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[whitespace] Beyond Novelty

At the Catalyst, AC/DC cover band Hell's Belles was just as aggressive as the original

By David Espinoza

WHAT DOES it mean when a cover band is just as good as, if not better than, the original? True, Hell's Belles, the female-fronted all-AC/DC cover band, have yet to play stadiums as do their infamous rock titan counterparts, but they certainly packed it in at the Catalyst last Friday (March 29). Returning to Santa Cruz minus two members who, in the words of lead singer Om Jahari, "were sent back to Texas," Hell's Belles demolished any preconceived notions about their being simply a novelty act.

For starters, the three characters essential to any band trying to pull off AC/DC--guitarist Angus Young, lead throat dude Bon Scott (choked on his own vomit) and subsequent frontman Brian Johnson--are personified in guitarist Amy Stolzenbach and singer Jahari. Onstage, the two are just as aggressive as, if not rowdier than, the former boys. Jahari is certainly up a few notches over Johnson in terms of bawdy panache--between songs, she reminded the crowd that "it's all about the ladies" and yelled a three-word command about oral pleasure for women usually heard from male rock and rap stars. The cutesy "I'm just a girl" days of No Doubt must be deader than Jim Morrison.

Sending a paint-peeling shock wave of wicked electric-guitar leads throughout the Catalyst, the blonde dreadlocked Stolzenbach spent much of the night stomping about the stage like the legitimate spawn of Angus Young. AC/DC employs some of the most basic rhythms ever turned out, but Young's six-string samurai solos are another matter. To her credit, Stolzenbach replicated Young's work brilliantly, shredding faster than Arthur Andersen with Enron documents, and that's pretty damn fast. From the early days with "Highway to Hell" to "Hell's Belles," where Jahari held up a minibell to play (Johnson always has one the size of a small elephant), the band spanned 25 years of AC/DC and even brought out material from lesser-known albums like The Razor's Edge. There have always been AC/DC cover bands out there, but with Hell's Belles, there's only one you need to catch live.

Upcoming Shows

The major-label debut by Blackalicious is still about a month away from dropping, but this town can never get enough of the group. This time around though, there's a bonus: underground hip-hop hero Talib Kweli will be joining Gift of Gab and DJ Hi-tek at the Coconut Grove tonight. ... Another hip-hop show worthy of your attention (of the few that come to town these days since Palookaville shut down), Souls of Mischief will hit the Catalyst April 12. ... On the reggae tip, Moe's Alley has the goods on Mondays--next Monday (April 8), Jah Eternal from Jamaica takes the stage.

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From the April 3-10, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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