Dirty Honey delivered a rock-solid show in a sizzling hot Harrisburg locale, introducing two new songs that define their signature concert-perfect sound.
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania feels like a last urban stronghold before Route 15 winds north by the Susquehanna River towards NY. Excellent music can be found in more remote places, such as this one, and it is always well worth the travel. Several young bands in the US lately have adopted the fresh, hopeful, and introspective sound of modern rock. They draw on the best energy of the 50s, 60s, and 70s music, and lend it a modern twist. The starry-eyed guys of Dirty Honey (Marc LaBelle – vocals, John Notto – guitar, Justin Smolian – bass, and Corey Coverstone – drums) are great representatives of this sound and the fans, who traveled from as far as Colorado, looked forward to hearing them play.
The concert was hosted at the House of Music and Performing Arts Center, a laid-back location with artist hangout vibes. The band members had to walk through the same entrance and bar area as the audience to get to the stage. This made them feel almost … local, part of the community of music lovers, casually putting on a show on a Saturday night.
The Amazons, a rock and roll band from the UK, entertained the crowd with an excellent set of their own, but everyone was undoubtedly waiting for Dirty Honey to come on stage. Justin Smolian confessed, with a broad smile on his face, that headlining a tour is something that he could do all day long because the crowds know their songs and are there to support them.
“Scars,” the fifth track from the Dirty Honey EP, opened the set. The band’s sound and music would fall in the lighter, brighter side of rock, with catchy lyrics about love and heartbreak. “Scars,” however, delves into a measure of existential contemplation, akin to the stuff of early blues – “The coldest rain can’t wash away / A past that’s full of my mistakes” and “Searching the corners of my mind / But this light ain’t bright enough to find / A way out of this cave.” The riffs are heavy and grounding, the sound well-defined and self-contained. LaBelle’s vocals are appropriately dragging along, at first, and then soar high and clear above the rumbling drum and bass. “But like a wall that’s fallen / You’ve left me crawling…” and the audience is hooked! This band does not fumble with awkward first songs. Instead, they hit it 100% with the first three songs, and they and never lose the audience at any point. Their ability to connect is their strength and talent, above their amazing musicianship.
“Fire Away” is another favorite, starting with solid riffs and haunting vocals which, in the higher register, evoke memories of Steven Tyler’s earlier sound. “So fire away / Whatever you say, yeah / Will only lead, lead me from the masquerade.” If you’re in the audience, you can’t help but sing along. Dirty Honey creates catchy melodies and lyrics and deliver them just as well on stage as they have when singing unplugged on the streets of New Orleans (as seen on their Instagram live stream earlier this year).
The signature Dirty Honey sound is starting to take shape through some of the upbeat newer songs like “The Wire” and “Tied Up.” There is no plan to go in any certain direction, LaBelle said, instead they create what feels good.
Overall, all Dirty Honey songs came across much more soulfully live than recorded. The blues-based sound was helped by the emotion evoked in the live setting. Such an example was “Down The Road,” a beautiful ballad, in which LaBelle’s voice blended with the instruments into pure emotion – “Been down for so long / I’m learning to stand on my own.”
The band also played “Last Child” (Aerosmith) and a section of “Whole Lotta Love” (Led Zeppelin), which showcased their impeccable ability to perform at the level of the classic heavies of rock. Their skill is undoubted. All of the band members take entertaining solos and John Notto could easily carry an entire guitar-centered show.
The concert closed with “When I’m Gone,” the band’s tremendously appealing number 1 hit, and “Rolling 7s.” The crowd sang along without encouragement and asked for more. Dirty Honey owns their music, their image, and the space around it fully, which translates very well to the audience creating a freeing concert experience.