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Are You Lonesome Tonight? 

Wednesday, Jul 21 1999
To paraphrase the Landmark Theaters trailer, the language of Elvis is universal. It's why countries the world over send tourists to Graceland and Elvis impersonators to Las Vegas. It's why we have El Vez and the Red Elvises, three Siberians who left Russia for L.A. and parlayed their classical theater training into a dramatic version of the American Dream. Nearly every day for the last three years, Oleg Bernov, Zhenya Kolykhanov, and Igor Yuzov, with American drummer Avi Sills, have played Santa Monica's Third Street Promenade, bumbling their way into listener's hearts with the infectious enthusiasm of a wedding band. Their cheerful verve paid off in appearances on Melrose Place and VH1, a soundtrack gig for Six String Samurai, and their very own PBS concert film, Red Elvises Live on Pacific Ocean.

Despite the name and the flamboyant retro threads, however, the Red Elvises aren't Elvis impersonators. They're showmen with a clearly genuine appreciation for American pop culture. Like wild 'n' crazy guys, they've got girls on their minds ("I gave her a ring," Yuzov sings in "Sad Cowboy Song"'s heavily Russian-accented double entendre, "she gave me the finger"). They like spy movies and outer space and energetic dancing, too; all this, set to an unlikely but appealing mix of vintage rockabilly and Russian folk music (dubbed "Siberian surfabilly") make the Cold War seem like a silly little misunderstanding. The Red Elvises play at 10:30 p.m. Friday at Club Cocomo, 650 Indiana (at 18th Street), S.F. Admission is $10; call 824-6910. (

About The Author

Heather Wisner


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