THE PRETENDERS:
Mean Street’s female tribute band showcase looks at the ladies who live the lives of metal mimicry
Meanstreet Vol 14.07, January 2004

By Michael Coyle

There is an interesting phenomenon occurring in the local music scene. Bands of women playing note-for-note covers of classic rock songs originally performed by and (as they all attest) mostly enjoyed by, groups of men. Female cover bands have become a cottage industry of cheaper-than-the-real-thing escapism. Each of the bands interviewed here noted how much easier it is to book shows as a band doing covers than as a band playing originals. “Every club owner loves a full house,” explains Iron Maidens drummer Nikki McBurrain, “and these days it seems that tribute acts are packing in the clubs more often than local original acts are.”
Call it professional karaoke with built in innuendo. All of these musicians are very much aware of both the novelty and the power of gender role reversal. That aside, they get props for tackling songs we’ve all tried to figure out on air-guitar.
Cheap Chick’s Pam Cheatersson sums it up when she says playing in a tribute band “is like getting paid to do the funnest thing ever”. Here’s more details on the experience from four of the area’s finest.



What was it about the band you cover that made you want to go out and form a tribute band?


Doylie (guitar/backing vocals,Ms.Fits): We’ve all been fiends since we were little kids. We grew up on the stuff. The Misfits’songs are timeless, amazing classics. So many people love them and the visual is something we knew would go over well.
Adrianne Smith (guitarist, Iron Maidens): The intensity of the music. The in-depth elaborate, intriguing and challenging guitar parts was the reason for me to pick up the guitar in the beginning. A lot of guys I know admit that they didn’t know anygirls that liked Maiden, let alone girls that were able to play their music. That being said, I think the idea of five girls playing Maiden is very interesting.
Pam Cheatersson (bass, Cheap Chick): Cheap trick are probably one of the coolest bands ever. [They have a] total sense of humor, wicked songwriting [and] great visual style. Plus, they have a highly-elevated sense of the ironic and if you’re going to be in a tribute band, you yourself have a good sense of irony.
Riff Williams (bass, AC/Dshe): We all grew up [as] AC/DC fans, [the] Bon [Scott] era in particular. The music represents some of the best times we’ve had, and are still having for that matter.

Any stories about drunken male fans getting a little too excited about seeing women rock to their favorite tunes?

Minimurray (guitar, Iron Maidens): Mostly from the state of Washington. [There was some] bootlicking during the solo to “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”. Some guy at the merch table in New York got hos 8X10 signed while his cock was hanging out of his open zipper!
Adrianne: Many times drunk people in the front row get too rowdy and spill beer on my foot controllers. Sometimes they try to grab my legs while I am playing solos. Our singer violently poked a guy with the flagpole as a result because she was trying to protect me.
Doylie: There was one dickhead in San Diego who had a Leo sayer pube-do. He was fondling the spikes on the back of my leather and his finger found its way down my ass-crack. I wasn’t too happy. The bar did 86 him, though. He will always be known as “Pubey-Feeley”. Fortunately, we have some large and intimidating male friends who travel with us, so if shit like that does happen, it gets dealt with.
Riff Williams: Our number one fans are “The Sac’ Bros”, two rockin brothers from Sacramento. Their pure enthusiasm for the music is unparalleled. It’s a drag because a lot of times they end up in fights or get kicked out of the clubs, though they usually don’t do anything wrong. They are just so excited to hear AC/DC [songs] and rock out so hard. People just need to learn to get out of their way when they are rocking!
Chick Nielsen (guitar, Cheap Chick): Except for one drunken space invader, the guys have been great.
Pam Cheatersson: No one ever pays attention to the bassist, but there was this one show where, for some odd reason, I had a passel of boy groupies, one of whom later sent quite a scandalous email propositioning me the next day. That was fun! Like being a real rock star. And who doesn’t wantmore of that? Maybe it was that “Venga a Mi” pheromone perfume I ordered off the internet.

How closely do you try to mirror the mannerisms, look and personal habits of the performer you are pretending to be?

Riff Williams: We try to do everything as accurately as possible and play the songs note- for-note. Bonny [Scott, vocalist of AC/DShe] is a whiskey drinker and sounds as close to Bon as you can get for a female. We wear the same clothes, study the stage moves (we have a ton of old AC/DC video footage), use the same gear, etc. So far, Agnes [Young, guitarist of AC/Dshe] hasn’t needed oxygen on the side of the stage, but we’re working on that.
Robbin’ Zander (vocals/guitar, Cheap Chick): Robin Zander smoked in the ‘70s, so I do have candy cigarettes that I smoke onstage and I wear all white.
Bunni Carlos (drums, Cheap Chick): well, I am sitting here eating brownies. I have a few more pounds to go before I look like Bun E. I am up to a pack of candy cigs a day and have enough white shirts to wear a new one every day of the week.
Adrianne: For our performance, I try to create, adapt to and feminize the kind of outfit that Adrian Smith wore on stage. I try to meticulously mimic his playing, but I don’t walk his walk or talk his talk, let alone try to look like him. I don't think that would go over well. I can’t possibly walk like somebody with balls between their legs.
Nikki McBurrain (drums, Iron Maidens): I try to capture the Maiden drumming vibe as closely as I can, but the costumes I don’t do. Clive Burr often played shirtless (eeek!) and Nicko McBrain had some awful funky fashion statements (Sorry ol’ boy!).

Anything else you want to share about being in a tribute band?

Riff Williams: We started AC/Dshe in 1999 and there were no other all-female tribute bands at that time. It’s really crazy that so many have started in the last few years.
Doylie: You gotta have theatrics in a tribute band. I mean, I can’t imagine people wanting to see a Pearl Jam tribute or something likethat where people are just wearing jeans and t-shirts and acting like regular dudes. A good tribute band is part band and part theatre. That’s what keeps people interested.
Also, one of the most valuable lessons we’ve learned is that football player eye-black does not work well for Jerry Only make-up. We do not recommend or endorse this product.
Pam Cheatersson: We all have more “serious” music projects, but nothing beats just going out, pretending to be a ‘70s rock star and playing great music with three other stellar musicians for a whole bunch of people who I would love to hang out with even if we weren’t playing. It’s like getting paid to do the funnest thing ever.

On the web: www.acdshe.com, www.theironmaidens.com, www.cheapchick.com, www.msfits.com