Sweet buzz: California Honeydrops found at High Sierra

Sure to create a buzz at the High Sierra Music Festival: the California Honeydrops. This is an onstage image at the Fillmore earlier this year.

Sure to create a buzz at the High Sierra Music Festival: the California Honeydrops. This is an onstage image at the Fillmore earlier this year.

QUINCY, Calif. — Although it has never been here before, the California Honeydrops is the quintessential High Sierra Music Festival band. The players are just as comfortable onstage as they are in a campsite.

“I think our sound is going to work well in that kind of environment,” said trumpet and guitar player Lech Wierzynski. “We don’t need a sound system to throw a party. We make a party happen with just our voices and our hands.”

The California Honeydrops are essentially a BART station busking band that was so successful that its members decided to leave their regular jobs and get on the train to seek conventional, onstage performances. Last year it played Outside Lands Music Festival, the New Orleans Jazz Festival, Joshua Tree Music Festival, Strawberry Music Festival and the Waterfront Blues Festival. This year it concluded its eighth tour in Europe, where its style is called “authentic American.”

“Here people don’t know what to call our music,” Wierzynski said. “Call it whatever you want. If you like it, you like it. It’s a privilege to play music, to do something that you love. We’re grateful to be playing at anytime for any audience: festivals, weddings, older sit-down crowds, but we usually don’t let them.”

The California Honeydrops might take a train in Oakland but it sounds like it rides a streetcar on St. Charles Avenue.

It played the New Orleans Jazz Festival again this year.

“It’s always like going to Mecca for us,” Wierzynski said. “In a way, it’s impossible to play any form of American music without having one foot in New Orleans, whether it be jazz, R&B, jump blues. Really, a lot of West Coast music is being played by people who came out of Louisiana and Texas, as well.”

The California Honeydrops played before Dr. John one night. After the sound check, the band found the “Night Tripper” Mac Rebennack himself with his family in their dressing room. They hung out and after a while Dr. John was playing Wierzynski’s guitar.

Everybody loves the California Honeydrops.

The band also include Ben Malament (drums, percussion, vocals and tub bass), Johnny Bones (saxophone, clarinet and vocals), Doug Stuart (bass) and Charlie Hickox (keys and vocals).


California Honeydrops

High Sierra Music Festival

Sunday, July 7

Bloody Mary Ball,Music Hall, noon-1:15 p.m.

Vaudeville Stage 205-3:25 p.m.

About Tim Parsons

Tim Parsons is the editor of Tahoe Onstage who first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1992. Before starting Tahoe Onstage in 2013, he worked for 29 years at newspapers, including the Tahoe Daily Tribune, Eureka Times-Standard and Contra Costa Times. He was the recipient of the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism.

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