by CORTNEY HARDING & r & & r & & lt;span class= & quot;dropcap & quot; & B & lt;/span & ack when I was a riot girl with plastic barrettes in my hair, I used to loudly proclaim my desire for some cool girl band to cover the Stones' classic "Under My Thumb." The thought of some tattooed Evergreen feminist studies major purring about how she had some dude (or some other girl) wrapped so completely around her little finger made me weak in the knees; I though it would be the ultimate reclamation. While I'm pretty sure that dream never came true (and a quick torrent search seems to back this up, although feel free to prove me wrong), there clearly were other women out there who wanted to grab cock rock by the balls and make it their own.

Hell's Belles claim not to be a gimmick, but come on: They're girls who play AC/DC covers and even dress like Angus and crew. That's pretty much the definition of a gimmick. However, they also come with a few surprises up their ratty sleeves, the main one being: They're not ironic. At all. They don't wink and nudge and smirk; their audience is composed of old-school metal dudes and dudettes, not hipsters looking for something so bad it's good. Hell's Belles are amazingly faithful to the songs they play and the image they cultivate, and seem to have tremendous respect for the original bad boys from down under.

It's a little difficult to write about Hell's Belles' music, because they pretty much sound exactly like AC/DC. They don't cover any other bands or write any originals, and they don't even really try to put their own stamp on any of the songs. Aside from the fact that they have breasts and sing like women, for all intents and purposes, they could be the original band.

Bremerton residents Mandy Reed and Melodie Zapata (bass and drums, respectively) started the band. They had to go outside the greater Seattle area to find the rest of the group: Rhythm guitarist Lisa Brisbois lives in Bellingham, lead guitarist Adrian Connor resides in Austin, and recently recruited lead singer Jamie Nova calls Denver home. Despite their disparate zip codes, the ladies still manage to perform over a hundred shows a year.

The people who come to those shows are ... well, they're pretty old-school. They're the type of people who have bitchin' Camaros and still wear acid-washed jeans. They think irony is something that gets those jeans wrinkle-free. Spin magazine tagged along to the Belles' Boulder, Colorado show a while back and interviewed fans, getting anecdotes about strip clubs, public urination, and stealing boats after U2 shows in Monaco. A couple had mullets, most had ink, and most of them were throwing the devil horns in their photos.

Perhaps one of the reasons such fans fully accept Hell's Belles is the fact that, name aside, the group members really don't play up the fact they're women. While all their advance press makes prominent mention of the fact that they're five hard-rockin' chicks, their live show is curiously genderless. Reed has said that many people who come to their shows are shocked not so much that they are girls, but girls playing well. Perhaps they're the ultimate end to the riot girl phenomenon I so loved. Now you can say that girls in rock have gone from DIY to polished to a shine. Yet as fun as the Belles' live show is, all the gloss can't make up for the feeling that there isn't much heart.

Hell's Belles at the Big Easy on Saturday, Dec. 2, at 8 pm. Tickets: $10. Visit or call 325-SEAT.

American Original: The Life and Work of John James Audubon @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

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