If anybody has ever wanted to travel to New Orleans for Mardi Gras to dance up and down Bourbon Street, The Wild Honeybees Mardi Gras Dance Party happening in Templeton-Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium is the closest experience they are going to get to that in Athens.
The Wild Honeybees are bringing their soulful sound to MemAud for the third year in a row on Saturday for a Mardi Gras celebration. The band is looking forward to releasing its new recording of original songs, as well as having a special guest appearance by The Largemouth Brass Band. Attendees are also encouraged to come dressed in their funkiest and most festive attire to really get into the spirit of New Orleans.
Mark Burhans, the director and trombone player of The Wild Honeybees, is excited to play New Orleans-style songs that might not be as recognizable by the general public, but ones attendees can still enjoy.
“I don’t like to pick songs that are incredibly well known,” Burhans said. “I like to do b-side songs so somebody in the audience is gonna say, ‘Oh yeah, I remember that!’.
I want that kind of thing to happen.”
The Wild Honeybees still play tunes that people are more familiar with, but there’s a thin line between being a corny oldies band and being hip, and The Wild Honeybees want it to be cool, Burhans said.
“We just want something that has a good groove,” Burhans said. “A lot of our audience tends to skew older, and a lot of people my age still want to dance and go out. They’re still alive and haven’t kicked the bucket yet. As long as it’s danceable we’ll do it.”
To celebrate the album’s release, the band is providing four King Cakes baked by Restaurant Salaam to attendees. King Cakes are traditional pastries eaten at the festival of the Epiphany. Baked inside the cakes is a small figurine of a baby representing baby Jesus. Whoever finds the baby in their slice of cake at the party will get to take home a free copy of The Wild Honeybees’ CD.
Burhans is especially delighted by the band’s new album because writing their own music within the genre of the late ‘60s was a lot of fun, and it’s something he hopes to share with fellow lovers of ‘60s R&B.
“Some of the songs sound like songs you’ve heard already, and that’s one of the things I’ve always wanted to do with our own creations,” Burhans said. “It’s deliberate, but to me it’s a way of honoring that genre. It’s honoring people who started this music.”
The entire MemAud stage will turn into a dance floor that Burhans hopes will be full of people of all ages. The stage will be decorated by Patty Mitchell and others from Passion Works Studio, a setting in which Burhans is looking forward to playing.
“Patty and those guys over at Passion Works are just great,” Burhans said. “She transforms the place into a magical wonderland.”
Passion Works and The Wild Honeybees have worked together on several different projects, so it only made sense to Mitchell, the executive director of Passion Works, that the nonprofit would provide decor for The Wild Honeybees’ Mardi Gras dance party.
“We love The Wild Honeybees, and it works with our name,” Mitchell said. “So we respond to each other as organizations for all different kinds of things.”
Mitchell plans to repurpose a lot of the art Passion Works has made, because the amount of time and love that goes into each piece of art is plentiful.
“There’s going to be giant disco ball-like orbs that we paint and have sequins on, as well as big, round national champion ribbon looking things are going to be hanging up,” Mitchell said. “MemAud has just been fantastic about lighting, so it should be pretty spectacular.”
Mitchell has no doubt The Wild Honeybees will provide attendees with a great dance party to groove all night long to.
“They are a really fun dance band and perfect for Mardi Gras, New Orleans jazz style,” Mitchell said. “They’re all about celebration, which makes them fantastic.”
Josh Antonuccio is looking forward to going out and supporting a local band in Athens, hoping others enjoy their music as much he does.
“I’m excited to see one of Athens’ most beloved bands have a chance to share an album with their fans that represents both their spirit and their musical breadth,” Antonuccio, a lecturer in the School of Media Arts and Studies, said. “The album was a labor of love for the band, and their fans are going to get a chance to hear many of their favorite songs captured in this newest release.”