TVD Live: honeyhoney at Bottom Lounge, 2/4

It’s hard to lump a band like honeyhoney into any specific genre or scene. Critics and fans alike throw around the terms “alt-folk” or “alt-country” the minute a banjo or mandolin is combined with electric guitar. honeyhoney write good pop songs, some of them rock and some of them just sway gently in the breeze. It’s not quite country, or folk, or rock but a combination of it all that is truly unique.

honeyhoney took the stage in Chicago with a nervous excitement. Vocalist/Guitarist/Drummer Ben Jaffe joked with the audience and the whole band wore their Sunday’s best. Singer/songwriter, Suzanne Santos, explained that this was the first crowd they’ve played for that felt like “our crowd.”

The band has attracted plenty of fans as an opener for bigger acts like Sheryl Crow and Trampled By Turtles, but this time they were the headliner. Always a bridesmaid and never a bride, honeyhoney was now wearing the long white dress.

Normally a duo, composed of Ben Jaffe and Suzanne Santos, the band has a rotating cast of other musicians who help fill in wherever necessary. The 3-piece ensemble they brought to the Bottom Lounge was new territory for the band but they quickly found their stride. Ben Jaffe manned the drum set, but also took on guitar and vocals, sometimes all three at once.

The addition of a yet another talented multi-instrumentalist, also named Ben, added some gorgeous banjo, mandolin, pedal steel, and electric guitar to the mix. Suzanne stomped her foot to the beat and spun some bittersweet tales in a soulful voice. Not to mention playing a mean banjo and some gorgeous violin.

The atmosphere was relaxed and spirits were high all around. The band even managed to play a few songs between all of the compliments and chatter from the crowd. They strummed through a generous selection of the tracks off their 2011 release Billy Jack including the single “Angel of Death” with a few older tunes thrown into the mix. A Radiohead cover even made the cut.

The songs spanned the range of heartbreaking country ballads to bluegrass jams that got the crowd clapping and singing along. Their closest thing to a party anthem had the crowd screaming, “Let’s get wrecked!” while their latest single had them crooning the hauntingly beautiful chorus “I’m the angel of death baby, the end is near.” Ms. Santos is a storyteller, and despite the sugary sweet band name, these songs are far from bubblegum pop. Whiskey, sex, failed relationships, and Midwestern upbringings are just some of the topics honeyhoney bring to their songwriting.


This crowd truly belonged to honeyhoney, and the band showed their appreciation with an amazing performance. Their newest album Billy Jack is available from the band’s store and just about anywhere else that sells fine music. The vinyl copy includes a CD and an instant digital download of the album, so there’s no reason not buy it on wax. It sold out at the Bottom Lounge, so pick up the LP while you can.

Honeyhoney is a no longer just a supporting act in my mind. They’ve proven that they can hold their own on stage and they’re showing no sign of slowing down. On top of all that, they are amazingly nice folks, happy to chat with fans and give out signatures until the bouncers herded everybody out the door. The band’s official website includes this final line on their bio page and I can’t think of a simpler way to sum up this review:

On the brink of truly coming into their own, they are ready for whatever the music brings…

For more photos from honeyhoney at Bottom Lounge, Chicago, check out my Tumblr post.

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