Double Life

Adrian Conner is best known as the female version of Angus Young. But her new band is 100 percent AC/DC free.

Adrian Conner (left) and Heather Webb
Adrian Conner (left) and Heather Webb
As much as everyone wants to ultimately be recognized for independently and innovatively standing on their own two feet, sometimes you just wanna pay hard and fast homage to your influences and inspirations. One could argue that if it weren’t for the acceptance of musical aping, well, most music wouldn’t exist.

Still, Adrian Conner, as devoted and involved a fan of AC/DC as she is, would probably like to hear the sound of a big ol’ screeching halt follow any discussion of the Aussie legends. However, that’s not bloody likely. Two bands, one big connection, one massive talking point.

Here’s the deal: Ever since 2000, the dreadlocked, firebrand guitarist has been donning a replica of Angus Young’s schoolboy outfit to help in summoning and churning out the classics in all-female AC/DC cover band, Hells Belles. Over the course of 12 years, Conner and her AC/DC lovin’ gal-pals have toured amounts that would have the transmissions of most 15-passenger Ford Econoline’s running the whitest of flags up the highest of poles, scoring the favor and acceptance of Young himself in the process. But for every ounce of time spent successfully shredding on someone else’s material, people will naturally, eventually feel the urge to express themselves beyond the work of the masters.

In 2004, Conner opened her creative vault beyond the mimicry of Australia’s most famous sons to assume the vocal/guitarist/main song writing position in a band she formed with bassist Heather Webb.

“I thought,” she continues, “‘I need a band name that really describes how absurd it is to try and make a living playing music’ and the band name was born.”

That moniker: Adrian and the Sickness. The style: rocking, gritty, garage-y power-pop-punk. Since forming, they’ve released a vast collection of singles, EPs and albums, including their latest, the self-released Criminal/Dog Days 7-inch. They’ve worked with the Go-Go’s Kathy Valentine, who produced their fourth album, 2009’s B.F.D. and recently were honored by their hometown with the ‘Best Punk Band’ award at the Austin Music Awards.

“Heather and I were surprised to win the award period! Any award! We do so many different styles of music and to say that we’re punk has got to piss off fans of punk music like NOFX and Rancid, who are punk-lite bands at that,” Conner says. “To call us punk is a stretch. Plus it disregards a lot of the music we did on our last album with Kathy. We’re a rock band no matter how unstylish it is to admit.”

And, as the saying goes, rocking is their business and business is good. The popularity of Hells Belles in Washington already has Conner regularly in the Spokane area. Now, she’s bringing her self-proclaimed “Jedi mind tricks, I can play guitar on my back, or while jumping and running and I can play guitar in two bands!” to town to prove her muscle memory can shatter years of reproducing someone else’s, more recognizable riffing.

“Moves like Angus’ definitely seep into the stage show. I can’t sing like AC/DC. That probably helps keep it from sounding like AC/DC,” she says, about treating her two gigs as separate entities.

“Hells Belles has a group of very loyal Spokane fans. Without them, we would not continue playing Spokane,” she says. “But there are more mind tricks I’m working on: ‘You will believe in the Sickness!’”

Adrian and the Sickness • Fri, Aug. 10, at 9 pm • Jones Radiator • $5 • 21+ • 747-6005

Holiday Celebration: Let It Glow @ Bryan Hall Theatre (WSU)

Sat., Dec. 4, 2-4 p.m.
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