AC/DC's Angus Young Spotted In Miniskirt

Band gets covered by all-female Hell's Belles, bluegrass group Hayseed Dixie.

EVERETT, Washington — The scene onstage at Jimmy Z's is unmistakable:

the singer is screeching "Sin City," right hand on the mic, left hand

cocked at the side like it might just fire bullets from the fingers drawn

in a heavy metal devil salute. Several feet away, the guitarist's head is

in a non-stop nod to the beat; a schoolboy necktie squirms under a burgundy

Gibson SG.

Uh, but wait a minute ... this Angus Young is wearing a miniskirt. And the

person rocking the spotlight isn't a middle-aged Aussie man, but a

twentysomething African-American woman.

Ding dong, welcome to the world of Hell's Belles, Seattle's all-female

AC/DC revue.

"I think they're shocked. Pleasantly surprised," bassist Sylvia Wiedemann

said of most crowds before a recent gig in this port town. She and her

bandmates — including Angus imitator and band instigator Amy

Stolzenbach and singer Om Johari, who takes on the roles of late AC/DC

singer Bon Scott and current frontman Brian Johnson — have been

selling out shows all over the Puget Sound region since forming last May.

"By the third song they're usually joining in," Wiedemann said. "They let

their hair down and basically have a good time, which is mostly what

we're here doing."

Staind and Crazy Town may rule the airwaves these days, but AC/DC are hotter

than hell nearly 30 years into their career. You can see it not just in the

platinum sales of last year's Stiff Upper Lip or the band's sold-out

shows, but in the number of tributes to the band that have hit the streets in

recent months — cover outfits, country adaptations and acoustic

interpretations have all made their way toward AC/DC's legion of fans.

Hayseed Dixie were born from a car crash in Deer Lick Holler, Tennessee,

according to band leader Barley Scotch. The poor soul who smashed his ride left

behind a pile of AC/DC records, which Scotch and his pals Cooter Brown

(guitar), Wilson Cook (dobro) and Cletus Williamson (bass) snatched up and

learned to play bluegrass style.

OK, so that's not quite the truth. Scotch is studio owner John Wheeler and

his cohorts are all vets from Nashville sessions and country tours. But Hayseed Dixie's

A Hillbilly Tribute to AC/DC undeniably demonstrates

that AC/DC write songs first and foremost. You can play 'em metal

style, or you can play 'em country, they still hold up.

"Back in Black" was the trickiest to arrange and still hang onto the song's core, Wheeler said recently.

"Playing that double time doesn't work, because it's such a syncopated

riff. So we ended up opting to do it with a swingy, jazzy sort of

approach. There was a temptation to do 'em all as 'UN-cha, UN-cha, UN-cha,'

traditional bluegrass. We specifically tried to not do that so the whole

thing doesn't sound monotonous. 'Let's Get It Up,' we did that more of a

Texas swing kinda feel to keep the whole thing from sounding like a polka

record."

That versatility is one of the reasons that AC/DC have thrived over the

years, according to the band's original, pre-Scott singer, Dave Evans, who

left the group in 1974. Last year, Evans saluted Scott on the 20th

anniversary of his death with a gig fronting the Australian cover band

Thunderstruck. Diehard fans can find a CD and video of the show for sale on

Evans' Web site.

"That basic beat must touch the human basic instinct," Evans said. "That's

been going on for thousands and thousands of years. It probably goes back

to the caveman days. It'll probably always endure. As soon as you hear that

drumbeat, without any music even, people start bobbing."

But there's no beat at all on Mark Kozelek's What's Next to the

Moon, on which the Red House Painters leader reimagines tunes such as

"Rock 'n' Roll Singer" and "If You Want Blood" in quiet acoustic settings with new melodies. He approached the album more as a creative challenge than as a tribute, he

said. As unlikely as it sounds, Kozelek turns even crass material into

tender work.

"Depending on who's singing the song, and how the melody is changed, a word

or a phrase or a lyric can take on a whole different meaning," he said. "It

ends up sounding deeper than what AC/DC meant by it."

Hell's Belles change nothing in AC/DC's lyrics for their show. But the

objectification that pervades a song such as "Touch Too Much" is

automatically thrown in a different light when the crowd sees a woman

singing it, Stolzenbach said.

No matter what people think of AC/DC's politics, they appreciate a band

that's remained singularly focused on hard rock for 28 years, she said.

"What comes across in having them not change — and I'm not saying they

haven't evolved as musicians and that they approach things from a slightly

different angle — is just that they're very real. People can see that

they're real and that they like what they're doing."