Dirty Honey Overcome Cardiff Technical Challenges In Style

No sooner has the reverberations of Florence Black faded from Saturday night’s emotional show than the hard rock fraternity of South Wales is back out in force to one of the better venues in the Welsh Capital. Tonight, it’s the LA rock of Dirty Honey, a band getting rave reviews on their latest UK dates as part of their tour to promote the excellent new album, Can’t Find The Brakes.

Dirty Honey – Baby Said

Tramshed Cardiff – 13 February 2024

Words And Photography: Paul Hutchings

Dirty Honey - Tramshed, Cardiff - 13 February 2024.
Dirty Honey – Tramshed, Cardiff – 13 February 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings

If you haven’t heard it, then I would certainly recommend getting your ears around Can’t Find The Brakes, for it is a lovely slab of blues-infused rock, straddling the eras, with elements of Zeppelin through to Black Crowes and Aerosmith. With their previous self-titled record also a fantastic listen and the band having visited South Wales twice in the past two years, it was unsurprising that the Tramshed was close to a full house.

Dirty Honey - Tramshed, Cardiff - 13 February 2024.
Dirty Honey – Tramshed, Cardiff – 13 February 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings

Now, there are times when the gods simply transpire against you. You know the feeling. Your laptop dies in the middle of an important video call, the power is cut as your bread is baking, the back tyre punctures ten minutes after you leave the garage.

Life throws challenges at you, and it’s how you respond that defines your approach and outlook on life. Tonight, it’s a curve ball of massive proportions as minutes after Dirty Honey takes the stage and are about to launch into California Dreamin’, John Notto’s cab and amp decide that they aren’t taking the strain anymore, and pack in.

Dirty Honey - Tramshed, Cardiff - 13 February 2024.
Dirty Honey – Tramshed, Cardiff – 13 February 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings

It leaves the band standing helplessly on stage whilst the techs frantically try to resolve the issue. Singer Marc LaBelle waits for five minutes or so, then announces that the band will leave the stage and start over when the fault is rectified.

A strange ten minutes see the crowd chat amongst themselves, and the excitement generated by the intro music (AC/DC’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Damnation) and Dirty Honey’s energetic arrival on stage to the title track completely dissipates.

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Dirty Honey - Tramshed, Cardiff - 13 February 2024.
Dirty Honey – Tramshed, Cardiff – 13 February 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings

Then, to a tumultuous welcome, Dirty Honey are back on stage, and we are off again. It is, however, slightly disjointed. The band are clearly off their stride, and whilst the audience gives it everything, in part to their Saturday night approach to drinking, it’s evident that the band are struggling a little to build the head of steam again.

The first time I saw Dirty Honey, they rattled the Rival Sons cage with a performance of such vibrancy that it was touch and go who was the better band on the night (many say it was the support band). There isn’t the fluidity here, and whilst the songs work as well as ever, Dirty Honey are a lot more static than I was expecting.

Dirty Honey - Tramshed, Cardiff - 13 February 2024.
Dirty Honey – Tramshed, Cardiff – 13 February 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings

Drummer Jaydon Bean is excused, and he gives a fine showing as the main anchor, but Justin Smolian on bass seems to be having an energy crisis. Meanwhile, LaBelle is also less animated than previously seen.

Thankfully, the malaise is shaken after about six or so tracks, and by the time we get to Tied Up, the band are much more in the vein that I was expecting. Smolian is moving, LaBelle, who has an incredible voice, is fully engaged, chatting, and telling stories and as the band take things down with Coming Home (The Ballad Of The Shire) and an acoustic version of the Rolling Stones’ Honky Tonk Women you sense that they will snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Dirty Honey - Tramshed, Cardiff - 13 February 2024.
Dirty Honey – Tramshed, Cardiff – 13 February 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings

They do that with some ease despite having to drop a couple of songs due to the delay. We miss their Let’s Go Crazy cover, but they draw the audience fully in with plenty of participation on songs like The Wire and Another Last Time and set closer When I’m Gone.

We get treated to a virtuoso display by Notto, including a brief Hendrix-style burst of lead and another thankfully short solo, which leads into the set closer.

Dirty Honey - Tramshed, Cardiff - 13 February 2024.
Dirty Honey – Tramshed, Cardiff – 13 February 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings

Sensibly, Dirty Honey dispenses with the walking off stage before the encore charade, instead explaining that they were short of time before hitting the peak of the evening with the foot stomping Won’t Take Me Alive.

It’s an anthem of massive proportions, and any doubt about this band’s potential is swept away as they lean into Rolling 7s to conclude an eventful and somewhat traumatic evening.

They aren’t quite at the arena headliners status that I read someone on social media demanding, but they are well on the way.

Dirty Honey - Tramshed, Cardiff - 13 February 2024.
Dirty Honey – Tramshed, Cardiff – 13 February 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings

Baby Said

One might wonder who the right fit for Dirty Honey’s opening act would be. They themselves were a fine fit for Rival Sons, for example, but tonight, Baby Said don’t quite sit comfortably. Apparently, the band, who include sisters Veronica and Jess Pal, earned a direct deal with Lucia Wade at ITB, a booking agent for Måneskin, and all without having released a single track. Indeed, they were heard telling excited fans that they only have one song on Spotify so far.

Baby Said - Tramshed, Cardiff - 13 February 2024.
Baby Said – Tramshed, Cardiff – 13 February 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings

On tonight’s showing, it’s hard to see what all the fuss is about. Their lighting is awful, swathes of pinks and reds enveloping them in a soupy fog. Their music is generic alt-rock, and their show is unexciting as they stand, spread across the front of the stage, bathed in the tog’s arch nemesis – The purple bank of lights that cloak everything in a fuzzy haze.

Baby Said - Tramshed, Cardiff - 13 February 2024.
Baby Said – Tramshed, Cardiff – 13 February 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings

Their songs are short, ten crammed into 30 minutes, but to be fair, the crowd, those who aren’t chatting or ordering beers at the overpriced bar, do seem to enjoy it. They get lighters/phones in the air, encourage people to jump a bit to single Fight, and get a few arms in the air on Burn.

Baby Said - Tramshed, Cardiff - 13 February 2024.
Baby Said – Tramshed, Cardiff – 13 February 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings

There is plenty of applause, and whilst they weren’t for me in any way, the reaction of many suggests that they may well be a bigger name by the next time you hear of them.

Dirty Honey - Tramshed, Cardiff - 13 February 2024.
Dirty Honey – Tramshed, Cardiff – 13 February 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings
Dirty Honey - Tramshed, Cardiff - 13 February 2024.
Dirty Honey – Tramshed, Cardiff – 13 February 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings
Dirty Honey - Tramshed, Cardiff - 13 February 2024.
Dirty Honey – Tramshed, Cardiff – 13 February 2024. Photo: Paul Hutchings

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