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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

The King Is Alive in Emigre Rock Band

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The three Russians who will play at Sixteen Tons on Friday have a cross-dressing Elvis to thank for their careers.

Yury Yuzov was sound asleep more than six years ago when the king of rock 'n' roll came to him in a dream wearing a short red dress. The attire may have been a good fashion move in Elvis' young, pretty phase, but this was the older, fat Elvis in a red dress. Whatever the fashion calamity, though, Yuzov took the hint and the name of the group Red Elvises was born.

Red Elvises is composed of three Russian emigres, Yuzov, Oleg Bernov and Zhenya Kolykhanov, who are based in California and have played all over North America. Now they are bringing their energetic rock back home for the first time.

Rock and roll, or rokenrol as it's written on the band's T-shirts, is the music of the band, but it is played with a definite mix of Russian, Eastern European and Gypsy influences.

All members of the group come from a background of playing traditional Russian music. Bernov was a member of Limpopo, a group that once won the Star Search program in the United States with their odd brand of folk music, and Kolykhanov is a crowd-pleaser with his performances on a six-string contrabass balalaika.

Russian folk music and rock are "the farthest thing away from each other," said Yuzov. "[Folk] is sad, and rock and roll is the opposite. It's for having a good time."

Dressing up and bouncing around on stage is all part of the group's image, but in real life they're just as energetic. Before a recent interview, they were found jumping up and down on a rope bridge hanging in the New Vasyuki restaurant and pulling down their pants for an impromptu fashion show.

Yuzov shows off a pair of boxer shorts in the red, white and blue of the U.S. flag, explaining in precise detail what the stars and stripes mean and showing off the knowledge he had to learn to become an American citizen.

Playing up for television cameras this week, Yuzov, who wears an Elvis 'do, said wraparound sunglasses are Elvis glasses.

"You can get as drunk as possible and no one will see your drunken face," he said. "You become Elvis."

The Red Elvises' flavor for spectacle was honed on the streets of the U.S. West Coast, where they packed streets with their playing and crowd-pulling antics.

"For us it was a good school," said Bernov, whose hair is colored a bright red. "It was even too easy."

After three years on the streets the band began performing in clubs and touring, even setting up their own record company so they could sell their records at their shows. The American version of Playboy magazine has given them two thumbs-up.

To kick off their Moscow tour, the band played earlier this week at New Vasyuki, which is owned by a college friend of Bernov's. Pop diva Alla Pugachyova and British director Terry Gilliam turned up, and Pugachyova got on stage to jam with the band.

"She said that if she hadn't married Filipp [Kirkorov] she'd have married Igor," said Oleg Bernov. "But she pointed to me."

On their first Russian tour the response has been good, with some people singing along to both the Russian and English songs. "We were surprised that we had a following," said Yuzov.

Nevertheless the band feels that rock is still more an American pastime, saying in Russia it's "like Martians singing their music."

But they have enjoyed the night scene in Moscow. "I miss this kind of insanity, being able to party all night," said Kolykhanov, who was returning to Russia for the first time in 10 years. "There's no nightlife in America like here."

Kolykhanov's absence shows as he forgets the occasional word in Russian, and he Russifies English words, saying zajamovat for jamming.

None of the band members plans to return to Russia, however. They have their band and will be touring all over the United States from July and September. Then they may return for another tour here, but not for good. "If we'd had lived in Russia we'd have played different music," Yuzov said.

The Red Elvises play Friday at 11 p.m. at Sixteen Tons. On July 4 they play at 9 p.m. at Club Tochka, and on July 7 at 11:30 p.m. at Bunker.