L.A.'s Elvis Birthday Bash turns 25
The Elvis Birthday Bash, L.A.’s annual tribute to the King, has become a lot like the man himself since his death: Both have been sighted in all sorts of disparate locations as the years have rolled by.
For the 25th anniversary event tonight, this gathering of up to three dozen performers will set down at the Echoplex in Echo Park, one of at least a dozen different venues that has hosted the freewheeling show over the years. The roster runs from such local roots-rock stalwarts as the Blasters, Candye Kane and Ray Campi to Michelle Shocked, Bakersfield’s Dusk Devils and Japan’s Jimmy Angel.
Surprise guests have included Dwight Yoakam, Dave Edmunds and early rock guitar hero James Burton. Coordinator Art Fein, who’s been helping organize the bash since 1987, a year after Southland rockabilly enthusiasts James Intveld and Ronnie Mack started it, won’t say who might drop in at the last minute this year, but noted, “One unusual and highly welcome addition has been [actor-comedian] Fred Willard, who loves Elvis and comes every year.”
There are basically only two rules governing the show: No song may be repeated, and “no ETAs: that’s Elvis Tribute Artists -- it’s an actual professional term, I’ve learned,” Fein said with a chuckle. “It’s strictly about loving Elvis and his music, as interpreted by 30 to 35 diverse acts….The funny thing is, the most common songs are usually overlooked because people are trying to be clever. I don’t think I’ve heard ‘Hound Dog’ in 25 years.”
It’s scheduled to run from 8 p.m. till 2 a.m., and admission is $20. Proceeds this year will be split between a Hollywood homeless organization and the L.A. Fire Department Fallen Firefighters Memorial Foundation, the latter a favorite project of City Councilman Tom LaBonge, another longtime champion of the Elvis Birthday Bash.
Keeping the event alive for a quarter century, Fein said, has been “a pleasant headache.”
-- Randy Lewis
Photo: Sony Music