California Honeydrops greet new decade with sweet magic

The California Honeydrops sold out the final two shows of the year in the Crystal Bay Casino Crown Room.
Larry Sabo / Tahoe Onstage photos

Two nights leading up to a new year and a new decade, 2020 — and two sold-out shows in the Crown Room at Crystal Bay Casino Lake Tahoe. The California Honeydrops brought their sweet, musical magic from the Bay Area for the celebration.

We were there for Night One, Monday, Dec. 30, 2019. The Honeydrops were joined by another band from the Bay, The Brothers Comatose.

“Best I’ve ever seen them,” Tahoe Onstage photographer Larry Sabo said of the California Honeydrops.  “The show was packed and the band, along with the crowd, was intense from the moment they walked onto the stage until the last encore.”

Makela Waldron

A Sierra foothills singer, Makela Waldron, from Grass Valley, California, joined Brothers Comatose about half way through the opening set. Fittingly, they sang “Half Way In” together.

The Brothers Comatose is a five-piece string band with their own signature style of traditional bluegrass mixed with country and rock and roll. Brothers Ben and Alex Morrison both play guitar, banjo and deliver vocals. Scott Padden is on the bass and vocals, Phillip Brezina plays violin, while Greg Fleischut is on the mandolin and steel guitar.

They opened with “Pie for Breakfast” and “Angeline.” This got everyone dancing, closing their set with “Steel Driver”  and a crowd favorite, “The Scout.”

Buskers by the Bay

Headliners, the California Honeydrops have spent a decade playing music everywhere from BART stations in their hometown of Oakland to sold-out shows and festivals across the globe. Digging deep into the roots of Americana music, they embrace the traditions of blues, New Orleans jazz and R&B. They never assemble a set list, choosing instead to follow the vibes in the crowd.

The Honeydrops opened their first set with “Every Once in a While“ and “Appletree” and got the party started. Bandleader Lech Wierzynski picked up his trumpet, performing “Come See About Me.” Wierzynski, the lead vocalist, also plays guitar and was joined by Ben Malament on drums, Lorenzo Loera on keyboards, Beau Bradbury on bass, Nansamba Ssensalo on percussion, Tono Owen on guitar, Andrea Murchison on the trombone, and Leon Cutter on tenor sax

Allyssa Mattson has been touring for over a year with the band. She said her favorite thing about traveling with the band has been Wierzynski’s open heart and kindness to others.

Engineers at the stage-side sound controls.

‘Yes We Can Can’

The California Honeydrops returned for their second set, ready to rock. They played for another 45 minutes, as the crowd danced and sang with the band. The Honeydrops closed with “Cry for Me” and some old soul for the new year, “Yes We Can Can.”

Hats off to the production team at Crystal Bay Casino. Charles Twilling, the front-of-the-house engineer, is joined by Sam Shear, “man of many hats” and production manager, and Robert Ordway, stage manager.

“We work hard, and pay a lot of attention to detail to make our musicians comfortable and want to come back, ” Twilling said.

When the show concluded, they already were busy preparing the California Honeydrops’ second show, this one ushering in 2020, with Sal’s Greenhouse.

And the beat goes on. Happy New Year!

– Marcia Schultz

Lech Wierzynski
Ben Malament

Click this link to see all of Larry Sabo’s photos of the California Honeydrops.

Brothers Comatose

About Marcia Schultz

Marcia Schultz is a longtime local to the Lake Tahoe area and is a music aficionado. She has been to countless musical events from Tahoe to Nashville.

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