The Young Guns Tour, a co-headlining trek featuring Mammoth WVH and Dirty Honey, two of the hottest young rock bands on the scene, made its way to New Haven. CT. The package sold out the legendary rock club Toad’s Place, whose stage has hosted The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, David Bowie, and nearly every other act in music over the last 45 years.
As it is a true co-headlining tour, the bands alternate order each night. On this Sunday night, with no opening act, Mammoth WVH took the stage first. The packed house was fully behind Wolf VanHalen and his band as classic Van Halen shirts populated the crowd for the band’s first trip to the state. Van Halen led his band through 10 of the 14 tracks on their 2021 debut record, adding a new song, “I Don’t Know at All”, and a cover into the set.
Live, Mammoth WVH includes guitarist Jon Jourdan, bassist Ronnie Ficarro, and drummer Garrett Whitlock. While all are strong musicians, and Jourdan has a great presence, it still felt like more of a Wolf Van Halen solo show than a cohesive band. Near the end of the set, Van Halen took a moment to acknowledge the recent passing of Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins, mentioning that Hawkins had been a champion of Eddie Van Halen’s legacy and now Wolf wanted to return the favor. The band launched into Foo Fighters’ classic “My Hero” with help from the crowd singing along. In interviews, Wolf has mentioned how he was inspired by like Dave Grohl who recorded the entire Foo Fighters debut record on his own then morphed it into a band. Van Halen needs to find his Taylor Hawkins, the band member to share the spotlight and bring energy and an edge to the live performance.
Twice during the 1-hour set, Van Halen stood behind a keyboard. Prior to the second time, he mentioned how one thing he loved about this tour is that both bands play every note live, with no backing tracks being used. To his credit, he pulls off the sound of his debut record perfectly.
The seeds are certainly there for Mammoth WVH to become a major force, but the stage presence and live presentation still need to evolve. The current formula works well for a one-hour club set but in order to expand to a longer set on a bigger, headlining stage, Mammoth WVH needs to become more of a band with the energy and emotion that Wolf was part of every night when touring with the mighty Van Halen.
After a brief break, Dirty Honey took the stage for their set. Unlike Mammoth WVH who were making their debut in the state, Dirty Honey visited Connecticut last summer in an opening slot on the Black Crowes tour, a triumphant show that garnered the band many new fans.
Simply put, the members of Dirty Honey are rock stars. They look like rock stars, they own the stage like rock stars, and, most importantly, they sound like rock stars. Their set was comprised of most of the tracks from both their 2019 ep and their 2020 full-length debut, both called Dirty Honey, and one cover.
From the time the stage lights went up, vocalist Marc LaBelle, guitarist John Notto, bassist Justin Smolian, and drummer Corey Coverstone owned the crowd. Prowling the stage like Van Halen at Gazzarri’s, Dirty Honey knew exactly how to work the crowd through both their music and dynamic stage presence.
Dirty Honey treated their 1-hour set as if it were an arena show. Each instrumentalist had a solo spot, and frontman LaBelle along with guitarist Notto conjured images of Jagger/Richards, Tyler/Perry, and, yes, Roth/Van Halen. The band shows the poise of seasoned veterans and it’s clear they’ve done their time in clubs across the country.
As Mammoth WVH did, Dirty Honey also took time to acknowledge the passing of Hawkins. In a slightly different spin, LaBelle pointed out that you never know what life has in store and things could end at any moment so live while you can. The band then launched into their cover of Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy”, originally recorded for the NHL Winter Classic on New Year’s Day.
Having seen many, many shows at Toad’s Place in the late ’80s and ’90s, it was refreshing to see this legendary place once again packed with fans for a big rock show. If the response to these bands is any indication, rock & roll is alive and well and has two fantastic ambassadors in Mammoth WVH and Dirty Honey.