Masked Rockers 

Los Straightjackets strive to make their surf-rock, above all, entertaining.

"It's not going to be all Christmas stuff, but older stuff, too," guitarist Eddie Angel explains. "It'll be pretty entertaining. Definitely a Christmas vibe."

In addition to the Christmas tunes off the band's recent CD, "'Tis the Season for Los Straitjackets!," Angel adds that the band brings its own dance group to add to the festivities. This time around, "The World Famous Pontani Sisters" and their '60s go-go act accompany the Straitjackets' surf-mambo rock.

"They're kind of a burlesque troupe," Angel says. "They don't strip or anything. … They're totally original. They really mine the past with their costumes."

The Pontani Sisters act may strike a bizarre-sounding note, but that is par for the course for a Los Straitjackets show. This group has been all about putting good times back into rock 'n' roll since it accidentally stumbled onto its Mexican wrestling mask personas in a Nashville garage in 1994.

"We're trying to bring back entertainment to rock 'n' roll," Angel says. "[From the beginning] we did want to entertain people. I don't want to hear people sing about being angry. To me, that's boring. Entertainment is one of the key elements missing [from rock] for a long time. We don't want to be a joke, but we think our job is to entertain."

Angel freely admits there are more comfortable ways to party down than wearing tight leather masks onstage every night. But he explains there was little planning at the onset.

"We weren't thinking of starting a band. We were fooling around. [Guitarist] Danny [Amis] had been going down to Mexico and he had this big box of wrestling masks. … It kind of evolved from that. I don't think you can plan things like that. It works out really good. It obviously catches people's attention. We're hard to ignore."

As it turns out, the attention grabbers not only work in the states and Europe, but Mexicans loved the masks, too.

"We played in Mexico City one time, and it was the wildest gig we've ever done. …They were very flattered someone was paying attention to their culture. Danny still goes down there and he says there are now like 10 bands that[wear masks]."

Masks and costumes do only so much if the music is lame. But fortunately, Los Straitjackets' whammy-bar brand of guitar surf tunes succeeds on rock 'n' roll levels, and the group has worked with some of its '60s rock heroes such as The Trashmen and Link Wray. In February, the band co-hosts a four-day cruise to Baja with the Ventures. Playing about 100 shows a year, the Nashville-based band plans more recording and stage show changes.

"Who knows? Maybe one day we'll have our own TV show," Angel says with a laugh. "But I'm doing something I only dreamed of. I'm not Bruce Springsteen, but it's pretty fun." S



Los Straitjackets plays Alley Katz Wed., Dec. 18 at 9 p.m. Tickets $10 in advance at Plan 9 and www.musictoday.com, or $12 at the door.

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