By Tyler Allen Explore Big Sky Staff Writer
BIG SKY – Hell’s Belles, the hard-rocking all-female AC/DC cover band, will bring their passionate fury to finish off the first night of bull riding at the Big Sky PBR, Wednesday, July 31. Covering the legendary Australian rockers is no easy task, given their technical playing style mixed with notorious onstage antics.
The band started in 2000 and the current lineup features lead guitarist Adrian Conner, original drummer Laura Derig, Mandy Reed on bass guitar, Sharon Needles playing rhythm and Australian native Amber Saxon, belting out the vocals of Bon Scott and Brian Johnson.
Explore Big Sky recently caught up with Adrian “Angus” Conner – who is nicknamed after AC/DC founding member and lead guitarist Angus Young – and asked her about touring, what it’s like to cover AC/DC, and the Belles’ first rodeo. Conner, 37, has been with the band since 2002, and lives in Austin, Texas, when she’s not on the road with the Hell’s Belles or her other band Adrian and the Sickness.
How many shows do you play a year?
Between 70 and 80 shows a year. We do the weekend thing, but occasionally get some killer gigs on weekdays.
Where’s the most exotic place you’ve played?
We’ve played Singapore three times, we play their beer festival. It’s very easy to visit, most people speak English. Our dream is to play Australia…our singer’s from there, and she hasn’t been home in five years.
You played the Big Sky Dirtbag Ball in 2002? Do you have any memories from that show?
I remember there was a guy wearing a shirt that said “rap sucks.” It was fun…the crowd loved us, they were very welcoming and people were buying me beers.
What’s the biggest challenge in covering AC/DC?
Mixing the right amount of physical antics, running around, performance and athletics with playing the music well. Singing their material, too…Amber [Saxon] works really hard on her voice.
I see a quote from Angus Young [Blender 2003] that Hell’s Belles was the best AC/DC cover band he’s heard…How does that inspire you? Have you met Angus?
I have met Angus, in 2009 during the Black Ice tour. He was so nice, very articulate… He asked me a lot of questions. It’s just awesome when [famous people] are outgoing with you. It inspires us to do it as precisely, with as much playfulness as possible…We show people how to party, we bring the party. [AC/DC] is some of the best rock ‘n roll music ever written.
Anything else I should know about your playing style?
I play every day. The magical thing is [AC/DC] plays a lot of open string…what makes my job even harder than just the moving around and stage antics, is having to keep those open strings droning while playing little riffs. We are mimicking a recording, so we have to make it sound really open and beautiful. If you’re into songwriting and music, it’s all right there [in AC/DC’s music].
Are you ladies going to watch the bull riders?
Yes. I’m excited to see it.
Have you played a rodeo before?
No, never. I want to ride a bull! [Laughs] I don’t know if it’s a good idea though, since I have to play.