Four bandmates take shots of whiskey before they hit the stage. There's a huddle, with fists put in a circle and a loud chant of the band's name to stoke the energy before the show starts. But, there's no testosterone here.
Since the '80s, the all-female hair band Vixen, playing The Space at Westbury on Saturday, has been performing across the globe, proving women can rock just as hard as men.
“A lot of people saw us as a novelty not knowing that we were a perfectly normal band like all the guys,” says lead singer Janet Gardner. “There were even some who thought we had people behind the stage playing for us.”
PLAYIN’ WITH THE GUYS
Scoring hits like “Cryin,” “Edge of a Broken Heart” and “How Much Love,” the band went on to tour with macho outfits including Ozzy Osbourne, KISS, the Scorpions and Deep Purple.
“They were all gentlemen who didn’t treat us like a chick band,” says drummer Roxy Petrucci. “We learned from them every night.”
Back then, Vixen was dubbed as “the female Bon Jovi” — a moniker they didn’t mind. “We didn’t fight it,” Gardner says. “They were the biggest band of the time. We took it as a compliment.”
Petrucci adds, “Musically we had the Bon Jovi style, but we looked more like Poison.”
On Long Island, there’s an all-female Bon Jovi tribute band called Lay Your Hands on Me, which plays Napper Tandy’s in Smithtown Nov. 17.
“People are quite intrigued by the whole girl power thing,” says lead singer Michele Miller of Lindenhurst, who works as a personal trainer and bartender. “They are curious and want to know what it’s all about. Girls doing Bon Jovi music poses a bit of a challenge.”
Growing up, guitarist Heather Faulkner of Shoreham says was discouraged from playing lead at age 11. “My teacher told me because I was a girl my hands would never be strong enough to play lead guitar,” she says. “But I was determined and pursued it anyway.”
In fact, she was taught by former Vixen guitarist Gina Stile of Massapequa from age 17-20.
“Gina helped me really take off with the instrument and get to a professional level,” says Faulkner, who is an insurance broker by day. “She was such a gifted teacher who showed me how to pick, develop my hands and cross the strings clean.”
Any group that's been playing for decades has to deal with artistic tension.
“It’s better now than it was back then,” Petrucci says. “When you are young, your ego gets out of whack and your hormones are running wild. Being with each other 24/7 can be hard.”
Gardner says things have changed today.
“We are having more fun now than ever before,” she says. “We still have the same spirit with more appreciation for everything.”
With both bands there’s a strong sense of nostalgia for the ‘80s, a decade when hair bands dominated the music scene.
“The ‘80s were the best,” Petrucci says. “I feel sorry for anybody who didn’t get to experience it. It’s an era that will never be duplicated.”
Miller agrees. “People still want to hear this music that they grew up with played live so they can sing along," she said. "It’s like another way to relive your childhood.”
WHEN|WHERE 8 p.m. Nov. 10, The Space at Westbury, 250 Post Avenue
INFO 516-283-5566, thespaceatwestbury.com
LAY YOUR HANDS ON ME (All-female Bon Jovi tribute)
WHEN|WHERE 8 p.m. Nov. 17 at Napper Tandy’s Irish Pub, 15 East Main Street in Smithtown
INFO 631-360-0606, nappertandysirishpub.com