By Leland Smith
Long-time Alaska performers LuLu and the Aqua Nets graced the Sluicebox Stage at the Alaska State Fair Saturday afternoon. The all-girl trio opened with the Young Rascal’s version of “Good Lovin’” to an excited capacity crowd. With LuLu quipping, “I’ve had four husbands.... well two of them were mine,” the band payed tribute to girl groups of the past.
The Aqua Nets — LuLu Small-guitar-lead vocals, Patti Greene-Bass/vocals and drummer/vocalist Sandy Heikes — sparkled effortlessly through “Going To The Chapel” and “My Boyfriend’s Back” with gorgeous, impossibly tight three-part harmonies.
Performing solo guitar acapella with LuLu’s signature Aqua Net hairspray can as slide, The audience standing reverently, hand over heart, sang the National Anthem.
Shifting gears, Small, a born entertainer, powerfully paved her vocal way through the Jefferson Airplane’s “White Rabbit” while giving Grace Slick her pink slip.
As any veteran entertainer can tell you, during a show, some liquored up bubba inevitably shouts out a request for Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird.” Anticipating that factor, The Aqua Nets created The “Dead Elvis Freebird Polka.” Featuring Lulu in Elvis voice, The Aqua Nets belted out Freebird with a rapturous polka beat stunning the giggling audience.
In a show-stopping highlight, Emma Greene, 7 (niece of bassist Patti Greene), took the stage by knock out, performing “Love Potion No. 9” with hot moves and a star presence well beyond her years.
Blazing through LuLu’s self-penned anthem “Rockin’ In the Last Frontier,” from her latest solo release, “Lulapalooza,” the stunned crowd feverishly banged their heads just in time for a full throttle dose of ZZ Top’s “La Grange.” A song generally foreign to female bands, the crowd looked shocked by the growling dead-on Billy Gibbons vocal and guitar impersonation.
Moving rapid fire through classics, “Heard it Through the Grapevine” and Free’s “Alright Now, ” the band had the crowd in the palm of their hand.
Playing the audience’s heart-strings, the now-serious AQ’s performed an emotional rendition of the Beatle’s “With a little help from my friends,” complete with Joe Cocker hand gestures, to a laughing and tear-soaked crowd.
The encore reflected both the band’s and crowd’s feelings of closing fair moments, with band and crowd singing “Happy Trails” to a massive standing ovation.
The band will perform at Players House of Rock on Sept. 14 and 15 and at the Spenard VFW hall (an all-ages show) on Sept. 16.
CREDIT: Leland Smith is an Anchorage performer and educator.