DIRTY HONEY w/ AUSTIN MEADE
@ THE DANFORTH MUSIC HALL, TORONTO
NOVEMBER 8, 2023
Having released their second album Can’t Find The Brakes last Friday, Dirty Honey’s Toronto performance was something truly special. Despite the Can’t Find The Brakes Tour having started nearly a month ago, the band has only hit the stage four times since the record dropped, giving their set a celebratory air. Along with touring support from Austin Meade, the Danforth Music Hall was a place of true classic rock revelry.
Opening the show was San Antonio-based artist Austin Meade. Backed by a four-piece band, the singer and guitarist took the stage for a solid 30-min set. A bit groovy, a bit riffy, the band sported a modern rock tone that was very much rooted equally in ‘70s rock and country. While not necessarily a unique combination on paper, there was something about Meade’s presence that elevated his performance. Additionally, his chemistry with his lead guitarist, whose solos were immaculate, was the center of the show. Crunchy chords accented by lush harmonies and tasteful solos made for a strong Toronto debut for Meade.
Dirty Honey are bona fide rockstars. Whatever comes to your mind when reading that sentiment is likely true. The music, the aesthetic, the energy, and overall vibe – everything about them is what I would assume it felt to watch the greatest of classic rock stars perform in their prime. Despite the rocksteady performance from drummer Jaydon Bean and the high-octane stage show from guitarist John Notto and bassist Justin Smolian, you couldn’t help but focus your attention – nearly undivided – on lead singer Marc LaBelle. This feat alone, equally attributed to his stunning vocal delivery as it is his incredibly cool presence, likens him to some of the greatest front men ever.
Opening their set with “Can’t Find The Brakes”, the band immediately sounded amazing with a balanced sound accented by excellent tones – particularly that of Notto’s Les Paul and his Marshall stacks. The start of their set felt like a five-song arch, a true knockout punch that included “California Dreamin’”, “Heartbreaker”, “Scars”, “Dirty Mind” and “Tied Up”. This series of songs made for a powerful display of Dirty Honey’s classic rock inspired sound and their tight chemistry as a band. The middle point of their set featured a pair of acoustic songs, the first being the striking “Coming Home (Ballad Of The Shire)” followed by a rapid bluegrass interpretation of The Rolling Stones’ “Honky Tonk Woman”. Additional highlights included “Don’t Put Out The Fire”, a standout cover of Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy”, and the three-song encore of “Won’t Take Me Alive”, “Roam”, and “Rolling 7s”.
If you have any doubts about this band, their live show will convince you otherwise. As youthful and energetic as their performance was, their nostalgic longing for an era long gone was matched by their unique and modern take of the genre. There was a genuine excitement to their performance, something that comes from watching an up-and-coming act who could very easily become among the biggest bands in the world. Dirty Honey put on a thrilling performance a clear cut above most, if not all, other classic rock-inspired bands, making theirs a show quite like no other today. Bona fide rockstars, indeed.