Ultimate AC/DC Show: The Volts

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Ultimate AC/DC Show: The Volts


What did AC/DC bring to Australian culture? They formalised the typical Aussie rock sound,” says guitarist AK. “Strip it all back and it is ripping Chuck Berry rock on steroids.” AK should know – he earns a living playing in one of Australia’s premier AC/DC cover bands.When he first heard the Dirty Deeds album, circa 1976, AK felt all the pieces falling into place. He knew he wanted to be just like Acca Dacca one day. “And how ironic,” he laughs. “Here I am!”

AK plays in AC/DSHE, so-called because they have a female lead singer, Bonnie Scott. Theirs is one of several outfits in Melbourne dedicated to the faithful reproduction of hits by Australia’s favourite rock sons, AC/DC. It’s a good little business, since nothing goes down with a pissed Friday night pub crowd like a blistering round of TNT, but it’s also a labour of love for everyone involved.

“For me,” says BJ Vernal, “It’s basically paying tribute to those that inspired me to get into the music scene.” BJ is the lead singer in Thunderstruck, formally known as Back In Black, which is probably the longest-running AC/DC tribute band in the world. Originally formed in 1988, Thunderstruck are one of highest profile and hardest gigging cover bands in Australia. They are rivalled only by Dirty Deeds, an AC/DC cover band that is so good they were asked to play at the launch party for the last AC/DC album, Black Ice. The fact that AC/DSHE, Thunderstruck and Dirty Deeds can all survive and thrive in Melbourne is a testament to the enduring popularity of the original band. “Like a great wine, they get better as they get older. The chemistry is strong, the song structures are solid, no gimmicks, and just real fellas playing rock ‘n’ roll,” AK enthuses, “Hail hail, rock ‘n’ roll!”

For BJ, who first heard the band on the radio in 1974, then saw them on Countdown, AC/DC triggered a lifelong love affair with music. “I actually started out in the originals scene, back in 1976,” he explains,”I was in an original band for a few years called Black Heath, with Thunderstruck bass player Dave Ross. We got together again in the mid-80s and worked on some songs, finally putting it on the road as On The Rocks, but we put it to bed around ’92. I thought, ‘My time has passed.’ Ever since then, I just wanted to play music.” BJ joined Thunderstruck six years ago, and believes they are doing the music-loving community a pretty good service. “We’re good at what we do, so why not take it to the people?” he smiles.

AK agrees that it’s a worthy cause, playing AC/DC songs to a grateful audience. He says, “It feels pretty great when you are rocking out to great crowds that love to sing along to every song.”

On Saturday August 6, AC/DSHE, Thunderstruck and Dirty Deeds will join forces to become an AC/DC cover band supergroup called The Volts. Playing for one night only at the Palace Theatre’s House of Rock, The Volts will bring together the dedication and talent of half a dozen hardcore AC/DC fans from each of the groups: AK and Bonnie Scott from AC/DSHE, BJ and guitarist Rohan Moran from Thunderstruck, and vocalist Alfie Rocker and bassist Tony Zita from Dirty Deeds. Rohan, who has been playing AC/DC’s lead guitar riffs since ’88, is allegedly one of the best Angus Young impersonators around, while BJ can really nail a Bon Scott vocal. “The Volts thing is a great way for people to hear what the AC/DC tribute bands have to offer, especially from a vocalist’s point of view,” he says,”It also shows, even though we are from three different AC/DC tribute bands, we can all work together.”

The band will cover all the hits from the 70s and 80s, from Jailbreak to It’s A Long Way to The Top, Back in Black to Hell’s Bells, spanning Bon’s sly wit and Brian Johnson’s screaming thunder. All AC/DC eras are equal to The Volts, and they have plenty of respect for both of the band’s legendary singers.

“But I reckon Bon was the seminal rock front man,” AK grins.”He oozed charisma and that street poet wit was enchanting and painted crystal clear visuals for me as a kid.”

“I love them both,” BJ says diplomatically. “I love what they do, what they have done. Fair enough, there was a change when Brian came in, but I don’t feel it detracted from the band. Bon was one of my idols and Brian has done a great job for AC/DC to continue its existence.”

BJ is equally coy about the persistent question mark over who wrote the lyrics to AC/DC’s masterwork Back in Black, released just a few months after Bon’s tragic death but credited to a very fresh-faced Brian Johnson. “Brian wrote it, with help from those around him…and possibly with some Bon influence,” he insists, whereas AK is a little more cynical.

“Hard core fans will always say Bon had a hand. I reckon he may have had a leg in there as well,” he grins. There are bound to be a few disagreements when rival cover bands are comparing notes, aren’t there? But one thing’s for sure – these guys all know their AC/DC business inside out, and their super cover band is going to bring the house down.