I’m not usually one for a gimmick, but if it’s some dude who dresses up like dead Elvis (just to be clear, he doesn’t dress up like Elvis, who happens to be dead; he dresses like an already-dead Elvis) and plays rockabilly, I’m there. Like, no question. I’m seeing that. How could anyone not want to see that?
But before Dead Elvis was Beijing band Low Bow, a really loud, lo-fi, blues rock duo. Really loud, did I mention that? Richard Doran on guitar and Michael Cupoli on drums. They were pretty good. And really loud. I actually didn’t see much of the set but I’m pretty sure I saw them at Uptown Records once before, playing in one of the little rooms around there, and I like what I heard, even though I had to stand outside the room in order to listen to them (with earplugs, dude). Plus, they’re just upstanding guys, which is always nice to find in a couple of musicians.
But we were there to see Dead Elvis. Like I said before, I don’t like gimmicks, but Dead Elvis commits. This is what he does. He puts on a white collared jumpsuit that says “Dead Elvis” on the back, pulls on a zombie Elvis mask, and hits the stage. Some popular Elvis poses, works the crowd and all that. I loved it. His music is old style rock ‘n roll, what’s been restyled as “rockabilly,” and I love that too.
All in all, Dead Elvis puts on a good show, with some minor issues. He was a great guitarist and had a positively awesome drum setup as well that’s so simple but so genius: he has a bass and snare drum set up with foot pedals right in front of him so he could play them both along with the guitar. There’s a lot of talent in a one-man band. And his songs had all the popular rockabilly chords progressions and styling, but he lacked any real hooks. His songs could have been any generic 1950s Elvis-inspired pop songs, but I didn’t hear any real melody that actually drew me in or I could remember. So while it was good, it lacked any sort of memorability. Also, there was a lot of echo on the mic (on purpose), so I didn’t understand a word he said all night. Even when he was talking in between songs — nothing. Just echo-y mumbles. Which is a pity, because when I went to look up his music today, his songs all have fab, slightly pun-y titles like “Graveyard Hop” and “Get Outta My Grave.” How awesome is that? It makes me think his lyrics are probably pretty clever too, but I just couldn’t hear them. And his clarity probably wasn’t aided by the fact that he was singing through a dead Elvis mask.
But, you know, it’s a dude in a dead Elvis mask. I can see why he has a cult following. He was high-energy and put on a show, which is what I like to see. Check out his MySpace for a listen.
I’ve got pictures of Dead Elvis sound-checking before the show, sans jumpsuit and mask, but I just don’t feel right putting them up, you know? That’s not who Dead Elvis is. But I will tell you, there’s a good-looking, talented guy under all that.
You can also read an interview with Dead Elvis at SmartShanghai to see some super cool pics of Dead Elvis hitting all of China’s historical attractions.