The California HONEYDROPS Return to the Joshua Tree Music Festival
By Lisa Lynn Morgan
The California Honeydrops (TCH) are “one of the best groups I’ve ever heard… I wish I was that good,” touts veteran rock icon, David Crosby. That is some high praise for a band that started out busking in the Oakland subway station. They have since created their own music, inspired by the timeless greatness from artists of yore, while injecting a dance party straight into the joyful veins of dancing fans. This eclectic vortex of folkalicious R & B happiness has toured far and wide, earning accolades and fans all around the world. But Joshua Tree is special to them, and they have become an indelible part of the Joshua Tree Music Festival family over the years.
Joshua Tree Voice caught up with the ever-enthusiastic, co-founding member, Ben Malament, and asked how he felt about coming back to Joshua Tree for the festival. “We love coming back to the magic that is Joshua Tree. This festival, in particular, always feels so comfy and fun. We’ve played here a few times before; we even did a jug band workshop with the Soul Tub! (our tub bass from another planet) once. It’s easy to feel open and free under that desert sky.”
“I believe we are bringing our biggest band to date for the festival,” Malament added. “I hope I have this right, but I think we’ll have the usual suspects (Lech, Johnny, Lorenzo, Beau and myself), plus percussion (Scott Messersmith), plus two extra horns (Leon Cotter on sax, Oliver Tuttle on trombone), PLUS a sousaphone (Miles Lyons)… I think! It’s gonna be a party – you already know!”
Joshua Tree Music Festival Founder and Producer, Barnett English, first saw them at the High Sierra Music Festival, circa 2009. “This is their fourth JTMF appearance,” Barnett shared. “The Honeydrops are a force, highly skilled in the art of entertainment. Lead singer and multi-instrumentalist, Lech, can work a room like few can. Musically…outrageous goodness!”
Front man and co-founder, Lech Wierzynkski, was born in Warsaw, Poland, and raised by Polish political refugees. Lech cut his vocal teeth on illegal contraband American recordings of Sam Cooke, Ray Charles, and Louis Armstrong. These influences are but a piece of the talented puzzle that is Lech. When you watch this group working at their craft, this tenured, happy ensemble makes it impossible to stand still. Lifting spirits, feet, voices, and hands all in one joyous accord is who they are and what they do.
The California Honeydrops dropped a new cover album in January, Covers from the Cave, on Tubtone Records. They cover many musical heroes, ranging from the Grateful Dead and Don Williams, to Sam Cooke and Chuck Barry. The nine original songs range from rock, folk, and country genres over many decades. Their cover of The Drifters’ “Under the Boardwalk’’ has reached more than 14 million people.
“We love music,” Malament states when asked how they’ve managed to keep things moving and growing all these years. “We love discovering new music. We love every musician that has played in the Honeydrops over the years and brought their own magical musical sensibilities which constantly pushes us in new directions. We also don’t play too loud, and every show is different! We don’t make set lists.”
Come as you are, fearlessly free. Throw your head back and be moved by a band whose intention isn’t simply to play their music FOR YOU, but WITH YOU. “The whole point,” says Lech, “is to erase the boundaries between the crowd and us…to make people become a part of the whole thing by dancing along, singing, picking the songs, and generally coming out of their shells.”
Photos by: Josh Miller