The California Honeydrops kick off the Strings Music Festival season |

The California Honeydrops kick off the Strings Music Festival season

The California Honeydrops is comprised of members Lech Wierzynski as guitarist singer and trumpeter

If You Go...

What: The California Honeydrops

When: 8 p.m., Saturday, June 20

Where: Strings Music Pavilion, 900 Strings Rd.

— The California Honeydrops are known to light up a crowd.

It’s hard not to move with the groove that materializes from old-timey roots music made new. Weaving together an original mix of New Orleans R&B and second-line, Delta blues, jazz, Southern soul and gospel-inspired tunes, the California Honeydrops will bring their vibrant energy to the Strings Music Pavilion at 8 p.m. Saturday. Tickets start at $30.

The Honeydrops have come a long away since busking (street performing) in an Oakland BART station seven years ago. The group from the Bay Area started with an idea conceived by guitarist, singer and trumpeter Lech Wierzynski and drummer Ben Malament to have a true street-level roots feel. Now, the group has expanded to include Johnny Bones on tenor saxophone and clarinet, Lorenzo Loera on keys and melodica and Beau Bradbury on bass and percussion.

Earlier this week, Explore Steamboat spoke with Wierzynski, who is known for his Louis Armstrong-style trumpet playing.

Explore Steamboat: The California Honeydrops have recently been on nine European tours, premiere festivals and performances with B.B. King, Buddy Guy, and even Allen Toussaint, what’s it like doing that and then coming to a smaller mountain town like Steamboat Springs?

Lech Wierzynski: Small towns are really great; the people are so appreciative. Steamboat especially was a great audience; we had a good time. It was something different than what we are used to, and they gave us a warm welcome. Sometimes in bigger cities, those are oversaturated with entertainment, but in smaller towns, not as many acts come through. The fact that you made it out to their neck of the woods to play adds a different value factor. I prefer it more sometimes.

ES: What are some of the things you’ve learned from those experiences on and off the stage?

LW: There are always a million and one things to learn. But we’ve actually become better musicians over time and have learned how to play for different crowds. I would say we are more seasoned performers now. But, many things are still the same. We are still true to our original purpose and goals.

ES: And what is that original purpose?

LW: Well, when we perform on stage, we really like to involve the audience and create an atmosphere that is warm, inclusive and interactive throughout the room. That’s what we always have a goal of doing. It’s easier to do with smaller shows but the Honeydrops party looks different in different places and continues to evolve. It’s about having that common purpose. We spend a lot of time on the road so we have to keep things fun. We don’t make set lists or just perform songs. We leave a lot of place for spontaneous things to occur. We know how to do that now. It’s a risk you take when you do that but I think we’ve learned how to make it happen. There is always a whole different range of possibilities but that’s what keeps things exciting.

ES: What do you think makes the California Honeydrops unique?

LW: I don’t think there are a lot of bands that do what we do. I think we are more interactive than other bands in our genre too. I also think we are one of the quietest bands you will see that get people to dance, and we take pride in that because I don’t think you have to have that loud, head-banging music just to get people to have a good time. You don’t need gadgets to get people dancing. In our society, there is a general love of all things powerful, bigger and better, but I think it’s more about quality of sound rather than quantity of sound for us.

ES: Even with a chaotic schedule that most musicians encounter, what is it that keeps you going? Is it the passion for the music?

LS: What I like is that it’s different from show to show. When I was little, I started playing classical music but it didn’t allow the freedom of communication with the crowd or to change things up from time to time. I always loved it as a kid but got down on playing because I thought I could only do this one thing. Music is a form of communication between musicians and the people, that’s what it’s always been about and will be about. We will play the same songs differently each night because it’s a different day, and different people will have different feelings with new experiences they encounter.

ES: What does the future look like for the California Honeydrops?

LW: Well, we were invited to playing Burning Man this year. And we will be touring Australia and all over the U.S. from east to west to promote our new album in the fall. We will do a wide variety of things like events and festivals all over. That’s what keeps us going is a variety of all things.

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1

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