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Bonfire revisits AC/DC's classic album

Scott Mattocks admits that when Bonfire, the local AC/DC tribute band he fronts, started 10 years ago, it wasn't very good.

"We kind of got lucky because there weren't any AC/DC tribute bands around, which was nice," he says. "AC/DC put out Stiff Upper Lip in 2000, and WMMS was doing a big release party at the Hard Rock [Café]. They got us to play, and that gave us our start. We really sucked back then, but we were giving it a shot. Our heads were spinning too, because we heard our names on the radio all the time. But we've just been rolling with it and having a good time with it."

At the time, Mattocks was an obsessive AC/DC fan.

"I would work out and run to AC/DC," he says. "Back in the '80s and '90s, I'd have AC/DC on my tape player because it's powerful, pump-you-up music. And my girlfriend liked it at the time."

Every time AC/DC would come to town, Bonfire would play a show. One time, AC/DC's Angus and Malcolm Young were supposed to jam with Bonfire at defunct Parma metal club the Revolution.

"We did this Angus Army party," recalls Mattocks. "Angus and Malcolm were supposed to come and play onstage with us. That was the big rumor. You couldn't get in the place, and people were parking miles away. Their tour manager said they couldn't come because it was too crowded. I was sad. I was so excited. There goes a dream away. But we have met the band a couple of times."

Four years ago, to commemorate the death of original AC/DC singer Bon Scott, Bonfire played a gig at Parma's now-closed Jigsaw Saloon. The band learned 45 Scott songs and hired a bagpipe player to play on tunes like "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)." They performed to a sold-out crowd. That summer, the group also played Wrexham Wrecks 'Em, the world's biggest AC/DC Convention, in Wales.

"We were the first AC/DC band to play during the day at the festival," says Mattocks. "I must have gained 30 pounds drinking that British beer. When I came back, I was like a blimp. It was all those bangers and beer."

For the show this weekend at House of Blues, the band will play 1980's Back in Black in its entirety in honor of the album's 30th anniversary. Mattocks says there are several albums the band could have played, but it chose Back in Black because it's so familiar to fans.

"We know over 80 AC/DC songs, so it's not hard to do a whole album," he says. "But everyone knows Back in Black and we had this opportunity to do it, so we're excited about it. We like to put our props out, so we'd like to bring the cannons and the bell. But at House of Blues, we have to be kind of conservative. One time we blew up the Odeon with these flash pots for 'TNT,' and the whole place shook. They got pretty mad at us."

Mattocks is a cover-band chameleon. He also plays in Cult tribute band Sonic Temple and Sensational Alex Harvey Band tribute Vambo Rools. He was in Mojo Rising, a Doors cover band, too. He says he understands why tribute bands don't get much respect and admits Bonfire took some time to perfect.

"I've been lucky because the bands that I've been in have seasoned, well-known musicians," says Mattocks, who also fronts blues-rock band Spare Change, which plays original music. "We take it very seriously. We jam with original bands sometimes, and they come to our shows and they think we're right on. If we trashed the music, it would be another thing. When we first started, we trashed the music, but I think we've gained people's respect now."

music@clevescene.com

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