The California Honeydrops take busking act onstage at the Mint

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The California Honeydrops aren’t exactly the kind of busking band you can ignore in a subway tunnel. Though from Oakland, their Southern-fried jazz is so authentic that commuters may wonder whether they’ve somehow been transported to the Big Easy when they hear the band in BART’s subway tunnels. For the last four years, the street musicians have thrived on creating a Mardi Gras-style party in BART stations.

“When you’re playing on the street or in the subway, it’s like popping a song on the radio from out of nowhere, taking people by surprise,” said frontman and trumpeter Lech Wierzynski. “It’s the purest way to interact with the public.”


A few weeks ahead of their March European tour, the five-piece band of seasoned street players will play the Mint on Saturday, brandinshing a distinct blend of historic New Orleans culture and blue-eyed soul. Over the years, they’ve had plenty of YouTube documentation of their ability to play anywhere, anytime — especially rush hour.

Taking a look at videos of the band’s polished street performances, it’s clear their Bay Area roots take a back seat to the jumping rhythms of Dixieland jazz. The sound, flush with brass, bass, melodica and tub bass, is meant to inspire your best second-line dance moves — a stylish form of strutting and dancing among New Orleans natives during block parties, parades, even funerals.

The Honeydrops’ ability to get people into their act is something that directly translates into their nightclub shows, where they usually spend more time offstage than on.

“When we play, we’re always down on the dance floor and letting loose and dancing with people,” Wierzynski said. “And whatever state or country we play, everyone has their own little bit of culture they put into it, adding a little bit of what they do. When we tour, it’s all part of the endless challenge of finding out who the next crowd is gonna be.”

Check out the videos of their famous busking performances below:

The California Honeydrops perform with Chumbuckets and Grace Finnegan-Fox on Saturday at the Mint. 8 p.m. 6010 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. 21+, $12 advance, $15 day of show.

--Nate Jackson



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