The classic Wilson Pickett song Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You was an apt message from The California Honeydrops for the men at HealthRIGHT 360 Walden House who are working so hard to turn their lives around.
With a lot of soul, Delta Blues, Bay Area R&B and a big dash of New Orleans style, The California Honeydrops came out of the recording studio to play a stellar show for Bread & Roses Presents at this drug and alcohol recovery program for men in San Francisco. The audience responded with great enthusiasm to the uplifting songs and incredible musicianship of this vibrant band, an inspiration with their amazing chops and rapport with the audience as well as each other. Much appreciation to their manager Heather Newman, a Bread & Roses volunteer, who facilitated this special concert.
Ben Malament, percussionist for the band, treated the audience to some very inventive washboard playing on Honky Tonk, in rhythmic repartee with lead vocalist, guitarist/trumpet player and fabulous front man Lech Wierzynski. Ben relayed how the band started by busking ten years ago in an Oakland BART Station and as they weren't allowed to use a drum set, he played the washboard instead. This old-time instrument is not often seen in our high tech world, so check out this amazing clip from the show:
By the third song, the audience was clapping along with Lech and Ben trading leads with Johnny Bones on tenor saxophone and clarinet, Lorenzo Loerna on keyboard and Beau Bradbury on bass. All were virtuoso instrumentalists expert in soloing and playing in collaboration on their varied instruments. Their spot-on vocal harmonies also encouraged their spell-bound audience to sing along.
Towards the end of the set, Lech brought the house down with his powerful rendition of Ray Charles’ Drown In My Own Tears riveting everyone in his soulful interpretation of the lyrics.
Bread & Roses Executive Director Dave Perron reported afterwards how he wished that all of our supporters could see a band like The California Honeydrops perform an institutional concert. “There’s nothing like seeing first-hand the incredible response from the audience, “ he said “and the immediate joy the music brings to all who are there.”
Board members Matt Jaffe, Cathy Less and Alex Wellins joined us for this exemplary night, along with Tom and Kristi Cohen, Marcus and Connor Stock, Paul and Mary Alice Kirincic, Larry Sideman and Patti De Villa, Tucky Pogue and Andrea Schultz.
All who attended knew how lucky we were to see this finely-honed band up close in such an intimate setting as they are soon off to play shows in Hawaii and Australia as well as supporting Bonnie Raitt for some upcoming dates in February.
It takes a village to put on a big show in an intimate venue like Walden House especially in a room that was a former chapel in a convent on the third floor of a historic building in the lower Haight. Volunteer Clyde Niesen brought in his first rate sound system assisted by Walden House residents and Bread & Roses staff. Long-time photographer Peter Merts graciously and skillfully documented the event.
Let us know if you would like to join our Backstage 365 Club to receive invites to future highlight shows for our institutional audiences and other events not normally open to the public. We are eternally grateful to The California Honeydrops for kicking off 2017 in such a spectacular way.
Post by Marian Hubler
Photos by Peter Merts
1) The California Honeydrops set up for their show at Walden House in San Francisco.
2) During Honky Tonk, percussionist Ben Malament plays washboard with Lech Wierzynski on guitar. Video by Francesca Lee.
3) The California Honeydrops during their stellar performance.
4) Heather Newman with Dave Perron.
5) Bread & Roses Board Members and special guests after the show.
6) Residents of Walden House pose with The California Honeydrops.
7) The California Honeydrops at Walden House. Slide Show by Carrie Sownie.