While growing up during the 1980s in Tacoma Adrian Conner devoured pop music and adored recording artists, such as Madonna. However, everything changed when Conner heard AC/DC’s “Shook Me All Night Long.”
“I was blown away when someone finally played it for me,” Conner said, while calling from San Antonio. “I had to learn ‘Shook Me’ on guitar. When I learned how to play that solo, it was just so cool. The hair stood up on the back of my neck. I got goosebumps.”
Conner took it to another level when she formed Hell’s Belles in 2000. The AC/DC tribute band, which will perform Friday at the Knitting Factory, features Conner, who has much in common with AC/DC icon Angus Young. Like the Australian guitar hero, Conner is a short, axe-wizard, who is the lone original member of a band playing AC/DC material.
The always animated Conner, 48, is the leader of Hell’s Belles, an all-female band, which also features vocalist Megan Ruger, guitarist Jess Coram, bassist Nicole Ridge and drummer Simona Bressi.
“There is nothing as fun as playing AC/DC songs,” Connor said. “I also write and perform original music when I’m not doing Hell’s Belles. I love doing the original stuff but the cool thing about going out with Hell’s Belles is that I don’t have to convince people to listen to what we’re playing. They come out and can’t wait to hear AC/DC songs, whether it’s one of their hits or a song that’s not a hit.
“Our shows are always a big party. It’s always a celebration of one of the greatest bands ever.”
Who knows if AC/DC, which concluded its last jaunt in 2016, will ever tour again? The band did record a new album, “Power Up,” which was released in 2020. AC/DC played a one-off show in October. However, it remains to be seen if the band will ever tour again.
“You always have us,” Conner said. “We’re keeping their music alive. I love what they do and they’re the nicest guys.”
Conner met the members of AC/DC in 2009 at the Tacoma Dome.
“I’ve hung out with them a couple of times,” Conner said. “They’re as nice as you imagine them to be. The first time I met (AC/DC vocalist) Brian (Johnson) and Angus and Malcolm, I didn’t know what to say. Angus was so generous. He asked me some questions. He said ‘If you practice a lot, you’re probably better at these songs than me.’ It was such an amazing experience.”
Expect plenty of attitude and volume when Hell’s Bells return to the Knitting Factory.
“I give it my all every show,” Connor said. “It’s obvious that I love what I do. I don’t have a choice. AC/DC changed my life.
“I remember how I was in high school. I didn’t talk to anybody. I was so shy. But AC/DC changed the way I moved in the world. I’m sure I’m not the only one who was impacted in such a way by their music.”