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Female AC/DC tribute band Hell’s Belles return to Spokane with high energy live show

Hell's Belles, featuring Amber Saxon, Laura D, Adrian “Angus” Conner, Mandy Reed and Lisa Brisbois, plays Saturday night at the Knitting Factory. (COURTESY)
Hell's Belles, featuring Amber Saxon, Laura D, Adrian “Angus” Conner, Mandy Reed and Lisa Brisbois, plays Saturday night at the Knitting Factory. (COURTESY)

Hell’s Belles are like any AC/DC tribute act. Its members dress up like the Australian heavy metal legends. They rip through the band’s catalog of popular songs. They sound as close to the real thing as you can get.

But there’s a slight difference between this band and the one they’re imitating: All five members of Hell’s Belles are women.

If you’re a local rock fan, you’ve no doubt heard of the Seattle-based group. Odds are probably good you’ve seen them play, too. The band typically hits Spokane a couple times a year, and they perform at the Knitting Factory on Saturday. It’ll be the first time the band has played the area since a gig in Sandpoint last April.

Hell’s Belles’ live shows maintain a reliably high energy, and you’ll hear all the AC/DC songs that have become staples of classic rock radio – “Back in Black,” “Highway to Hell,” “You Shook Me All Night Long,” “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” and the band’s namesake song, “Hell’s Bells.”

“They’re like tiny AC/DC shows,” said Adrian Conner, Hell’s Belles’ longtime guitarist. “It’s basically a 1977 to ’79 AC/DC concert, when Angus is 19 or 20 and he’s running everywhere and super energetic.”

The “Angus” she’s referring to is influential AC/DC guitarist Angus Young, known for his live-wire stage persona and for the private school uniform he wears during shows. Although Conner has traded in Young’s schoolboy shorts for a plaid skirt, she channeled all the guitarist’s charisma: When you look up live videos of Hell’s Belles on YouTube, the cameras are always focused on Conner’s stage antics.

“I do a lot of cardio to prepare,” Conner said with a laugh. “I’m all over the stage. … But once that music gets going, it provides the energy push that I need to do it.”

Hell’s Belles was formed in 2000 by guitarist Amy Stolzenbach and vocalist Om Johari, both of whom have left the band. Conner joined the lineup a couple years later, and the band has, barring a few hiccups in productivity, been performing regularly since. The gig has even provided them the opportunity to meet the legendary rock stars they’re aping.

“They could tell us to knock it off at any time, but they’re really supportive,” Conner said. “Angus asked me a lot of questions, which was cool, because he was willing to have a conversation and was interested. It was hard finding things to say, because you’re kind of speechless.”

Of course, the real AC/DC is still active: The rockers released their 15th studio album in 2014 and recently completed a world tour that brought them to the Tacoma Dome. But until the band makes its way to Spokane (which isn’t likely to happen anytime soon), Hell’s Belles is the next best thing.

“I can tell we touch people when we play,” Conner said. “A lot of people that see us have seen us multiple times, and they just keep coming back, which is awesome. … Everybody loves AC/DC. It really is some of the best rock ’n’ roll ever written.”