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Living in Southern California, there is never a shortage of things to do on a Friday night. Given the chaos of the "silly season," I decided to take a break from it all and slide on down to The Observatory in Santa Ana to check out one of the most intriguing acts on the road today, The World's First and Only Heavy Metal Mariachi BandMetalachi. Opening the festivities was Las Vegas's favorite son, Elviss Simmons and The Memphis Strutters. Given the reputation of these two bands, the utter entertainment value should surely be off the charts tonight.

Parking was scarce as I approached the theater, signaling a packed house with fans inching along in their vehicles and on foot to get inside. After being greeted by the familiar and friendly staff at the Observatory, I waded through the antsy fans and made my way upfront. After a brief delay, the curtain finally dropped, and there he was. The imposing and commanding figure of Elviss Simmons stood before us. He and his band's calling card are mashups of Elvis Presley and KISS tunes. The rockers reinterpreted into big-band creations, and the Elvis classics were, in swing style. One of the smartest and engaging things I've ever seen. Imagine Elvis with Gene Simmons makeup, demon boots, and iconic axe guitar, (with backup singers each with their KISS makeup as well). Also, a full horn section, all belting out their unique take on these classics, and you find yourself fully engaged. What an absolute kick-in-the-pants good time they were.

Next up was the reason everyone was clamoring to get in; Metalachi. The all-ages crowd was brimming with anticipation, and tension was filling the air. I witnessed toddlers clamoring for position and on one occasion, and rampant little one crashing into a patron with a walker! Accidentally, of course.  I was convinced this band is for everyone before they even played a note. When the group finally made its way onstage, The crowd responded with a loud, sustained roar of approval. They wasted no time satisfying each and everyone in attendance. Their covers range from Black Sabbath to Guns n Roses to Metallica and everything in between. The neat thing is you do not only hear music when you see Metalachi, but you're getting a complete show. The band, Vega de la Rockha (vocals), El Cucuy (trumpet), Paco Halen (guitars), Kiko Cane (guitarrón), and fan-favorite Queen Kyla Vera (violin), were on point from note #1. 

Vega, in between songs, injected some comedic banter with the crowd and with El Cucuy (when he was not tossing around his trademark codpiece) and was wildly entertaining.  Even with Paco throwing his hair around on guitar, and Kiko banging away on the guitarrón keeping the back end secure, everyone's attention seemed to center around the dynamic Queen Kyla. The violinist extraordinaire who bounced between the classic guitar melodies and solos for all the famous songs. She had the crowd eating from her hand all evening, and indeed her mastery of the violin knows no bounds. I caught myself multiple times, looking for a traditional guitar hiding somewhere during some of the solos. Surely those sounds weren't coming from a violin, were they?

Towards the end of the show, they surprised all of us by unveiling a drum set.   Surprise special guest Art Cruz from Lamb of God would be joining them on drums for their rendition of Motorhead's "Ace of Spades".  What a great way to end the night.  Having had such a great time at this show, I realized that it wouldn't matter if you were a Heavy Metal fan introduced to Mariachi music or a mariachi fan introduced to Heavy Metal, the entertainment level would be the same. As the fans were spilling out to the parking lot on the way out, I tried to figure out which category each smiling face fell into. In the end, though it didn't matter, the one thing they did have in common was everyone had a blast!

Happy Holidays everyone, and have an excellent 2020! Be well and rock on!

John McAteer

Photojournalist - Orange County

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