Los straitjackets' Christmas Pageant featuring the World Famous pontani Sisters and the Tijuana Bibles at the Horseshoe (370 Queen West), Tuesday (December 9). $10 advance, $12 door. 416-870-8000. Rating: NNNNN
The masked members of Los Straitjackets figured out long ago that they needed an attention-grabbing gimmick to make a living playing instrumental rock 'n' roll. Yet the nutty Mexican wrestling headgear, colourful as it is, doesn't naturally lend itself to a holiday-season concept show. To put on their festive Christmas Pageant, they needed a little something extra to spruce up the Ventures-inspired surf-style revisions of the familiar Yuletide faves - Frosty The Snowman, Let It Snow, Sleigh Ride, etc - they cut for last year's cheery 'Tis The Season For Los Straitjackets (Yep Roc) disc.
Strangely enough, they found exactly what they were looking for at the top of the World Trade Center.
"About three years ago," recalls Eddie Angel from his Nashville pad, "we got a gig at the Windows on the World bar on the top floor of the World Trade Center. Every Friday night the place was done up like a go-go club straight out of the Jetsons, and the DJ would spin cool tunes from the 60s while Wall Street brokers danced alongside tourists and New York hipsters.
"The opening act was the Pontani Sisters, who had these great dance routines worked out for numbers like Mambo Italiano. Not quite burlesque, it was more like interpretive dance. We kept in touch with them over the years, and when we started talking about touring our Christmas album, they were right on it. They've got their moves all choreographed for our set, and their costumes are amazing - the whole show is highly entertaining."
The theatrical component that Angie, Tara and Helen Pontani bring to Los Straitjackets' Christmas Pageant has gotten the ever-enterprising Angel thinking about raising the performance stakes even higher.
"We'd really like to turn the Christmas show into an off-Broadway kinda theatre production. Instead of playing a series of one-nighters across the country, we thought it would make sense to stage the show as maybe a week-long engagement in a few major cities like, say, New York, Chicago and Toronto. Right now we're looking for contacts in the theatre community and considering different venues."
That's just one of the many projects Los Straitjackets are considering at the moment. Besides a follow-up to their successful showdown with Chicago blues guitar great Eddie "The Chief" Clearwater, they've got a children's record in the works and a possible collaboration with Dave Alvin.
"We share a booking agent with Dave, so we've crossed paths a number of times. But when you see him playing now, it's usually the serious singer/songwriter stuff. I was thinking we might be able to bring out Dave's sillier side."
It seems like Alvin would be just the man for the old-school country & western session that's been long overdue from Los Straitjackets.
"We were actually thinking of doing more of a Blasters-style fun rock 'n' roll record with Dave, but now that you mention it, an album of twangy country & western might be a better idea for us. I'm going to have to write that down."