California Honeydrops bring soulful party to Harlow's

Apparently California Honeydrops fans didn’t realize it was a Sunday night. They came out to Harlow’s in full force on Dec. 7, buzzing like it was Friday and dancing late into the evening. Someone even brought an LED-lit hula hoop.

True to its influences—New Orleans second-line, Delta blues, Southern soul and San Francisco Bay Area R&B—the Oakland band told feel-good stories over the course of two swingin’ sets. There was call-and-response of epic proportions, janky washboard, covers of silly soul songs like Marvin Sease’s “Sit Down on It” and a multitude of food words used as sexual innuendos: pumpkin pie, pork and beans.

The silliest of them all was the real-life tale of keyboardist Lorenzo Loera being kicked out of his girlfriend’s house and moving in with his grandma. It’s called “Grandma Song.” Needless the say, the grandmas in the crowd loved it.

But the Honeydrops, remarkably, avoided undesirable cheesiness. Probably because of the tight musicianship, nonstop energy and unbelievably rich, creamy vocals of frontman Lech Wierzynski. Wierzynski is Polish, raised by Polish refugees in Poland, but sings like the truest New Orleans gentleman.

Jam sessions with all hands on deck—sax, drums, bass, keys, trumpet—were the most rowdy, like on “Like You Mean It.” And you gotta adore any band who manages to unpretentiously call its most successful song a “locally-grown, sustainable hit.”

Photos by Paul Piazza

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