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AC/DC is the quintessential dude's band—a loud, noisy, simplistic, quintessentially teenage dude band. I learned just about everything I know about the fairer sex—i.e., what they're good for and how to treat them—from the wisdom and wit of AC/DC. Like, "I'm just a-giving the dog a bone!" Or, "Let me put my love into you, babe! Let me cut your cake with my knife!" Their lyrics are rife with violence, sexual degradation, misogyny, and all those pathological dreams and urges that—as long as they're nothing but fantasies, you pervos—are quite all right in a rock & roll context. That's the hallmark of the dude band. So what on earth are five women from the grunge-y Pacific Northwest doing touring the country as an AC/DC tribute band called Hell's Belles?
Apparently, having the time of their lives.
"This is the best job I've ever had," says guitarist Adrian "Angus" Conner the day after playing a rather memorable gig at a biker rally near Billings, Montana.
"Usually when we play, everyone comes right onstage, screaming through the songs," she says. "[But last night] the women got close and danced, but the guys just kind of stood back there. They watched and clapped but didn't really participate. I think they were really tripped out that we were chicks and have a black singer."
So, yeah, Hell's Belles is a little different from the original. But they've kept all the most important things intact: while AC/DC did its whole satanic, night-stalking, sexual-predatory posturing with tongue firmly in cheek, the band took its music very seriously. As does Hell's Belles. According to Conner, Hell's Belles is all about having fun, but these chicks aren't parodying AC/DC in the slightest. And don't you dare call them a cover band.
"We're a tribute band," Conner says. "This is timeless music that just rocks. We know the history, we dress up like them, and we try to get as crazy as possible onstage. We do get a lot of people coming out wondering if we can really do it, and it is kind of a novelty because the whole rock thing is so male-dominated. But everyone walks away respecting us for what we're doing."
Conner says the band can play just about all the AC/DC faves note for note. But they don't sound just like the records. And really, not many sane human beings can match the raspy intensity of the Bon Scott/Brian Johnson vocal juggernaut, so Hell's Belles lead singer Om Johari doesn't try. Instead, as the Seattle Union Record wrote, "rather than trying to mimic those legendary rock vocals, Johari belts [it] out Tina Turner-style—quite different, but no less gutsy and exciting."
Too bad you won't hear any recordings of Hell's Belles. To record someone else's song, you need permission. So playing live is what this band is all about—and by all accounts, those live shows are something to see.
"It usually always gets rowdy," says Conner. "When things don't get rowdy is when it's weird."
So how rowdy do things get?
"Sometimes guys will get up onstage, and the singer has to beat them off the stage. And the old Angus got hit in the head once with a battery."
Hold up, please. Is that guys being beaten off the stage, or beaten off onstage?
"The guy gets up there," says Conner, "and the singer beats him up."Hell's Belles performs at the Blue Café, 210 The Promenade, Long Beach, (562) 983-7111; www.thebluecafe.com. Mon., 10 p.m. $5. 21+.