TheHONK! Festival. The worldwide activist street band movement. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Or perhaps, if not, you can catch-up by first checking out this wiki, since yes, HONK! does warrant its own wiki: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HONK! While there, you will also discover that, yes, this movement all began right here in Somerville, Mass.
Instigated in October 2006, the very first ever HONK! Festival is now seventeen years strong, prevailing annually in early October, even in spite of the very recent tough years. HONK! has always been clear on its most basic premise, to literally blast out, musically loud and rhythmically direct, a call to come together. To gather outside in celebrating the many positive aspects of life – while also delivering a heads up if those positives take a negative turn.
During those aforementioned tough recent years, specifically 2020 and 2021, the local Somerville-based HONK! organizers just pivoted to present those particular annual HONK!s in ways that made sense given the obvious obstacles. In 2020, HONK! United was born, a very spirited international online collaboration. Through that endeavor, HONK! became increasingly aware of kindred spirit bands who are very active within their home fronts, some bands located as far afield as Antarctica, Nicaragua, and Brazil. It is a fact that HONK! is indeed a movement that keeps growing worldwide. At last count, there are now over 21 large HONK! gatherings that have been held throughout the world, several of which are held annually.
In 2021, Somerville-based HONK! turned its eye to championing very hyperlocal neighborhood causes, narrowing its programming date to a specific day, and within that, branching out to support even more Boston-area communities, which often encompass neighborhoods that are only a few city blocks wide. The bands who participated in 2021 also harkened from more local areas. In other words, bands who were able to head back and sleep in their own respective beds at the end of the HONK! 2021 day.
For 2022, the band participation will continue to include many local HONK!-related bands who have sprouted up over the years, inspired by the original HONK! efforts that all began in Somerville. But this year, there will also be a few bands coming in, as in physically coming in, from far outside New England, with Banda Rim Bam Bum traveling in from Santiago, Chile, and the NOLA-based Young Fellaz Brass Band returning to HONK! after a hiatus of several years.
This year the HONK! bands total 20 at current count, with many returning bands who have participated pretty regularly in HONK!, since it was propelled into motion by the Somerville-based HONK! founder and organizer Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Brass Band, who this year will be joined by:
aNova Brazil (Boston, MA),
La Banda Internacional de Chelsea (Chelsea, MA),
Banda Rim Bam Bum (Santiago, Chile),
The Brass Balagan (Burlington, VT),
Bread and Puppet Circus Band (Glover, VT),
Dirty Water Brass Band (Boston, MA),
Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band (Somerville, MA),
Expandable Brass Band (Northampton, MA),
Extraordinary Rendition Band (Providence, RI),
Hartford Hot Several (Hartford, CT),
Ideal Maine Social Aid and Sanctuary Band (Portland, ME),
The Jamaica Plain Honk Band (Jamaica Plain, MA),
Leftist Marching Band (Portsmouth, NH),
The Party Band (Lowell, MA),
Rara Bel Poze (Boston, MA),
Rude Mechanical Orchestra (NYC, NY),
School of Honk (Somerville, MA),
Undertow Brass Band [FKA What Cheer? Brigade] (Providence, RI),
Young Fellaz Brass Band (New Orleans, LA).
The current list of band participants can also be found at honkfest.org/2022-festival/bands-2022.
This year’s HONK! also includes HONK! features that have compelled many to return year after year:
Friday early evening, Lantern Parades will light the way throughout Davis Square neighborhoods.
Saturday afternoon to evening, continuous HONK! band performances willhappenin Davis Square.
Sunday early afternoon, the venerable HONK! Parade willwend its waydown Massachusetts Avenue from Davis Square to Harvard Square, making HONK!’s formidable presence known at the Square’s Oktoberfest. The Parade’s mission is to “Reclaim the Streets for Horns, Bikes, and Feet” and will include this year’s participating bands, plus many activist community groups. Interested community groups are welcome to contact email@example.com if they’d like to participate in the parade.
Sunday afternoon, the Parade will be followed by a HONK! mainstage in Harvard Square, featuring quick sets performed by many of the participating bands. Several HONK! bands will also have short sets taking place throughout the Square as well.
Sunday afternoon after the Parade, HONK! will give special focus to the good work that HONK!’s local community partners are doing. HONK! participants will gather in Harvard Square’s Winthrop Park, with band/community group discussions, public information sharing, art-making, and amplifying overall their social justice messages.
Sunday early evening, a collective HONK! call-to-action by visiting and local HONK! musicians will take place outside a local correctional facility in the Boston-area, to raise awareness about those who are being detained there, and to remind the detainees with music, that they have not been forgotten by many in the outside world.
Held outdoors rain or shine.
The HONK! Festival, a music fest originally conceived and presented in 2006 right here in Somerville, caught on immediately in the local area. Since then HONK! has also become an international phenomenon. Full details on how HONK! came to be, the philosophical and pragmatic approaches behind the HONK! movement, and what differentiates a HONK! band from other music-makers in the streets, can all be found at honkfest.org/about. Taking a deep dive into the HONK! Wiki can also reveal the far-reaching aspects of this particular progressive musical movement.
HONK! is a not-for-profit, all-volunteer project where many hands lighten the impressive list of festival to-dos. Visit honkfest.org/help for more information on volunteer opportunities and also to make a tax-deductible donation. No donation is too small, or too large!
For complete information and continuous updates on this year’s HONK! Festival, visit .honkfest.org, facebook.com/honkfestival, and twitter.com/honkfest.
On Sunday, October 9th, the last day of the Boston HONK! Festival, the parade of tenants, small owners, and allies will debut their support for rent control as elections approach in the state of Massachusetts and march from Davis Square, down Mass Ave, and into Harvard Square from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.