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Parker Evans is an economics senior and Mustang News music columnist.
“Y’all need to get this place to stay open later,” Lech Wierzynkski urged the SLO Brewing Co. crowd at the end of his band’s second set on Friday night. “Ain’t nothing a DJ can do that we can’t!” Wierzynkski knows what he’s talking about — the music of The California Honeydrops is a better conduit for dancing than any bass drop, and the evidence was in the sweat stains on every shirt in the house.
The genre fusion of the Honeydrops is overflowing, drawing from blues, soul, swing, rock, reggae, Americana, ragtime and everything in between. At the core of the Honeydrops’ essence, however, is an effortlessly fun jam band. Fortunately for the crowd, long saxophone solos and extended horn riffs are always more effective when seen live.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more charismatic frontman than Wierzynkski, who certainly didn’t need an opener to get the crowd warmed up. With his white shirt and wavy blonde hair, he wore himself out wailing on the trumpet, getting down for his bandmates’ many solos and generally being an entertaining, interactive force of nature. The Honeydrops’ synchronicity — first practiced as a street band in Oakland — was on full display as Wierzynkski navigated a packed house through two long sets and an encore, stretching most songs past nine or 10 minutes.
The crowd at the 21+ show was among the most age-diverse I’ve ever seen. The college and young graduate crowd didn’t mingle much with the older folks, but the music didn’t discriminate. Most of the Honeydrops’ publicity is through word of mouth, and after playing on the Central Coast many times, the word about this band gets around fast — I overheard one 20-something tell her friend the Honeydrops played a couple years ago at the best college party she’d ever been to.
In between sets, those who didn’t swarm the bar poured out onto Garden Street to get some fresh air. Some went to Linnaea’s Café to grab a pick-me-up while others milled around bumming smokes, but the intermission was only 15 minutes, and the crowd scurried back full-strength to hear the second set open with rousing sing-along “When It Was Wrong.”
The show reminded us why we can’t wait until SLO Brew moves to its new location on Higuera Street. On Friday, the sextet was crammed onto the venue’s tiny stage. While the effect may have been charming and intimate for a band like the Honeydrops, it might have been interesting to see what they could have done with more real estate. More importantly, the two giant support beams in the crowd and on the edge of the stage will not be missed when we finally say goodbye to SLO Brew’s current home.
The highlight of the night, strangely enough, was when the band was reduced to just a three-piece during the first set. Weirzynkski’s guitar made a rare appearance and Beau Bradbury’s bass was brought to the forefront, but the crowd went wild when drummer Ben Malament left his kit, came to the center of the stage and slung a washboard over his neck for an old-timey rendition of “Pumpkin Pie.” The smile on Malament’s face during the washboard solo alone was worth the price of admission.
With San Luis Obispo as a regular tour stop in the Honeydrops’ backyard, they’ll surely make another visit before long. When they do, snatch up the tickets fast, or risk missing out on a fantastically entertaining live show.