2017 Somerville HONK Festival

Photos by Rosalee Zammuto

By William Tauro

This past Friday, Saturday and Sunday musicians here in Somerville celebrated their twelfth HONK! Festival. Imagine that, a dozen HONKs. And that’s only Somerville.

HONK! has since expanded to Providence, New York City, Seattle, Eugene, Austin, and Detroit, not to mention Wollongong, Australia, and Rio de Janeiro. But enough about the rest of the world; let’s talk about our Festival.

Once again, Somerville opened its homes, its businesses, its streets, and its heart to welcome dozens of activist street bands from across the country and around the globe.

Hundreds celebrated the sound and spectacle of outrageous and unruly brass bands and percussion ensembles.

They danced to the music, made some art, marched in the parade, built community, stood up for social justice.

The HONK Festival included all the features that have compelled thousands of participants to return year after year.

The event had family friendly Lantern Parades through the neighborhoods of Somerville. There was continuous free performances by dozens of HONK! bands all day in Davis Square. The venerable HONK! Parade down Massachusetts Avenue that “Reclaimed the Streets for Horns, Bikes, and Feet,” that was followed by a full afternoon of HONK! performances at Oktoberfest in Harvard Square.

There were political themes, actions, and performances throughout the Festival.

And, of course, they continued to maintain their focus on irresistible music, colorful costumes, and dancing in the streets.

To make sure that there was enough music for everyone, they had once again invited more than two dozen bands to the Festival. Some were the usual suspects, from all over the US and Canada, who were familiar, but who always sounded fresh. In addition, they had some new pleasant surprises in store. There was Damas de Ferro from Rio de Janeiro. There was also an all-female band, these “Iron Ladies” supported feminist protest and the reclamation of public space with a mixture of Popular Brazilian Music, jazz, forró, afro-samba, and rock ‘n’ roll.

They pretty much guaranteed that the energy at the HONK! Festival was like nothing you have ever experienced before.

Participants reported peak musical moments and life-changing experiences. But such a festival didn’t fall from the sky; it required a Herculean effort. An all-volunteer Organizing Committee worked hours and hours all year long to plan and coordinate every aspect of the Festival.

Municipal and community leaders assisted with logistics, permitting, and material support, local businesses donated food, neighbors shared their homes with visiting musicians, and graphic designers, photographers, parade marshals, community organizers and many, many others volunteered their time and effort.

The same was true of the bands that came to HONK! They didn’t get paid to perform They played because they loved the Festival. In return, they housed and fed hundreds of musicians for three days. And then they helped to defray travel expenses for bands that traveled from afar.

As you might’ve imagined, this ran up quite a tab. And because they’re a non-profit organization, with a limited budget, they always had to stretch their resources to the limit to make HONK! happen.

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