Membership ballooned almost overnight; 16 months later, the site has seen 10,000 downloads, and the Beehive Recording Company boasts 2,500 members from all corners of the world. With handcrafted popular music as its motto, the Beehive has a lineup of 35 Detroit artists of varied genres, from the beautifully layered acoustics of Kenny Tudrick, to the beautiful melodic rock of K.I.D.S.
Donations have helped keep Beehive afloat, but Nawara is looking to expand, hence the record company’s first annual fundraiser, the Beehive Ball, this past Saturday night. The event showcases Beehive’s sundry sounds with 12 bands playing three songs each. Tonight Eric Villa fuels his rockabilly getup with guitars reminiscent of John Fogerty, accompanied by horns for his last song; esQuire pumps out a shameless faux-political pop number complete with props and full ’60s garb. The ball’s house band, the West Paris Six, is a sturdy rhythm section that highlights the virtuoso guitar abilities of Jackson F. Smith, who Nawara cites as one of his local music heroes.
With hordes of balloons and the quintessential photographer’s setup in one corner (a curtained backdrop and giant flash bulbs — ooh!), tonight the Gaelic League is a prom night time machine of sorts, a pastiche of eras past. Full-sleeved lace dresses from the’70s evoke Virgin Suicides-y innocence, while feathered coifs and slinky fringe are libidinous flapper throwbacks. Ladies in teased beehive dos and pastels lounge at the bar.
The Beehive Ball was born from a dream Nawara had about a dance hall that stretched on infinitely, packed with people dancing “in high couture” to different styles of music, all knitted together in the kind of perfect harmony that only dreams induce.
In short, the full-service studio Nawara runs at Beehive is a labor of love; he seeks to give artists an outlet to release and promote their music rather than pull a profit or trap bands into signing contracts. Nawara feeds his soul with the sounds of this city, saying, “Detroit has been a victim of outsourcing, so we want to ‘in-source.’” When asked about the criteria for artists at Beehive, Nawara states an affinity for music that enables listeners to hear the “human element” behind it, meaning he shies away from artists that rely too heavily on machines.
As for future plans, Nawara has an ear to polka music from Hamtown and mariachi on the southwest side. In addition to bringing in new artists, he looks forward to hosting monthly gigs at neighborhood venues to feature rotating triads of Beehive bands. Nawara also plans to create Hives in other cities; there’s even talk of opening one in Stockholm.