It’s par­adise – Pres­ley style

Re­lease the hound dogs and dust off your blue suede shoes – Aus­tralia’s first of­fi­cial Elvis trib­ute fes­ti­val swings into Surfers Par­adise to­mor­row, writes Maria Lewis.

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World-renowned Elvis trib­ute artist Mark An­thony F you see loads of men in tight, be­jew­elled jump­suits walk­ing around Surfers Par­adise over the week­end don’t be alarmed – just be pre­pared to rock, jail­house style.

Aus­tralia’s first of­fi­cial Elvis trib­ute fes­ti­val be­gins to­mor­row night in cel­e­bra­tion of what would have been The King’s 77th birth­day. The Elvis Birth­day Bash runs across three nights and fea­tures live con­certs from some of the best Elvis im­per­son­ators in the world, art exhibitions, film screen­ings and more.

Among the hip-gy­rat­ing croon­ers per­form­ing is Ade­laide lo­cal Mark An­thony, one of the top five Elvis trib­ute artists in the world. An­thony spends 10 months of the year per­form­ing in the US and re­turned to Aus­tralia for the fes­ti­val.

‘‘This is the first fes­ti­val in Aus­tralia to be sanc­tioned by Elvis Pres­ley Enterprises (of­fi­cial cus­to­di­ans of Elvis’s legacy) and so I’m ex­cited to be a part of it,’’ he says.

‘‘De­pend­ing on how it goes, it would be great to do it again next year.’’

A former jazz drum­mer, An­thony says he con­sid­ered be­com­ing an Elvis trib­ute per­former af­ter he started to tire of play­ing ‘‘the same styles of mu­sic’’ over and over.

‘‘First and fore­most I was an Elvis fan and al­ways will be,’’ he says.

‘‘I wanted to do some­thing I knew I wouldn’t get tired off and peo­ple had pestered me to do the Elvis thing for years but I was hes­i­tant. I thought if you wanted to see Elvis you could just put on a DVD and watch him. Then my views started to change and I saw there was a way to present Elvis to a younger crowd and keep his spirit and mu­sic alive.’’

An­thony says ed­u­cat­ing the ‘‘next gen­er­a­tion’’ about the Mem­phis-born mu­sic leg­end is one of the key rea­sons he was been per­form­ing as Elvis for over eight years.

‘‘Ev­ery show I do some­one brings their kids along and af­ter­wards they come up and talk to me,’’ he says.

‘‘They go there not know­ing who Elvis is and they leave hav­ing learnt about him. ‘‘If I can con­vert one kid ev­ery show, that’s my pay­ment.’’ De­spite his Aussie ori­gins, An­thony has been con­vert­ing even the most hard­core Elvis fans and in Au­gust won the pres­ti­gious Spirit of Elvis award.

An­other high­light of the Elvis Birth­day Bash will be a photo ex­hi­bi­tion fea­tur­ing the best pieces from Elvis’s of­fi­cial pho­tog­ra­pher and tour man­ager Ed Bonja.

Bonja will join the event as an of­fi­cial judge along­side Gold Coast may­oral can­di­date Dean Ve­gas for the ul­ti­mate Elvis trib­ute artist com­pe­ti­tion.

The Elvis Birth­day Bash plays Surfers Par­adise beach and fore­shore from 6pm to­mor­row un­til Sun­day. Fes­tiv­i­ties be­gin at 1.30pm on the week­end.

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