People wearing denim, leather, and hats reminiscent of Stevie Nicks filled Harrisburg Midtown and Arts Center (HMAC)’s Stage on Herr this past Saturday night. Those of all ages — from those in their twenties to those in their fifties — gathered to see Dirty Honey, the first unsigned band to ever top mainstream rock charts not even four months after they had done so.
Having only recently discovered the band, I decided to read a bit about them before attending the show and was impressed to find out they were formed in 2017—only three years ago. Yet, they already sound, to my ears, like a matured, modern take on old school bands like Led Zeppelin or Motley Crue. I realized their music was different from most of what I’d been hearing recently and grew eager to hear them in person.
Dirty Honey kicked their set off with their groovy and strong song “Scars”, which showcased Marc LaBelle’s vocals that ring with a grittiness like that of Robert Plant. Seeing them perform brought their songs to life with a contagious energy demonstrated in them moving around stage and their fun attire. Two of the band members (Justin Smolian and John Notto) came out wearing shades; Notto on guitar looking quite like a young Ozzy Osbourne. LaBelle himself donned a yellow-ish green velvet top hat with playing cards in it, fitting their vibe in an edgy mad-hatter style. Did I mention that every single band member has longer, and more luscious hair than I do?
Throughout the show, fans—a few I met had driven hours to come see the show—were given the chance to hear not one, but two of their unreleased new songs: one called “The Wire” and the other called “Tied Up.” Both rang true to their sound and style while giving us new and original material.
Whether because of the venue’s size or the number of people packed into it, the room was getting hot. LaBelle made a comment at one point that though they’re “from somewhere 82 and sunny [Los Angeles], it’s getting pretty hot in Harrisburg tonight.”
Despite the heat, fans kept their energy up along with the band. Many of the fans who weren’t wearing Dirty Honey attire, donned clothes from an array of other bands from old time classics like AC/DC and Aerosmith to modern day rockers like the Struts and Tora Tora.
Each of the band members’ skill shone at some point in the night, with each one of them getting to have a solo moment. And, finally they closed the night with the song “Rolling 7s,” a song seeping with raw rock and blues. While it was a bit disappointing that they didn’t play an encore, few of the fans seemed to stay disappointed for long. I realized, along with everyone else, that I’m not sure Dirty Honey could have ended the show on a stronger note.
So, if you’re looking for some new classic rock, know that Dirty Honey is definitely not another carbon copy. They left me satisfied, but not without craving a little bit more.