The California Honeydrops w/ Steep Ravine
Tractor Tavern, Seattle, WA

From the BART Stations of San Francisco to the fans up and down the left coast, The California Honeydrops have been winning hearts since 2007.  They’ve cooked up and refined an impressive mashup of genres, including zydeco, funk, reggae, blues, and jazz in a New Orleans Style. And if that’s not impressive enough, you should see the instruments they tow along with them, which include a jug, washboard, and a one-man band contraption.  They stopped by Seattle’s Tractor Tavern for a two-night sold out jam.

Opening the night was Steep Ravine, another group from the Bay area. Their stage presence may have been understated, but it did not take away from the solid set they gave the growing crowd. They had a very easy, casual way about them as they churned through their library of country Americana. It was a great warm up, especially when the group showed off their amazing instrumental prowess.

The Honeydrops are a hard band to label. The best way to describe them might be to simply say they are a soul jam band. With funky grooves and tight instrumentalism, they tend to go off on the best of tangents and just, well, jam. This was evident from their first song, “Here Comes Love,” – a ten minute soul session – through to the end of the night.

Lead singer Lech Wierzynski was a force of effortless showmanship. Whether it is with a trumpet, guitar, microphone, smile, or some combination of the above, it was absolutely apparent that fun was his goal and he fit as much as he could on the Tractor’s small stage.

Speaking of instruments, every one of the Honeydrops played them in multiples. The horn section had both clarinet and tenor saxophone. The bass player went to the drums. The keyboardist went to bass. And drummer Ben Malament went from his kit to the washboard, where he slayed it during their classic hit “Pumpkin Pie.”

The Tractor Tavern is not the biggest of venues, so it heats up quickly. When the sweat beads start to form, you know you have a great show. The Honeydrops poured their heart out and it turned into a huge dance party where no face was without a smile. The crowd welcomed extended versions of favorites such as “Grass Isn’t Greener” and “High Ground,” where each band member shone during sensational solos; or the “Weary Blues,” an instrumental they used to perform in their early days of BART station sessions.

The first night was sold out, with the band’s surprisingly large following coming out in droves, and I can imagine it was just as raucous the second night. From the train platforms of San Francisco to local clubs, and venues across America, the California Honeydrops bring the sunshine of their state wherever they happen to bring their soul.

Review and photos by Phillip Johnson

The California Honeydrops and Steep Ravine