The size of a venue and its stage can swallow bands whole, particularly newly formed bands that are still searching for their identity – struggling to play their music while simultaneously commanding the stage. Setting aside the first law of thermodynamics, the amount of energy those bands create dictates a smaller venue and stage so as not to lose that energy in empty space. For others, however, no venue or stage seems capable of harnessing the combustive force of the band. Like a kettle reaching a full boil and searching for a release, some bands cannot be contained. Those bands are built for stardom.
Dirty Honey is standing on the precipice of such heights.
The band, which consists of Marc LaBelle (vocals), John Notto (guitars), Justin Smolian (bass) and Jaydon Bean (drums), made history in September 2019 as the only unsigned artist in Billboard history to reach No. 1 on the Mainstream and Hard Rock Charts with its debut single, “When I’m Gone.” The band parlayed that success into opening for such rock heavyweights as The Who, Guns N’ Roses, Slash and The Black Crowes. The similarities with those bands in terms of stage presence and sound cannot be ignored.
LaBelle is the quintessential frontman, divined with a charisma and voice that seemingly destined him to front a hard-charging, blues-based, southern rock-tinged, rock and roll band. Notto, in turn, is the Slash to LaBelle’s Rose. The flashy and fiery guitarist who is the perfect foil to Smolian, the brooding bassist who drives the rhythm with Bean.
But make no mistake – Dirty Honey is no cover band or imitator. LaBelle, Notto, Smolian and Bean are releasing music that is vibrant and fresh. Music that not only satiates our need for straightforward rock and roll that all too many people have left for dead, but also proves that the genre is still as great as ever. Dirty Honey’s recent show at the Concord Music Hall in Chicago was confirmation of this fact.
Touring in support of their second and absolute gem of a full-length album, Can’t Find The Brakes, the band played a scorching set that opened with “Can’t Find the Brakes,” “California Dreamin’” from the band’s 2021 self-titled debut album and, following a brief nod to Led Zeppelin’s “Heartbreaker,” its own (but different) song by the same name from the band’s 2019 self-titled EP.
The rest of the set included songs well known to the band’s fans, such as “Scars,” “Tied Up,” “The Wire,” “Another Last Time,” “When I’m Gone” and “Rolling 7s,” as well as quite a few from Can’t Find The Brakes which had only been released a few weeks earlier. You’d be hard pressed to tell the difference from the reaction of the crowd. The album is an instant classic highlighted by the rockers “Don’t Put Out the Fire,” “Won’t Take Me Alive,” “Dirty Mind,” “Get A Little High,” “Can’t Find The Brakes,” “Satisfied,” “Ride On” and “Rebel Son,” as well as the beautiful mid-tempo numbers “Coming Home (Ballad of the Shire)” and “You Make It All Right.” Don’t sleep on it or this tour.
For more information on Dirty Honey, including Can’t Find The Brakes and the band’s current U.S. tour which continues through the end of the year, click here.
All images: © Derek Smith / High Voltage Concert Photography for American Blues Scene