The riff is familiar. The guitar is the same. That distinctive, two-step shuffle is the one we're used to. But there's something a little different about this version of AC/DC's Problem Child. The guitarist is a giant, muscle-packed man with a bald head and rainbow-striped knee-socks. He's wearing a sleeveless black shirt, a bright red tie, and a Scottish kilt so short it barely conceals what lies beneath.
This, ladies and gentleman, in GayC/DC, Los Angeles's premiere all-gay tribute to AC/DC. And they've taken the songs of perhaps the globe's most heterosexual band, and turned them into something altogether more fabulous. Problem Child is now Bottom Child. Whole Lotta Rosie turns into Whole Lotta Jose. Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap transforms into Dirty Dudes Done Dirty Cheap. And Big Balls? That doesn't need any help at all.
"I grew up listening to AC/DC, they’re part of my DNA," says drummer Brian Welch. "But that whole ‘boy/girl/boy bangs girl’ thing wasn’t something I could relate to. I wanted the songs to speak to me and that’s a big reason we started this band. Now, those iconic songs can speak to others who felt the way I did. And who can resist taking it to the most fabulous extreme! We love AC/DC. That’s why we do the music spot on, but have a bit of cheeky fun changing the lyrics around.
"I feel the same," says singer Chris Freeman. "For me, the whole experience of AC/DC is dripping with macho heterosexuality, and that part was hard for me to relate to. But I loved the music, that part I could relate to."
Freeman has a long history of kicking against the stereotypes, playing bass in the legendary queercore band Pansy Division since their formation nearly 30 years ago. Signed to Jello Biafra's Alternative Tentacles label, they toured with Green Day, wrote songs with titles like Pat Me On The Ass, I'm Gonna Be A Slut and The Summer You Let Your Hair Grow Out, and covered Judas Priest's Breakin' The Law, the lyrics gleefully adapted to flaunt US sodomy law.
More recently, Freeman and Welch (along with GayC/DC rhythm guitarist Karl Rumpf) played in The Gay-Gay's, a tribute to famed 80s girl group The Go-Go's. After performing at a party held by Go-Go's guitarist Jane Wiedlin, the trio decided to carry on with a new project, and GayC/DC were born.
"We started throwing out band names with ‘gay’ in them and I think it was Karl who said GayC/DC and I thought, ‘hmmm…,’" says Freeman. "Around that time, I met Steve (McKnight) and with his background in guitar shredding from being in Cry Wolf in the ‘80s, he was a natural to be our new lead guitarist, so then we just needed a vocalist.
"When no one we knew would even try out, I told the band that I would try out, but they had to be very critical. We did and they were very positive and encouraged me to do it, so then we tapped our friend Glen (Pavan) to take over for me on bass. That was nice, cos I would never have had the chance to be in a band with him otherwise!"
Since then the band have gone from strength to strength, gaining a boost in popularity after a video surfaced on YouTube in which the band shared the stage at the infamous Viper Room with former Skid Row frontman Sebastian Bach.