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A Spoonful of California Honeydrops Helps The Medicine Go Down

“I’m feeling belligerent,” said California Honeydrops singer/guitarist/trumpeter Lech Wierzynski during their first set on Friday at the Fillmore. Lech came on stage with an attitude, determined to get people dancing – even if it meant bossing everyone around. Last night’s show, part of a two-night stint at San Francisco’s legendary fruit-sharing Fillmore, celebrates the release of the California Honeydrops’ new album A River’s Invitation.

The “Honey Jug Band,” a stripped-down version of the Honeydrops & friends dressed as hillbillies in overalls, opened the show. Their set featured enough junky pint-sized instruments to make an Antiques Roadshow fan salivate. Think washboard, guitar and horns, as well as the harmonica (played by Josh “The train’s a’roarin’ in!”Howell), and the infamous soul tub.

And what’s a jug band without an actual jug! Though Pete Devine looked like he was sippin’ down moonshine mighty fierce, he was actually playing the jug (as a percussive instrument) with his mouth. Watch a short clip below:

Other great moments included George Jones’ The King is Gone, Pumpkin Pie (the dirtiest kid-friendly song there is), and when each member of the band jumped off the stage, one-by-one, to play their instrument among the crowd.

The Honeydrops emerged for their second set after a sweeping costume change, from ‘podunk’ to ‘mo’funk.’ Ditching their bare feet and overalls for bellbottoms and suede jackets, the band kicked the energy up with their full electric set.

Highlights included Wilson Pickett’s Don’t Let the Green Grass Fool You & an extra-long version of their “hit When It Was Wrong (which Lech insisted was a cautionary tale about the importance of ‘communication’ in a healthy relationship). But the most powerful moment of the night was when they brought Freddie Hughes, an Oakland soul legend, to perform his Top 20 R&B hit from 1968 Send My Baby Back. Flying around the highest highs and slinking to the lowest lows, Hughes and his voice delivered a truly wonderful performance.

A California Honeydrops live show is a real party, more so than any other live concert I’ve attended. And the closer you are to the stage, the more you feel it. And that’s the only troubling thing about a Honeydrops show. It is fun – so fun – but the feverish spirit of the room, if you’re not totally into it, can feel evangelical.

It’s the same “lose yourself in music” release you’d get from an EDM show, but for a live music crowd. Visceral, communal, and undeniably fun.

So if you’re lucky enough to be reading this article on 9/12/15 before their second show at the Fillmore, I would strongly recommend dipping into your piggy bank to catch them tonight. Otherwise, keep your ears to the ground: their full tour dates are listed here: http://www.cahoneydrops.com/tour-dates/

The Honey Jug Band

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