By CHRISTOPHER ORTIZ, Featured Writer, The Merced Sun Star
Celina Perez is anxious. A band she wants to see will be playing in Merced on Feb. 4. She looks very modern, with bright purple hair highlights. She has a piercing in her lip. She has a few tattoos that adorn her arms and shoulder.
Yet for all these mod characteristics, her style is ’50s rock ‘n’ roll. Her hair is styled big, in a pompadour with an enlarged bump on top and a bright red rose. Her jeans are pegged at the bottom as if she were heading for a sock hop.
Her friends seem to play the part of accessories to her own look. Some seem as if they come right out of an Elvis (Presley, not Costello) film — except for the modern fashions, hair-coloring, tats and piercings. They look like ’50s pin-up models for 2012 — perfect makeup and not a hair out of place.
Celina and her friends are part of a growing subculture that has invaded California and is cruising through Merced.
The Greaser phenomenon is an interesting one, considering its roots are steeped in a decade that occurred more than 50 years back. On the traditional front, Rockabilly kids display a more classic look. Guys wear Levis that are cuffed, their hair is like that of the King of rock ‘n’ roll himself, they’re clean-shaven — but tattooed. They love vintage cars and join car clubs that sport pre-’65 vehicles. To see them you’d think 1959 was still here. My dad would totally love the scene.
But travel a little farther south in California and the Greaser scene morphs into something called Psychobilly. The look is still there, but now it carries a more punk-rock aesthetic. Pompadours take on new heights and looks. Some of those “quiff” hairstyles seem to rise six inches above the head. Shirts have become sleeveless with pictures of local SoCal Psychobilly bands silk-screened on them. They wear leopard-print shoes called “Creepers.” Like their friends to the north, they also have car clubs and love tattoos.
You might be a little intimidated by their look. But no reason to be. Some, in fact, should be commended for helping people in society.
Enter Sophia Mendoza, president for the female social club, the Belladonna Beauties, a highly respected and recognized group of women who have strong roots in this scene. Mendoza is from Merced, but the club boasts members from Modesto, San Jose and Vacaville. Besides promoting events and supporting concerts like the one on Feb. 4, they schedule events that will help people.
“We are planning a concert in the next few months to benefit stroke victims, with the proceeds going to a local hospital,” she said. “Also, we’re doing a homeless awareness concert where donated canned food will act as admittance. We are also looking to work with women’s empowerment groups as well.”
Back to Celina’s anxiousness and Feb. 4. Who’s actually playing, representing this retro scene and bringing all these adoring people here? What do these people listen to?
Just as with its distinctive look, this scene has a distinctive sound. It’s a look laced with a rock ‘n’ roll sound that was popular in ’59, but revved up for a more modern time. Like all music scenes, there are patriarchs and matriarchs, and one of the patriarchs would definitely be the Chop Tops. They’ll be headlining VIVA! Merced on Feb. 4 at the Partisan.
Also playing will be Modesto’s Refuzniks, Merced’s Gearbox, Sonora’s Rockin’ Rick and the Rhythm Wranglers, and Southern California’s Full Tilt Trio. It all kicks off at 8 p.m. at 432 W. Main Street downtown.
Along with Celina, there will be a lot of other people from all over the Central Valley coming to Merced that night. The music may sound like “be-bop-a-lula,” but the blue suede shoes will now be Creepers.
Source: The Merced Sun Star