HONK! Festival Blows Into Town
Get your noisemakers ready! The fifth annual HONK! Festival marches into town this weekend.
Yes, they come bearing tubas, trumpets and big trombones. But when thirty or so renegade street bands descend upon Somerville for the HONK! Festival this weekend, they'll also be carrying their loudest possession of all—attitude.
No simple music festival, HONK! has several missions: to induce random acts of fun, inspire us all to make the world a better place, and to throw one very raucous—but still family friendly—party.
"The biggest message is that we need to reclaim public space and learn all over again how to have fun together with our neighbors and friends, in a spontaneous and artistic way," said HONK! committee member and performer Kevin Leppmann.
The Party Starts Friday
Starting Friday Oct. 8 (1-5 p.m.), marching, acoustic and outrageously clad HONK! bands will perform at Boys & Girls Clubs and other locations in East Somerville, Boston and Cambridge (see our events listings for details).
On Saturday, they take to the streets of Davis Square for an all day musical spectacular from noon to 9 p.m. Then Sunday, the traditional parade from Davis Square to Harvard Square's Oktoberfest commences at noon. Spontaneous dancing, clapping and music making by all at every location will be heartily encouraged.
"HONK! Festival is a gathering of activist street bands who come together to play music in the streets," explained HONK! committee member John Bell. "It's brass music, unamplified, un-electric and a lot of fun."
Honk! is Bigger Than Ever
Now in its fifth year, the idea for HONK! was hatched by 12 street bands with one idea. Each believed that people need to make more use of their public places for music, community and fun. Apparently, others agreed. Five years later, HONK! now draws over 30 bands from across the globe, and the crowds who come to take part at the main Saturday event fill Davis Square.
"It's very exciting to be in Davis Square and to be in the midst of it all. It's thrilling and exciting to see people so enthused," said Bell.
And being enthused is the point. Bands look to spark excitement in their audience in a way that traditional concerts cannot. With no stage separating musicians from listeners, the bands include the audience in the musical experience. They give the crowd the sense that they could pick up a drum or a bell and join in—and they do.
Audience Participation Encouraged
"The audience gets the feeling that they could pick up an instrument and play and be part of it. They feel a different connection to the music and the band," said Leppmann. "Many people haven't felt that way in a long time—since they were kids. That feeling sticks with them, it's different from their past experiences with live music."
Though the festival lasts just three days, the hope is that visitors will take a little inspiration from HONK! home with them. By encouraging people to cross the boundary from spectator to participator at HONK!, organizers say they just might carry that take-part attitude into everyday life—whether just to have fun or to help make the community, or the world, a little better.
Idea Started in Somerville
For now, the idea is spreading. Since the first Honk Festival was held in Somerville in 2006, it has inspired many similar events across the United States. The offspring include PRONK! in Providence, BONK! in Brooklyn, and HONK! Fest West in Seattle, as well as the upcoming HONK! TX in Austin, TX.
"Art, laughter, and celebration do not have to be organized or sponsored by an organization, do not have to be rehearsed or staged," said Leppmann. "It can happen anywhere, at any time, by anyone."