Every year, just as the flecks of confetti are being picked off the floor from New Year's Eve parties, another cause for celebration rears its pompadour-ed head. This as-yet-not-a-national-holiday is, of course, the birth of Elvis Presley, an event celebrated in the Triangle with Elvisfest, at Local 506 in Chapel Hill.
This year, the party is stretched over two nights, Friday, Jan. 9 and Saturday, Jan. 10. Organizer Dave Quick has only one tenet for the musicians recruited to play throughout the festival: that they play at least two Elvis cuts. It's a small price to pay to participate: All it takes is a cursory glance at recent pop culture and the rock music landscape to see that the spirit of the King and his influence is still growing.
For example, the City of Memphis is celebrating 50 years of rock 'n' roll based on the release of Elvis' first record, "That's All Right." Come July, there will even be a "Global Moment in Time" when radio stations the world over will simultaneously play the song. Here in Carolina, it's be all about hearing 20 different bands give their takes on Presley numbers, both classic and underrated, with some peanut butter and banana sandwiches, fried chicken and jelly donuts thrown in.
Featured in the lineup this year are local favorites (grouped together on Friday) like Buzzsawyer, TCB (Quick's group often devoted to Sun Sessions and earlier rockabilly-styled scorchers), and our own crooner with flair, Dexter Romweber. The out-of-towners range from regular E-fest visitors like Billy Joe Winghead to newcomers like in-the-red rockers the Cowslingers. There is even a real live Elvis impersonator (who calls himself, simply, "Elvis," and who Quick describes as "having his heart in the right place.) Also rising from the dead is the cracked rockabilly character Hillbilly Wolf. The party is again split between the 506 ("Heartbreak Hotel") and the Carolina Sports Bar ("The Jungle Room"), starting at 8 p.m. each night, with rotating sets between the two venues.
Like his life, the Elvis legacy today is full of twists and turns both inspiring and peculiar. Recently, RCA released two remastered song collections, with some previously unreleased material and a dance remix of "A Little Less Conversation." The collection was a hit in Europe, the first for the King in the 21st Century. Add to that Lisa Marie's phoenix-like rise from the ashes, overcoming her celebrity mishaps (including being married to Michael Jackson) and releasing her first solo album to wide acclaim. Since Elvis' effect and influence on all rock music is inherent, and internalized so much, Elvisfest is also an opportunity for folks who might not otherwise play Elvis-styled music to cut loose on some of his stuff. It's a lot about the music, and a good bit about the fun, the schmaltz that lets us laugh with Elvis. Quick says, "The thing about it for me is that he was a fantastic singer, a great musician, but everybody (participating) is welcome to do what they want (in their tribute to him)." Get out those oversized shades, and check into the Heartbreak Hotel for two nights of rockin' fun, or as Quick puts it, "live like a king for a couple of days."
Friday, Jan. 9
8 p.m. Sports Bar The Swaggarts
8:30 p.m. Local 506 Taz Halloween
9 p.m. Sports Bar The Black Mona-Lisa's
9:30 p.m. Local 506 The Spooks
10 p.m. Sports Bar Straight 8's
10:30 p.m. Local 506 4 on the Floor
11 p.m. Sports Bar Rocket 350
11:30 p.m. Local 506 Buzzsawyer
12 a.m. Sports Bar TCB
12:30 a.m. Local 506 Dexter Romweber & Crash Laresh
Saturday, Jan. 10
8 p.m. Sports Bar Bo-Stevens
8:30 p.m. Local 506 Star City Wildcats
9 p.m. Sports Bar Leroy Fix
9:30 p.m. Local 506 Cletis & his City Cousins
10 p.m. Sports Bar Octane Saints
10:30 p.m. Local 506 The Creeps
11 p.m. Sports Bar Hillbilly
Werewolf & Elvis
11:30 p.m. Local 506 Psychocharger
12 a.m. Sports Bar Cowslingers
12:30 a.m. Local 506 Billy Joe Winghead