According to the Bay Area’s own California Honeydrops, they don’t just play music – they throw parties. They have come a long way since guitarist and trumpeter Lech Wierzynkski and drummer Ben Malament started busking in an Oakland subway station, and they hold true to their original street-level feel. but the band has stayed true to that organic, street-level feel. Initially named The Honeydrops, they named themselves after the old band, The Tennessee Chocolate Drops.
Listening to Lech sing, it can be a surprise that he was born in Warsaw, Poland, and raised by Polish political refugees. He learned his vocal stylings from contraband American recordings of Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, and Louis Armstrong, and later at Oberlin College and on the club circuit in Oakland, California. Their shows feature extensive off-stage jamming and crowd interaction. “The whole point is to erase the boundaries between the crowd and us,” Wierzynski says. “We don’t make setlists. We want requests. We want crowd involvement, to make people become a part of the whole thing by dancing along, singing, picking the songs and generally coming out of their shells.”
This year, they celebrate their 10th year as a band as well as the release of their 7th record, a double album entitled Call It Home: Vol 1&2. Their live show doesn’t just feature your run of the mill trumpet and drum configuration, but incorporate more unusual instruments including a home-made gutbucket bass, jug, and washboard. Their style draws from Bay Area R&B, funk, Southern soul, Delta blues, and New Orleans second-line.
The California Honeydrops have always kept it local, even crowdfunding some of their records by playing gigs at a local pizza cooperative in Berkeley. They’ll continue the trend by returning to the Bay Area for their performance at this year’s Outside Lands.