The California Honeydrops at Teragram Ballroom
The return of the California Honeydrops to Los Angeles, and to the Teragram, brought with it another mesmerizing musical party from the Bay-Area group. Carrying a reputation for frenzied festivities everywhere they go, the Honeydrops treated this December stop in the City of Angels as they do every show: as a high octane, energized performance that is as diverse and skilled as it is lowdown fun. With a guest appearance from Nashville singer (and opener) Lindsay Lou, and a surprise visit from a member of the audience, the Honeydrops once again delivered two sets of mayhem and memories.
Working through fresh new material as well as supporting both a new live record from 2019 and 2018’s wonderful double-album, Call It Home, the brilliantly bopping singer-instrumentalist Lech Wierzynski led his supremely talented ensemble over a near-three-hour romp. Dropping their reflective original “Live Learn” early into the New Orleans swank-n-stroll the Honeydrops have adopted in recent years, they were equally adept covering Marvin Gaye’s “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)” and Sam and Dave’s “I Thank You,” as part of a soul stew medley, with the band extending things, stretching their muscles and limbering up the close-to-capacity house. A lengthy take on “Brokedown- parts 1 and 2” climbed to the peak of the first set, with Wierzynski promising more fun to come in the second half.
Extolling the virtues of dance moves of all shapes and eras, Wierzynski boogied about the stage, pushing the untiring limbs of drummer Ben Malament and the cyclonic sax of Johnny Bones to new heights of liberated joy. “Crazy Girl” was an early and potent second-set entry that inspired the packed-in crowd to move along with them, with one in particular catching the band’s attention. Pointed out and ushered onstage, an anonymous woman, all smiles, unleashed a flurry of shakes and shimmies that blended newer steps with old favorites, much to the crowd and band’s delight, and not unlike the music of the Honeydrops, themselves.
It was a truly improvised moment and a great one, and after a minute or so, the lone dancer thanked the band, hopped off the stage, and disappeared back into the mass. The party rolled on, finally capping a minute before closing time. But, not before the Drops welcomed back Lou for a pair of songs, and delicately included “Bedside Window” from their latest studio set, and “Cry for Me” from 2008’s Soul Tub! and updated on Call It Home.
These images, these flashes- a guest singer, a surprise dancing audience member, a now-decade-plus catalog of original songs (not to mention a cache of covers)- all combine to make for the unique experience that is a California Honeydrops show. Yet, even more impressive is how reliable the band has become at being both prolific and loose; being both disciplined and wild. It’s a difficult balancing act that appeals to the serious music student’s ear, but also to the hips, legs, and feet of the human body and soul.