From Niskayuna Roots to Rocking SPAC: Marc LaBelle’s Meteoric Rise with Dirty Honey
Marc LaBelle is originally from Niskayuna, but on Friday night, you can catch him on stage at SPAC opening for 1980s rock band Guns N’ Roses.
LaBelle’s band Dirty Honey is the opening act, and if you’ve heard them play, you know they’ve got a gritty Southern California sound that seeks to revive how people hear rock ‘n roll. And while he hails from California, LaBelle admits that his recent travels have him feeling a bit like someone without roots.
“I’m kind of a nowhere boy,” LaBelle joked. “To be honest. I feel like I haven’t been in California very much at all the last two or three years or so. The bus is home at this point.”
The band has put on some serious mileage over the past few years, touring across the globe. “Europe, the UK, America, Canada,” the artist listed locations as if reading off his passport. “We’ve been making records now in Australia. We had some plans to tour Australia and Japan. That got sidetracked because of COVID. But we’ll obviously get there. And I think South America is on the shortlist to get to for the first time. So we’re worldwide now. It’s crazy.”
Crazy amazing for a local kid who grew up going to SPAC to watch concerts who is now not only on stage but also playing in a band identified by iHeart Radio as “on the verge” of being stars.
And what was the magic ticket to their success?
“We’re kind of a classic LA story of four guys that met each other with a dream and a passion for rock and roll,” LaBelle humbly explained. “I met John, our guitar player, just gigging around town. Same with Justin and Jaydon. It’s just that classic thing for guys just coming together and working on songs and getting a little bit of luck along the way.”
At the end of the day, LaBelle feels their music was their “calling card,” with recognizable sound and consistent effort helping them to carve out their own space in the scene. Playing humble venues and breaking into the scene was more important than pushing out onto more famous stages, LaBelle explained. “And, you know, that’s honestly where we kind of honed our craft and became a band. We were playing for four hours a night, and it reminds me of The Beatles, you know, doing their Hamburg.”
They’ve more than gotten their 10,000 hours of practice in, turning out performances that wow the crowds and have won them more fans. And while LaBelle is excited to play a number of different venues, SPAC is definitely a heart space for him.
“Saratoga is gonna be fantastic; obviously, that’s always really special for me,” he admitted.
LaBelle grew up dreaming of a bigger life than our bedroom community could offer in Niskayuna, a suburb of Schenectady, and spread his wings first to New York City and later even to Italy.
Like a lot of Nisky kids, he grew up loving music – and hockey. And he still plays, even while touring.
“I bring my gear with me on the road when we’re in the States,” he shared. And he gets invited to different skates, which is a great way to keep the hobby alive. “It’s just a great way to stay in shape on the road, and you get to meet people, and hockey players aren’t shy about making fun of anybody in the locker room. So it’s good that keeps you humble,” LaBelle explained.
I couldn’t resist asking him the Nippertown First Fives, which Labelle graciously indulged.
First album he ever bought? “I don’t remember, honestly, the first one I bought. The first album I really remember ever seeing and remembering the art was “Permanent Vacation,” and then shortly after that, “Toys in the Attic.” They were both by Aerosmith. And it was kind of like, wow, these are the same artists? They were more than a decade apart, and they had such different sounds. But I really loved them both.”
First concert? “Aerosmith at SPAC!” he grinned.
First instrument? “It was a little black mini guitar for a kid that my dad bought for me at Parkway Music, actually. And then the first real size one was from Drome Sound.” LaBelle was unaware they were closing after 50 years of business. “That’s crazy!” Even crazier: he still has both guitars.
First song he played in public? “Panama, by Van Halen, at Dam Day at Iroquois Middle School. My buddy Carl [Christy], our merch guy, was in that band with me. I think we were called Ground Zero. He’s a great guy. Everyone loves him.”
First band? “Ground Zero.”
And who inspires you today? “Oh, man, I mean, all the classics, you know, you’re always pushing to be great and timeless like them,” LaBelle started. But then added more thoughtfully, “But, yeah, honestly, my bandmates definitely inspire me to create. Sometimes, your first instincts aren’t the best. And being able to trust people. They can tell you if something’s not good enough; they’re not shy about it, either. It’s gonna be better, whatever, you know, whether it’s a melody or a lyric or whatever, they’ll push you to do the best.”
Friday night, Dirty Honey brings their best to Saratoga Performing Arts Center—opening for Guns ‘n Roses and performing for a hometown crowd. Tickets are still available, and advance purchase is highly recommended.