HONK! fans! It’s that time again. Save the dates: October 5 – 7, 2018! for the free HONK! Festival of Activist Street Bands. For the thirteenth year in a row, Somerville will open its homes, its businesses, its streets, and its heart to hundreds of activist street musicians from across the country and around the globe to celebrate the sound and spectacle of twenty-seven brass and percussion bands performing in the service of participatory culture and righteous social causes. Join us for the music, make some art, march in the parade, build community, and stand up for social justice.
Since its founding in 2006, HONK! has expanded to numerous cities across the US, including Providence, New York City, Austin, Detroit, Seattle, Eugene, and Montpelier, not to mention Wollongong, Australia, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo in Brazil, and imminently, HONK!BC in Vancouver, Canada. The result has been the creation of a truly international network of engaged and engaging street bands, ready to build community, reclaim public space, and support progressive causes everywhere.
Our Festival this year will include all the features that have compelled thousands of participants to return year after year — Lantern Parades on Friday; continuous performances all day in Davis Square on Saturday; and the venerable HONK! Parade on Sunday, followed by a full afternoon of HONK! performances in Harvard Square. In addition, there will be political themes, actions, and performances throughout the Festival.
Because of HONK!’s international expansion, we have once again journeyed south of the equator to bring a band from Latin America: Unidos do Swing is a Brazilian brass band that mixes traditional US jazz with the Brazilian carnival tradition to create a spectacle of music and dance that beckons you to participate. After performing at HONK! Rio, they were so inspired that they went back to their home city of Sao Paolo and started their own HONK! Festival in 2017.
Given the current political landscape, we will continue to ratchet up the level of direct action at the Festival. And we are pleased to recognize the new activist street bands popping up all around the country by presenting groups who formed after being exposed to the magic of HONK!
Forward! Marching Band from Madison, Wisconsin, started this trend when its founders attended the 2011 HONK! Festival and returned home to start a band to oppose the state’s assault on collective bargaining. They have been “using music to energize and sustain the struggle for progressive social change, have fun and build community” ever since.
Rise Up! Action Band formed in 2016 in Seattle, home of HONK! Fest West, to “play music and create artistic spectacle at political events.”
Unlawful Assembly “is a Twin Cities radical marching band collective founded in 2017 to support ... marches, picket lines, and other actions and events.”
Band Land Brass Band!, formed this year, is a group of local high school students from Cambridge, Massachusetts, who wanted to move beyond their school marching band, and drew on their experience of HONK! to use music for creative expression, liberation, and pleasure.
And, because of our deep commitment to the music and culture of New Orleans we have invited two bands from the Crescent City: New Creations Brass Band will bring its particular brand of New Orleans funk to Somerville one more time. HONK! fans should be prepared to be blown away by their talent and energy yet again. Red Flame Hunters are the first — and perhaps still the only — youth-oriented Mardi Gras Indian tribe in New Orleans. They have been working on sewing their lavish and ornate costumes for this season all year. They will be treating us to some eye-popping performances. And they will be offering workshops on how they create their magnificent costumes.
We can pretty much guarantee that the energy at the HONK! Festival will be like nothing you have ever experienced before. Participants report peak musical moments, inspiring political actions, and life-changing experiences. Such a festival 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 imagine, 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.
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 more than two dozen 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 be a wee bit skeptical.
But this is exactly what we have done 12 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.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (24 days)