California Honeydrops bringing rootsy tunes to Vilar Performing Arts Center at Beaver Creek this weekend
Band blends funk, R&B and soul, performing March 26-27
Special to the Daily
When the California Honeydrops debuted their R&B, funk, Southern soul and Delta blues sound in the Bay area over a decade ago, they delivered an organic, downhome, street-level feel, complete with washboard and gutbucket/washtub bass. After years of building up their sound with electric bass and a full horn section, they’re stripping it down again to an even more evolved and richer three-part harmony vibe.
Lead vocalist Lech Wierzynski and the other band members have drawn on diverse influences to fuel their infectious dance-party scenes at festivals and concerts worldwide. In 2016 and 2017, they supported Bonnie Raitt on her North American release tour, and they’ve also toured with B.B. King, Allen Toussaint, Buddy Guy and Dr. John.
Wierzynski spent his downtime last year decking out his home recording studio with new equipment in an effort to capture specific tones on recordings, while the rest of the band delved into new musical influences.
“A lot of stuff the group has been working on is broken down, with acoustic bass, instead of electric bass,” said sax and clarinet player Johnny Bones. “COVID has given us the opportunity to explore our original tones. A lot of the newer music has that intimacy — some of those early flavors brought back in a new way. Vocally, everybody has grown so much. Lech’s lead vocals and harmonies are stronger. The subtleties in vocals and the warmness and the naturalness has grown a lot.”
Though the band tends to characterize their sound as roots music, their inspirations range from Big Joe Turner and Memphis sounds to Al Green, The Drifters, and lately, James Taylor. Their recent version of “Under the Boardwalk,” a tune band members originally simply listened to while driving, “found its way into the group sound” and went viral, Bones said. “We’re a very flexible band, so we like to go with what’s working.”
The band may play a certain song for a year, and then it will simply drop out of rotation, in favor of “a more fun, more pertinent, more happening (sound),” Bones said.
The Honeydrops’ shows tend to be more like parties than traditional concerts, with off-stage jams and crowd interaction.
“The whole point is to erase the boundaries between the crowd and us,” Wierzynski said. “We don’t make set lists. 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.”
Bone said they feed off of interacting with the crowd and thrive on the live music experience, which two of their albums are based upon.
“We don’t rehearse to do it perfect,” Bones said. “It just goes where it goes. We feel the room and find the chemistry with the people, (and) the spirits kind of gel between the crowd and the band.”
For more information and tickets to the California Honeydrops residency performances at the Vilar Center, visit http://www.vilarpac.org.
What: California Honeydrops perform
When: 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Friday, March 26; and 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 27 (in person and livestream at Saturday’s 8 p.m. show)
Where: Vilar Performing Arts Center, located under the ice rink at Beaver Creek.
More information: Visit http://www.vilarpac.org
Friday, March 26: California Honeydrops (two performances, 5 and 8 p.m.)
Saturday, March 27: California Honeydrops (two performances, 5 and 8 p.m.)
Sunday, March 28: Comedian Jim Breuer performs (two performances, 6 and 9 p.m.)
Friday, April 2: The Motet perform (two performances, 5 and 8 p.m.)
Saturday, April 3: The Motet perform (two performances, 5 and 8 p.m.)
Also on the schedule (with more to be added): The Allman Betts Band (July 27); Randy Rogers Band (July 2); and LeAnn Rimes Acoustic (July 16)