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Hell's Belles on JBLM

Internationally renowned AC/DC tribute band performs for the troops

Carrying the swagger of AC/DC, Hell’s Belles might be better than the real thing. Photo credit: C. Elliott

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How do you take the time-honored bar tradition of the cover band and elevate it? History is positively littered with acts that did their level best to imitate bands that we know and love and, for the most part, they succeeded in delivering a pale imitation of the greats. On the outskirts, though, we do find bands occupying either side of that periphery: groups imitating other groups and utterly failing, and groups imitating other groups and somehow making the whole more than the sum of its parts. In copying famous acts, sometimes it takes turning that act on its head to really get to the heart of what you're trying to convey.

Take AC/DC, for instance. This is an iconic band that aided in injecting hard rock into the mainstream music scene. They were cocksure, flamboyant, and disinterested in joining their contemporaries in embracing the more complex prog-rock or AOR stylings of their peers. They also had a song called "Big Balls," which is about pretty much what you'd imagine it would be.

Cut to Hell's Belles. It's no longer a novelty to find an all-female cover band of a testosterone-heavy band, with acts like the Iron Maidens in existence, but Hell's Belles make it look good. Devoting yourself to invoking another band takes a clear love of that band, but doing it with grace and style and unflinching honesty can turn you into a legend in your own right. So is the case with Hell's Belles, who have been called the best AC/DC cover band by none other than AC/DC's own Angus Young, which must merit its own award of some sort.

What makes a good AC/DC cover band? You need to kick ass, which AC/DC was famously good at. This is the band that produced such indelible classics as "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap," "TNT," "Back in Black," You Shook Me All Night Long," and "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘n' Roll)". The band was a hit machine during a time when ‘70s heavy metal was giving way to the airbrushed - and ultimately less satisfying - era of hair metal.

Hell's Belles capture the essence of AC/DC without falling victim to the fate of other cover bands, languishing in caricature. Yes, lead singer Amber Saxon sports a cabbie hat to portray Brian Johnson, and Adrian Conner dresses in a schoolgirl outfit to pay homage to Angus Young's schoolboy attire, but the energy and no-f@#%*@-given attitude of AC/DC lives on more palpably with the cover act than perhaps the actual band.

As part of the two-day extravaganza of Freedom Fest, Hell's Belles will be performing at JBLM the day before Independence Day, ramping everyone up for the grand festivities. July 3rd is open to DoD ID cardholders and their sponsored guests only. If you're able to attend, I'd strongly advise you to do so. An internationally renowned tribute band that gets a recommendation from the band they're covering only comes around so often, and I'd argue Hell's Belles might be better than the real thing.

Hell's Belles, 5:30-7 p.m., Monday, July 3, free, Main Stage, Memorial Stadium, Joint Base Lewis-McChord

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