Wild Honeybees Create Buzz for OU Mardi Gras Bash< < Back to
On Tuesday, the City of New Orleans was filled with the sights and sounds of the annual Mardi Gras celebration.
This Saturday, Ohio University students and local residents are invited to a belated free Mardi Gras party at Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium, featuring beads, masks, food and one of Athens’ most popular bands.
The Wild Honeybees, just voted Best Local Band in The Athens NEWS Readers Choice Awards for the second year in a row, play New Orleans-style R&B, complete with a horn section, which Restaurant Salaam Financial Manager Mark Burhans — also trombone player, director and founder of the group — said sets them apart from other local bands.
“There’s nothing like it live,” he said of the Honeybees’ horn section. “When (they) start playing, they push the air and you can feel it, and there’s nothing like it. That’s what gives us sort of our New Orleans (flavor).”
The Wild Honeybees have hosted a Mardi Gras show for the past two years at Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery. Burhans, whose daughter, Emily Singer, provides soulful lead vocals for the group, said the first year was “phenomenal,” but that snow and ice prevented many people from coming out last year.
This time, the band is trying something new. The group’s keyboard player, Jeremy Schaffer, also happens to be the associate director of Operations and Production at Baker University Center. The chance of teaming up with the OU Performing Arts Series to use Memorial Auditorium was too good to pass up.
Instead of using the 2,000-set auditorium in a normal fashion, The Honeybees will perform on a smaller stage set up on top of the main stage, with the remaining portion of the main stage serving as a dance floor for partygoers.
“We have been discussing the possibilities for this type of ‘stage door show’ for quite some time,” Schaffer said in an email, explaining that he and Andrew Holzaepfel of the OU Performing Arts Series began discussing this initial show toward the beginning of last year. They had selected the date based on available spots in the event calendar, and decided on the Mardi Gras theme based on the time of year.
The band begins playing at 8 p.m., and will perform until around 11 or 11:30 p.m. Admission is free, though donations for the band are encouraged. There will be free Mardi Gras masks and beads and free New Orleans-style food, courtesy of Restaurant Salaam. Alcohol is available for purchase to those who show valid photo identification.
Burhans said that although none of the band members are from New Orleans (he has never attended Mardi Gras), they all admire the culture and its musical tradition.
“The kids start in grade school early. They learn to play all the traditional New Orleans stuff, so by the time players are in their 20s…it just comes naturally,” he said, referencing The Rebirth Brass Band and The Dirty Dozen Brass Band as groups known for their spontaneous horn riffs. “They’re so well-steeped in that music, and I’m jealous of that.”
One of the cultural aspects of the Mardi Gras celebration is that it occurs the day before Lent, the Catholic observance in which those partaking give up an item or act that they care for for 40 days. Burhans said the event organizers changed the date from a Tuesday to a Saturday this year so more people will be able to attend. He hopes the change will not cause offense to people who wish to participate in Lent as well as Mardi Gras, and that a diverse group of people will come to dance and enjoy the music.
“I love Mardis Gras because it’s sort of family-oriented,” Burhans said. “If you go down there, everybody’s dancing on the streets — young people, you see people with babies, old folks — I just like that whole feel.”