Over the last two or three years the names Dirty Honey and MAMMOTH WVH have been pouring out of TV’s, radios, computers and any other means of listening to music. Both had amazing debuts and have certainly taken the rock world by storm ever since. The pair have also landed on stage with some of the biggest names in Rock & Roll including Guns & Roses and The Who, not to mention having slots on some of the biggest festivals in the world. Each band has their own electric styles on stage that allow them to stun the crowds that gather to see them. But this time fans wouldn’t have to wait and hope to hear about two separate tour announcements months or hundreds of miles apart. Instead the fans will have both of these incredible bands in one night under the same roof. What more could you ask for?
Seeing MAMMOTH take the stage really puts into perspective that we have essentially two headliners that are going to rock the hell out of this building. When the band hits the stage the crowd erupts with excitement as their massive logo illuminates the back half of the stage. But you couldn’t help but notice that the band was short two guitar players. Even though they were short handed, it didn’t lower the intensity at all as they exploded into the fast pace of Mammoth.
As soon as the song ends Wolfgang addresses the lack of personnel. He looks out to the crowd and explains that Jon Jordan had to go home for a family emergency. And that cardboard Frank (there was literally a cardboard cutout of missing guitarist #2) would be his fill in. Without missing a beat MAMMOTH blasted through the upbeat Mr. Ed and followed that up with their crushing new single Epiphany. Wolfgang had his hands full pulling triple duty with guitar, keyboard and vocals and managed to pull it all off seamlessly.
Anybody who has listened to MAMMOTH’s debut album knows that it is stacked from start to finish with amazing music. And fans have been raising the question of when they are going to write new music or put out another album. Well tonight would be a teaser to the answer to one of those questions. Wolf asks the crowd “I think it would be fun to play a brand new song. Would you guys be into that?”. At which point the crowds erupt with excitement. I Don’t Know It All is packed with soaring vocals, great sounding harmonies and a killer guitar solo and will definitely be a shining moment on the new record.
Following You’re to Blame and what turns out was Eddie’s favorite track off the album with Think it Over. Wolf hits the stage armed with an acoustic guitar and delivers the song that brought this band so much attention and notoriety which has evolved into a musical tribute to Van Halen with the touching Distance. The intimate setting only enhances the experience as the floor glows with cell phone screens while his radiant voice carries over their heads.
When the song concludes the crowd’s cheers were so loud they could probably be heard across the street as the smile grew on his face from ear to ear. Now the rest of the band begin to reconvene on stage and Wolfgang leans into the mic and starts to talk about the next song. An excited fan yells out “My Hero!”. Wolf laughs and says “You obviously have Twitter my friend. This song goes out to Taylor Hawkins.”. At which point the entire room explodes. As Drummer Garrett Whitlock pounds away at Hawkins’ signature intro the spotlights around stage begin to fire at the same pace. At the first syllable every person in attendance began to sing along, just adding more emotion to an already sentimental performance. From start to finish it was an amazing rendition and such a touching tribute to Talyor.
Even though MAMMOTH was not fully staffed for tonight’s show they were able to march on and deliver the fans a power packed 12 song set. Much like how they started the show, the band finishes up with another high octane tune. This time it would be the parting gift of Don’t Back Down. Wolfgang Van Halen has never wanted to be “Van Halen 2.0” but rather forge his own path in making his own legacy and that is something I admire very much about him. This band will no doubt conquer any obstacle that gets in their way as they continue to gain momentum in their career.
After a quick gear breakdown the lights dim and the roar of rock enthusiastic fans takes over Starland Ballroom. Through the darkness the shadowy figures of Guitarist John Notto, Bassist Justin Smolian and Drummer Corey Coverstone begin to hit the stage. When the lights jump on the band start things up and soon frontman Marc Labelle rushes the stage they jump into the rock groove of California Dreamin’. Their vintage rock sound and attire make you feel like you’re in a musical time machine taken right back to the 70’s.
The energy and stage presence of Notto, Smolian and LaBelle had fans going wild along the barricade as well as the rest of the room. That is certainly something that is a guarantee at any Dirty Honey show and the crowds soak up every minute of it. It wouldn’t take the band long to serve up one of the biggest hits off of their debut album with Walking the Wire. As soon as John hits those chords the fans lit up Starland Ballroom with a solid ovation. And the overwhelming spirit in the room had Marc LaBelle shaking his money maker for the fans and to no surprise sparked an added reaction from the ladies in the crowd.
Anytime a band takes on another artist’s music there is always that question of will it do the original justice. And when you venture to re-imagine something from Prince’s catalog, the comparisons will be great. But leave it to Dirty Honey to take an iconic song like Let’s Go Crazy and saturate it with warm crunchy guitar riffs, soul and a handful of rock attitude. This vision had people all across the floor dancing and swinging their arms through the air. The slower but solid tempo transitions to a more upbeat swing that now had the fans jumping and singing along.
When you go to a show that features nothing but killer musicians no one is going to complain about seeing one of them steal the spotlight and have their own solo. Some might even be lucky enough to see two. But like anything else that Dirty Honey does, it’s either go big or go home. First up was Justin Smolian as he turns the four strings on his bass into a harmonic orchestra before launching into a finger tapping synthesized madman.
Following a short jam with John, the two leave the spotlight for Corey Coverstone behind the kit. It quickly resembled a tornado of hands, drum sticks and hair as Corey circles around the drums with furious precision. And then with his Tobacco Burst Les Paul, John Notto perches it vertically on his thigh and launches into a six string symphony of hammer ons, pull offs and fierce bends. But with all of that speed and fierce playing, the most impressive point was when he broke into one of my favorite Led Zeppelin songs Ten Years Gone off the legendary Physical Graffiti.
Marc LaBelle rejoins his band mates as their mighty roar from the crowd has yet to die down. Then Dirty Honey goes into the song that first hooked me as a fan with When I’m Gone. I was blown away the first time I heard this song and thought to myself if there was a genre called Modern Classic Rock, this would be it. This band brought that brand of music to today’s audiences that could only experience it through their ears. There is no doubt that Dirty Honey is the whole package and when they hit that stage, that is an experience all in itself. Luckily for fans there’s a handful of dates left to catch them on the road so you can take in all of this in your face Rock & Roll for yourselves!