By Andrew Bansal
February 28th 2015, The Roxy, West Hollywood CA: Tribute bands, the all-female variety of them in particular, are typically a turnoff for many in the hard rock and heavy metal community. The fact that they devote their energy playing other bands’ songs does not warrant the respect of such people, and when it comes to females playing rock ‘n roll, naysayers often dismiss them before giving them a chance. This group largely consists of dudes not willing to view women purely based on their musicianship, and chicks for whom every girl on stage means one less potentially hot guy to gawk at. Anyhow, there still remains a section of rock/metal lovers that give this type of band the time of day, and last Saturday the Roxy hosted a two-pronged all-female tribute event. This was not your generic weekend-warrior local tribute night, but rather an exhibition of two great touring acts Zepparella and Hell’s Belles, respectively paying tribute to bands that should be obvious from their names.
Doors opened at 8 PM, the venue was steadily filling up through the evening, and a more-than-decent turnout awaited the start of the show. Promptly at 9 o’ clock, San Francisco-based Led Zeppelin worshippers Zepparella hit the stage for an excellent 75-minute set of quintessential and rare cuts from the legendary band’s classic catalog. With all four members dressed in white from shoulder to toe, wearing half-sleeved tops and no arm tattoos whatsoever, Zepparella carried a very graceful and serene presence on stage, and as it would be discovered later, completely contrasting to the band that followed them.
Musically, Zepparella boasted of every ingredient that makes a great Zeppelin show, including out-of-the-box improvised segments in classics such as ‘Immigrant Song’, ‘Dazed And Confused’ and ‘Whole Lotta Love’, putting their own stamp on these tunes and provided a fresh interpretation of the originals that everyone in this audience must have listened to hundreds of times. The other notable aspect of the song selection was the omittance of songs like ‘Stairway To Heaven’ and ‘Going To California’, and inclusion of deeper cuts instead. Singer Noelle Doughty maintained a soulful voice and a reasonable level of crowd interaction, while guitarist Gretchen Menn, whom I’d previously only seen signing autographs alongside the likes of Steve Morse at NAMM conventions and never before on stage, played the Jimmy Page part with effortless elegance. The rhythm section held strong, with drummer Clementine expectedly taking the spotlight during ‘Moby Dick’. But, in keeping with the vibe of a Zeppelin show, this was in many ways a self-indulgent, at times shoegazy style of performance from Zepparella, which attendees here could definitely understand and appreciate. This was indeed a fine, fitting tribute that will stand in memory even amidst the countless Zeppelin tributes performing in town on a regular basis.
Shortly after, at 10:35, Seattle/Austin/Southern California based AC/DC tribute group Hell’s Belles stormed the Roxy stage for a performance completely opposite in nature to Zepparella’s in every way imaginable. Clad in denim and showing plenty of arm tattoos, these girls came forth with unabated energy and attitude. Their interaction with the crowd was very direct, Australian singer Amber Saxon compelling a few in the front row to sing the words into the mic, and guitarist Adrian Conner bringing out a wide range of facial expressions on stage and jumping off stage into the crowd on several occasions. She not only conquered the entirety of the stage and the general admission floor but also the Roxy’s bar, as at one point in the set she walked all over it while playing a guitar solo. These girls brought with them the extra zest that seems to be lacking in most LA-based AC/DC tribute acts. While there’s no doubt, at least in my humble opinion, that Led Zeppelin is musically far superior to AC/DC, and playing AC/DC songs is not a herculean task in itself even for average musicians, to capture the essence of an AC/DC show and the boundless showmanship of Angus Young, Bon Scott and Brian Johnson is a whole other thing. Hell’s Belles excelled at it, and most importantly, besides covering the Bon Scott era classics they also included great selections from the always underrated and overlooked Brian Johnson-fronted albums.
Overall, a thorougly entertaining tribute night at the Roxy that was well worth attending.