The Best and Worst of New Year's Eve, and a Look Towards 2012 with The California Honey Drops - New Year's Week


The California Honey Drops, both working and partying hard. From right to left, saxophonist Johnny Bones, Benjamin Malament on washboard, lead singer and guitarist Lech Wierzynski playing trumpet, Chris Burns on melodica, and Seth Ford-Young playing bass. Photo by Kevin Berne.

Whether you interpret it as one year’s denouement or another’s commencement, the ultimate goal of any New Year’s Eve fete is to go out with a bang and start fresh on the upswing. For some, the yearly celebration is a reflection of the past, and a reason to be grateful for the opportunities it allotted. For others, history is best left forgotten, and now brings a renewed chance for change.

Then there are those like Oakland’s rising music stars, The California Honey Drops, a soulful, jazz-meets-blues-meets-everything-else band whose year couldn’t have been better, yet whose future is equally ebullient. In 2011, the collective of five took the word ‘hustle’ and multiplied it times ten thousand, hitting the East Coast twice, penetrating the Bay Area till every local knew their name, and recording a live album ready for release in the coming Spring.

Their plan for 2012, however, is even more ambitious, as they intend to expand their influence by returning to the East and South, performing at larger venues, festivals (including Jazz Fest in New Orleans, “even if it’s just on the streets!”), and furthering their jam base across Europe. With a group whose charisma and humility find symbiotic balance in utter awesomeness, it’s no surprise the first three months of next year are already booked solid.

The California Honey Drops are undoubtedly sizing up the world at a rate of utmost efficacy. In addition to their creative musings, the rockers have single-handedly raised nearly $20,000 on a Kickstarter campaign for the upcoming year that includes money to tour and record a new album. Remarkably, people love them so much they’ll actually pay for their work. One flourishing year is thus lending itself to the next, and for New Year’s Eve, the band will be utilizing their assets and sticking to what they love – playing music. They’ll perform a set at Pizzaiolo, a local bistro in Oakland, to ring in the holiday. It will be an intimate affair where the frills are minimal and the spirit resounding. A perfect plan for the group, though they’re careful to recommend the job to others.

“Working on New Year’s Even can be a downer,” notes lead singer and founder, Lech Wierzynski, who recalls his worst holiday decision as choosing to play a less-than-desirable gig to earn some money. “Music’s sacred. If you’re partying the night out with your friends, it’s not that big of a deal if it’s not the best ever. But if you’re playing music in a subprime environment, having to work can be really bad.”

His theory is seconded by fellow band-mate and saxophonist, Johnny Bones, who deems his worst New Year’s Eve to be a parallel milieu where he played unprepared, uninspired, and accordingly, unfulfilled. “It’s strange because it should have been so good, but I couldn’t connect with people.”

Looking ahead to 2012, The California Honey Drops’ resolutions are not retrospective fixer-uppers, but auspicious continuations of a long-established plan that appears to be panning out. The DIY wunderkinds have successfully managed, publicized and booked themselves in shows around the world with no outside help whatsoever, beginning originally in the subways of the Bay and expanding their playing field this year as far out as the Netherlands. Their outlook and expectations on the coming year are simply to propagate.

We don’t have other plans, but to continue building from the bottom up the way we started,” comments Bones. “Our fans in Oakland are like our family, and we want to go out and find that everywhere so that everyone knows us.”

For drummer, Ben Malament, there is an additional, more personal goal. “I want to spend more time with my daughter.”

For more on the California Honey Drops, their upcoming tour plans and campaign for 2012, check out their web site.

For everyone else out there who hasn’t yet made New Year’s plans, here are a few options to dodge:

  1. Staying at home in your pajamas because you think the holiday is overrated and not worth the effort. It is often a let down, but no need to seal your own fate by watching Ryan Seacrest.

    Do you really want to spend your new year’s with this guy? Photo by Cliffords Photography.

  2. Rallying in Times Square. New Yorkers avoid this event more than rats in the subway. If the locals don’t go, it’s a sign to stay away.
  3. Being the guy hosting the festivities. Somebody’s gotta do it, but, unless you enjoy a house full of trash and leftover drunks on New Year’s Day, don’t let it be you.
  4. Working. “I definitely don’t recommend it,” reiterates Wierzynski.
  5. Partying anywhere the supply of alcohol may run dry. Since it’s the only reason for being on this one very night, go where your cup runneth over.
  6. Getting sick. “I was sick for the past two years,” notes drummer, Ben Malament. “That was pretty bad.” Take Emergen-C and save your energy.
  7. In jail, the hospital or any institutional complex immune to the fact it’s the biggest party night of the year. Make wise decisions.
  8. Overpriced events that sound good on paper, but are really just expensive rooms packed full of people you don’t know and/or like. Do your own thing, fun doesn’t have to empty the bank.
  9. Going anywhere you have to drive. Unwanted responsibilities ruin the grand affair.
  10. Checking Facebook and Twitter profiles or doing anything related to a computer. Hopefully this is obvious, but nowadays, there’s no telling.