Dirty Honey in Tampa: They prove real rock is here to stay

Live Review

Justin Smolian and John Notto of Dirty Honey. Photo by Chyrisse.

By Chyrisse Tabone, Rock At Night Tampa

Live Review: Dirty Honey with Austin Meade – The Ritz Ybor, Tampa, FL – October 29, 2023

Rock At Night has been a long-time fan and supporter of Dirty Honey. Our first live review was when the band performed in a small club in Raleigh, North Carolina, in 2017. They later rose to popularity with the distinction of being the first unsigned band to reach No. 1 on Billboard’s Rock Airplay chart with “When I’m Gone.” They have opened for iconic bands like the Who and Guns N’ Roses and, for the last couple of years, have been headlining concerts around North America. Rock At Night covered the band’s debut in the UK earlier in the year.

Austin Meade Band. Photo by Chyrisse.

On Sunday, October 29th, Rock At Night had the pleasure of seeing Dirty Honey as a headliner at the Ritz Ybor Theatre in Tampa, Florida. The police presence was heavy in this historic area of Tampa, also known as Cigar City. The night before, there was a mass shooting during a Halloween celebration. That did not deter the concert crowd, as a steady stream of people entered the theatre.

The support band for the evening was Austin Meade. Hailing from Texas, he performed a mix of rock music with a groove. Personal favorites include the catchy “Happier Alone” and “Late Night Letdown.” He ended the set with his latest single, “Blackout.”

John Notto of Dirty Honey. Photo by Chyrisse.

After a quick set change, the lights dimmed, and smoke filled the stage. Out walked vocalist Marc Labelle in his characteristic black hate and aviator shades. Guitarist John Notto and bassist Justin Smolian flanked him on both sides. Drummer Jaydon Bean hopped up on the stage behind the kit. The band immediately tore into “Can’t Find the Brakes,” a single from the new album (with the same name), which will be released on November 3rd.

Marc LaBelle of Dirty Honey. Photo by Chyrisse.

Without missing a beat, the band jumped into “California Dreamin'” and “Heartbreaker.” By then, they had the audience in the palm of their hands. Many were mouthing the song lyrics and nodding in time to the band’s classic rock sound. While gazing around the floor area, the median age of the patrons appeared to be 40s and 50s. The Gen X’ers seem to dig Dirty Honey’s retro rock sound.

Having heard them several times, the band was white hot last night. They have been touring heavily since the end of COVID, and work together in synchronicity. LaBelle has one of the best voices out there today. He sometimes sounds like Bon Scott with grittiness and soul—yet he can hit the high notes with ease. Very impressive.

My favorite moment of the evening was when the band went acoustic. Bassist Smolian switched to an acoustic guitar, and Notto played a resonator. Written while the band recorded in Australia, “Coming Home (Ballad of the Shire)” was sheer heaven as LaBelle’s voice shone against the simple guitar accompaniment. An unexpected twangy version of “Honky Tonk Woman” made the room feel like we were in a Texan roadhouse. The band even gifted the audience with a cover of Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy.”

The band got back on the hard rock track with favorites like “When I’m Gone” and, of course, “Rolling 7s.” Dirty Honey never disappoints in their live shows and proves the “new classic rock” sound is alive and well. Go check out the new album Can’t Find the Brakes this Friday.









READ or listen to the audio of ROCK AT NIGHT’s interview with JOHN NOTTO:

Chyrisse Tabone, Ph.D.
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