(Mostly) all-female band to burn it up on the Fourth

The Anchorage-based rock band specializes in high-energy music

Posted: Thursday, July 03, 2008

LuLu and the Aqua Nets are returning to Juneau this Fourth of July for a special appearance at the Hangar on the Wharf on July 3, 4 and 5. They'll also be headlining the infamous Douglas street dance on the Fourth after parade festivities.

"We're just fast-paced, high-energy entertainment, as interesting to watch as it is to hear," bass player Patti Greene told Hooligan last year. "It's dance music. It's definitely for parties. We specialize in getting a group of people who may not be comfortable getting up and dancing."

The all-female, three-piece band from the Anchorage area features electric guitar, bass and a drum set. The earliest version of the band formed in the early '90s when an Anchorage club owner saw the potential draw of an all-female lineup.

LuLu Small is the front woman on lead guitar and vocals, bringing an impressive five-octave vocal range to the stage. On the band's version of the classic tune "Proud Mary," Small sings both Ike and Tina Turner's parts. The male vocals are uncanny and the rendition is tastefully done.

Alaska-born Sandy Heikes began playing drums at the tender age of 12, and has long played music in bars. By her mid-teens she was backing up country music bands and playing at strip clubs. During the big-money pipeline years in Alaska, Heikes shared the stage with many country stars who followed the wealth to the Last Frontier - the most notable being country legend Merle Travis, remembered today for his masterful guitar picking style from which the term "Travis picking" comes. Heikes also shared the stage with "The Grandmother of Rockabilly," Rose Maddox, a fiddle player who wrote and sang her own tunes.

Greene keeps the band in time on a four-string electric bass. A self-proclaimed fan of Johnny Cash and the author of a weekly online newsletter, "Gear Junkies," for members of the music community far and wide, Greene also has played in the Backstreet Blues Band and Mr. Whitekeys' traveling road shows.

The gals of LuLu and the Aqua Nets have toured all over Alaska, bringing their music and showmanship to small dive bars and festivals alike. This summer they'll be accompanied by Stu Schulman, a regular in music scenes from Nashville to Austin, and most recently Alaska via Los Angeles. Schulman will add flavor to the already spicy Aqua Net band with a pedal steel guitar. If needed, Schulman also will be available to local musicians as a session player on recordings while he's in town.

LuLu and the Aqua Nets' Web site, www.luluandtheaquanets.com, describes its live shows best: "An Aqua Nets show is always a high-energy party, as much about entertainment as it is about hard-driving rock 'n' roll. Like our namesake, it's cheap, explosive fun, fueled by alcohol, and is a favorite with Alaskans!"

The band lists gigs in Kenai for July and a spot at the Talkeetna Bluegrass Festival in August, and is sure to entertain here in Juneau.

• Patrice Helmar is a bartender at the Viking Lounge, promoter, musician and DJ on 100.7 FM Excellent Radio.

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