Listening to a band right before seeing them live is risky business. After hearing a polished version, replete with autotune and a combination of perfect takes, the real life performance often leaves quite a bit to be desired.
With a slow stomping foot and a few banjo licks, alt-folk duo HoneyHoney quickly proved such was not the case for Wednesday night’s El Rey performance.
Their three studio LPs are nothing to sneeze at, yet in person, the pair’s harmonies and emotional connection to each song added raw heat to beloved tunes and shed light on overlooked gems.
Unafraid to shake up recorded versions, singer Suzanne Santo played with the timing of popular 2011 tune “Ohio,” an ode to her home state, to open the set. Although she switches between the banjo, acoustic guitar, and violin with ease, Santo’s voice steers each song. Leaning back and forth into her microphone—the audio gear unable to contain her rising crescendoes—she moves from ballad into belt on numbers like “Marry Rich” and “Don’t Know How.”
A hearty chunk of their 16-song set was dedicated to their most recent release, 3, pulling in assistance from guitarist Ben Jaffe. With only a drummer to round out the duo, his deep voice often feels like the baseline, adding structure and depth.
“Sugarcane” struck a chord with HoneyHoney’s longtime fans, as the audiences hushed to sing along to the 2008 number. A stripped down rendition of “Burned Me Out,” a middle track on 3, exposed hidden heart wrenching lyrics, “I lost my faith in my own breath / who knew that love could feel like death,” that are all-too easy to skip past on the album.
The pair closed the set with the opening number for their latest, “Big Man,” a song that succeeds with its scant lyrics. HoneyHoney’s most chill-inducing moment came from a repeated chorus, as Santo and Jaffe sing the same words over and again, transitioning into a new key and quite literally ending the set on a high note.
Photos by Lauren Wade