Though the El Rey is not my favorite spot in Los Angeles to see a show, Honeyhoney is a favorite, and well worth my lack of fondness for the venue to see them play live. My first encounter with Honeyhoney had been a live show, when they opened for a lyriquediscorde favorite, Ryan Bingham. They were one of those opening acts that blew my musical soul, and had me racing out to make their music my own the day after the show. I was excited to find out they had a new album out this month, and even more thrilled to see they were playing a gig, and that they were the headliners this time around. On arrival at the El Rey I found myself wondering what their live set would be like, and what their opening acts would be like. Was I about to discover my next favorite bands/artists?
First up was Wheeler Walker, Jr. Unassuming, decked out in the trappings of an old-timey country singer, with an acoustic draped around his shoulders, and an unmistakable twang, it wasn’t until the lyrics hit that I realized this was not at all what it seemed. The saying don’t judge a book by its cover came to mind as Wheeler sang about graphic sex acts he wished to have with his girlfriend’s entire family (Grandma included). Honeyhoney came out and joined Wheeler, donning wigs and beards as disguises, and backed him up, joining in a song all about fellatio and cunnilingas. This felt like a comedy/parody act, and though it was amusing, it wasn’t quite the opener I expected. Not necessarily a bad thing, but not an opener I’d be running out to hear more of, though it certainly acted as a crowd ice-breaker.
Next up was even more of a surprise. Feeling like I was in the midst of a major early eighties flashback, or some kind of sonic time travel, Zero Dezire took us back to the age of New Wave and early Punk, and then some.
Self-described as “vagcore“, Zero Dezire features members of The Belle Brigade, Bird And The Bee, and Touche. They came on-stage costumed up in what seemed like a melding of The Plasmatics, Adam Ant, Devo and Le Tigre. The lead singer was topless sans some well-placed silvery duct tape, and a pink Anime styled wig. The co-singer/keyboardist went from a overwhelming, tangled wig to a fur, band-geek type hat, and had a slash of black make-up across her eyes. The band sang songs about fat ballerinas, one-night stands, birthday celebrations, and a long list of alcohol drinks (in a song titled Alcohol), and had the audience in a mixture of awe and confusion.
It’s My Birthday :: Zero Dezire
(you may have heard them on HBO’s Girls)
More confusing an opener than Wheeler, I will say that I enjoyed Zero Dezire immensely, and would have raced home to look them up to hear more of their music, but I didn’t have to – the band gave me a homemade burned CD titled with a sharpie, and tucked into a ziploc baggie (yes, I’m serious).
Once the laughs and wonder of the opening acts were over, though, the reason we all were there took to the stage, blowing me away from the first chords of the starting song, Ohio. Lead singer, Suzanne Santo’s voice is so breathtakingly good it can be hard to notice anything else about the band, though guitarist, and co-singer, Benjamin Jaffe certainly holds his own and garners attention, as well, making this duo a force to be reckoned with.
The band graced us with new songs from their recently released album 3 (a 2015 favorite of mine for damn sure), older hits such as crowd-favorite Angel of Death, and my favorite, Thin Line, and phenomenal covers of Etta James (oh my stars, At Last had me in tears!) and Nancy Sinatra’s Bang Bang used as intro to another crowd favorite, Little Toy Gun. The duo’s on-stage chemistry is a thing to behold, and Suzanne’s ever-exchanging musical instruments, switching between acoustic to electric guitar, banjo, violin, was remarkable, to say the least.
Honeyhoney is an electrifying band to experience, at one moment tender and raw, especially with songs like Yours to Bear, You and I and Don’t Know How (the latter that also had me in tears), at the next, full of rock and roll and blues-shaking goodness, with songs like LA River (fitting for the venue/show), Big Man and Little Toy Gun. Though both Suzanne and Ben remarked on the night’s crowd being the biggest they’d ever played to, they sure didn’t seem like it as they commanded the stage and had the audience completely engaged and responding back with screaming, yelling, dancing, and lots of singing-a-long (even Suzanne’s Mom, who had flown out for the show, could be seen doing all of the above).
I urge you to check-out Honeyhoney if they come to your area. They will light you up, move you, rock you, soothe you and leave you feeling like you’ve had one of those never will ever forget live music experiences. They are still on-tour so take a look here and see if there’s a gig you can make – you’ll come back and thank me, I’m sure of it.
Thin Line clip (no, I’m not much of a filmmaker/videographer)
At Last clip