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Downtown Los Angeles is far from the cleanest city in the world. In fact, it’s pretty dirty. On Monday, November 20, it got even dirtier. Southern California’s own Dirty Honey took over The Belasco as part of their headlining tour for the newly released album, Can’t Find The Brakes.

The album has only been out for a few weeks, but the first single from it, Won’t Take Me Alive, has been getting plenty of air play for months and broke into the Top 10. And this being billed as a “Coming Home” show, all the stops were really pulled out on this night. It was live streamed, and Matt Pinfield introduced the band. Dirty Honey is already known for an energetic live act and need no extra reason to step it up, but step it up they did.

The quartet features Marc LaBelle on lead vocals, John Notto on guitar, Justin Smolian on bass, and Jaydon Bean on drums (very recently replacing Corey Coverstone). As Pinfield reminded the audience in his introduction, Dirty Honey has an interesting back story. They are the first unsigned back to ever top the mainstream rock chart with the song, “When I’m Gone.”

It was a 17-song set with six of them coming from the new album and the show opened with the title track. Dirty Honey is a riff-based, rock and roll band and those riffs come from the Gibson Les Paul-wielding John Notto. He has all of the guitar hero moves, so that, plus undeniable talent makes him a blast to watch as well as listen to. But the revelation for the night was LaBelle’s voice. It’s powerful and clear and he matches any note from any recorded song. Rounding out the band, the rhythm section of Smolian and Bean are heavy in the best way possible.

While they played their share of originals, Dirty Honey showed their great feel for fresh takes on covers. Two great examples were an acoustic, fun version of The Rolling Stone’s “Honkey Tonk Woman,” and a slow, heavy “Let’s Go Crazy” by Prince. (Notto’s guitar work at the end would have made the Purple One proud.)

Dirty Honey is a band that has been called the future of Rock and Roll. But they readily acknowledge their influences like Aerosmith, Guns N’ Roses, Led Zeppelin, and The Black Crowes. They write and play catchy songs with choruses and riffs that when played live automatically get heads bobbing, bodies moving, and entire audiences singing along. The Belasco was General Admission standing room only, but the entire crowd would have been on their feet even if seating had been provided.

If the audience didn’t need any more reason to stand, the first song of the encore provided a great one. The Black Crowes own Chris Robinson joined Dirty Honey for a cover of AC/DC’s “Rock and Roll Damnation.” While introducing Robinson, Marc LaBelle acknowledged how much he has borrowed/stolen from the singer. Many times during the song, LaBelle looked like he was in rock heaven, singing on stage with an influence/idol/hero. But isn’t that what makes Rock and Roll what it is? Taking from the past, blending here, twisting there. Hopefully, when it’s done with skill, talent, and respect, the outcome is something passionate and fresh. And dirty.

Daniel Gray

Photojournalist - Los Angeles

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