have experienced that at times when performing new material, although sometimes it can go the other way. We’ll be testing those waters on May 1.

EV: To be honest, like Ricky Nelson said, “You can’t please everyone, so you’ve got to please yourself.” I mainly think about what would I like and what points I’m trying to get across. I know lots of my info is lost. I can’t expect everyone to have the same Elvis, Mexican history, rock history, pop history as me, so I don’t even worry about it. Not that I don’t care — I know that they will be entertained.



DM: Will you be talking up your run at the White House? I know that the official “El Vez for Prez” tour doesn’t kick off for some time now. What are the issues that you feel closest to? Are you at all influenced by the campaign style of Pat Paulsen from the ‘60’s and ‘70’s?

EV: I will be touching upon my running for president. One of the things that scares me the most is the Patriot Act. It’s a great ploy to take away civil rights and is a scare tactic to lull people into thinking “it’s for your own welfare and security.” Scary stuff.

I wouldn’t say I’m influenced by Pat Paulsen’s style. He was sort of mild-mannered. I’m more rocking and dressed better. S

The eighth annual Cinco de Mayo Fiesta benefits SCAN (Stop Child Abuse Now) and runs from noon to 9 p.m Saturday on Brown’s Island. The performers include Bio Ritmo (1:45), Terrance Simien & The Zydeco Experience (2:45), The Connells (4:30), Fighting Gravity (6:10) and El Vez (7:45). Tickets cost $8 in advance, $10 at the gate. For more information visit www.brownsisland.com.

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