The Voodoo Chile's Slight Return

Greg Ashley resurrects the Mirrors for a summer tour; also: beware of Zipperneck

Let me tell you, the rest of y'all are missing out. When they first took the stage, I told Smith there was something about the twentysomething singer-bassist -- the fierce, redheaded Mel Hell -- that reminded me of a young Wanda Jackson, whom I had seen on the same stage a year or so back. And once the band started ripping through what they call their "train wreck between the Clash and Loretta Lynn," the Jackson impression only deepened, though I also caught some strong reminders of Joan Jett and Chrissie Hynde from that time before all her best bandmates smacked themselves into oblivion.

And Mel has bandmates every bit the equal of those guys: Drummer David Skins is one of those cats who seem to defy gravity behind the kit; tattooed, leather-clad guitarist J.D. can riff dirty chords like a Ramone and squeal harmonics like Billy G.; and all that's over the top of Hell's chudding bass and under her full-throated, alternately growling and wailing vocals. Song subjects ran the gamut from love laments ("My Heart Is M.I.A.") to cartoon villains ("Mojo Dojo").

The band came together through an ad (in the Press, they say). J.D. and Mel met first; the former was a veteran of the bands Tread, Bravo Three and Super Boy, while the latter had played with the Rumble Cats, which featured Phil Deville of New Orleans/Denver band Mustang Lightning, and was just coming off maternity leave after her first baby. The two enjoyed jamming together, but they still needed a drummer and a singer. Eventually Skins -- whose impressive résumé includes stints in the Big Boys, London Girl and Magnetic IV -- came aboard and Mel says she was forced into singing.

"We come from three distinct generations," says Skins on the patio at the Big Top after the show next door. "J.D. knew [Big Boys front man] Biscuit Turner back in the early '80s; I came along in the mid- to late '80s; [Mel's] a little bit younger than us. So we really bring three distinct elements, three different sources and sensibilities."

Skins says that hearing Hell sing was a case of love at first sound. "It was like early Joan Jett," he says. "I love women singers who don't sound girly. And Mel's nowhere near girly."

"Yeah, most of my influences are male bands, like the Clash," she says, though she does send some props toward one female rocker; yep, you guessed it, Wanda Jackson.

Recordings aren't in Zipperneck's immediate future, but the band's live shows should be in yours. In the meantime, you can hear some rough mixes at www.myspace.com/zipperneck.

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