The Hartford Courant
"We're the opposite of a jam band," says guitarist Eddie Angel, days before the start of an East Coast tour. "Everything we do is sort of rehearsed, so there's not a lot of leeway."
Rigidity and rock 'n' roll don't often mix, but in the case of Los Straitjackets — four ace players who take the stage in black Chuck Taylors, Aztec medallions and Mexican "lucha libre" wrestling masks — there's a good reason for sticking with the script.
"First and foremost, we want to put on a good show and make sure everyone is entertained," Angel says. "As opposed to when you go see Bob Dylan, and he sings 'Blowing in the Wind,' and you can't even recognize the song. We don't subscribe to that theory."
"I understand where he's coming from," he adds. "It seems like it's more important to him that he expresses himself than it is he entertains the audience. We're coming from the opposite end of the spectrum."
Or maybe the other end of the galaxy. Even when they're not touring with burlesque dancers or colorful guest vocalists, such as California neo-rockabilly king Big Sandy, the Jackets go for spectacle, recycling decades of American junk culture.
They draw on Vegas kitsch, vintage sci-fi comic books and campy B movies, imagining what four Creatures from the Black Lagoon might look like if they got a hold of sparkly guitars and played one of Frankie and Annette's '60s beach parties.
Known primarily as surf rockers, the Jackets don't limit themselves to Ventures covers or tunes from the "Pulp Fiction" soundtrack. Live, they might follow Link Wray's proto-punk fuzz-bomb "Rumble" with Sam Cooke's "You Send Me" or even Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On," proving that almost no song is off limits.
"People are always asking me if it's sort of restricting playing instrumental, and I'm like, 'No, man, we can do whatever we want,'" Angel says. "We can go from exotica to surf to rockabilly to mambo to spaghetti westerns, anything, you know? It's funny how people have this preconceived notion, that it's a one-trick pony or something."
Los Straitjackets performs with Sarah Borges at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Iron Horse Music Hall, 20 Center St., Northampton. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Information: 413-586-8686 or http://www.iheg.com.