This year marks the 11th anniversary of the HONK! Festival of Activist Street Bands!
About this project
Last year HONK! turned ten. Yes, that’s right, the HONK! Festival of Activist Street Bands has been working its musical magic on the streets of Somerville and Cambridge for ten years now. And Number Eleven is coming up on October 7th, 8th, and 9th of this year. For the eleventh year in a row, Somerville will open its homes, its businesses, its streets, and its heart to welcome hundreds of activist street musicians from across the country and around the globe to celebrate the sound and spectacle of brass and percussion in the service of participatory culture and social justice.
Over the past ten years, the energy surrounding the HONK! Festival has been positively infectious. Participants report peak musical moments and life-changing experiences. HONK! has spawned related festivals in Providence, New York City, Seattle, Eugene, Austin, Pittsburgh, and Detroit, not to mention Wollongong, Australia, and Rio de Janeiro. There is a School of HONK! in Somerville that carries on the spirit of the Festival all year round. We are thrilled that HONK! has generated the creative energy and unbridled enthusiasm to propel us into our second decade of music that matters.
As always, the Festival will include all the features that have compelled thousands of participants to return year after year — Family friendly Lantern Parades through the neighborhoods of Somerville; Nine hours of continuous free performances by dozens of HONK! bands in Davis Square; the venerable HONK! Parade down Massachusetts Avenue to “Reclaim the Streets for Horns, Bikes and Feet,” followed by a full afternoon of HONK! performances at Oktoberfest in Harvard Square. This has been a trying year politically, marked more by tragedy than triumph, and a contentious campaign season. We are planning to expand the HONK! Day of Action to incorporate more political themes and performances throughout the Festival. And, of course, we will continue to maintain our focus on irresistible music, outrageous costumes, and dancing in the streets.
To make sure there is enough music for everyone, we have once again invited more than two dozen bands to the Festival. Some will be the usual suspects, from all over the US and Canada, who may be familiar, but who always sound fresh. In addition, we have some pleasant new surprises in store. We have confirmed two new bands from France — Fanfare Invisible from Paris and Le Pompier Poney Club from Marseille. They will bring the sounds of the European Fanfare tradition to our shores. And as part of our continuing commitment to the music and culture of New Orleans, we have invited the Pinettes, an all female brass band from the Crescent City, to grace the Festival for the second time.
A festival like HONK! does not fall from the sky; it requires a Herculean effort. An all-volunteer Organizing Committee works crazy hours all year long to plan and coordinate every aspect of the Festival. Municipal and community leaders assist with logistics, permitting, and material support, local businesses donate food, neighbors share their homes with visiting musicians, and graphic designers, photographers, parade marshals, community organizers and many, many others volunteer their time and effort.
The same is true of the bands that come to HONK! — they don’t get paid to perform — they play because they love the Festival. In return, we house and feed hundreds of musicians for three days. And we help to defray travel expenses for bands that travel from afar. As you might image, this can run up quite a tab. And because we are a non-profit organization, with a limited budget, we always have to stretch our resources to the limit to make HONK! happen.
This is where you come in.
HONK! is a festival that belongs to everyone who joins in. Together we have created a musical community that traverses the globe. We want to reunite you with our musical sisters and brothers from around the world, to unlock everyone’s imagination and erase all boundaries — between musical styles; between artist and audience; and between age, race, gender, culture, and class.
Please help us kick off the second decade of HONK! with the flourish it deserves. We need to raise $15,000 to insure that every band that wants to come to HONK! can make the journey. Every donation — your donation — will help. Please act now and thank you for your generosity.
Risks and challenges
If someone proposed creating a multi-day event where 25+ activist street bands would come to Somerville, perform on the streets for an entire day of free music, interact with community groups all around Boston, take part in our huge parade down a major thoroughfare ending with more performances at another street festival, join us for lantern parades at night in our neighborhoods and on and on, you might think they were nuts.
But this is exactly what we have done 10 years running and are prepared to do again. Thanks to a core group of volunteers who work crazy amounts of hours to organize things, a jaw-dropping amount of support by our community (including tremendous support from municipal and community leaders) and the fabulous people who make up the bands who come our way each year, we HONK!
So are there risks and challenges to this project? With an effort this size lots of things can happen. Logistical issues might prevent a band from attending, rain might make outdoor performances less pleasant and so on. But we’ve dealt with all of these things and more before (ask anyone who has joyously danced in the rain at HONK!) and we’re confident we can do so again.