HONK! if you love…

On October 10, 2013, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

Street music with a mission

A joyful noise with a message or two – or more – will be hitting the streets of Somerville this weekend as the HONK! Festival sounds off.

A joyful noise with a message or two – or more – will be hitting the streets of Somerville this weekend as the HONK! Festival sounds off.

By Elizabeth Sheeran

Two-dozen self-described activist street bands will converge on Somerville and Cambridge this weekend for what promises to be a honking good time. The eight year-old HONK! Festival is the granddaddy of international gatherings for street bands whose mission is to make a difference with music.

For the public it’s a chance to take in an eclectic mix of boisterous street music from around the nation and beyond, over three days of free outdoor events. For the participants who spend much of the year taking their message to the streets, literally, it’s a chance to come together and celebrate the activist band movement.

“It doesn’t make sense for us to come up with a single mission for the festival because each of these bands has a cause, or sometimes a list of causes that are important to them,” said organizer Ken Field, a member of the locally-based Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Brass Band, which is the host band for the festivities. “They come here because they like to hang out with like-minded bands. And of course they love performing.”

The bands’ musical takes, just like their hometowns, are all over the map. They hail from a dozen different states, as well as England and Brazil. They honor a long and diverse list of musical traditions: New Orleans brass, samba, Balkan folk, Haitian rara, punk, funk and hip hop, to name just a few. And set lists can range from familiar protest songs to original works that fuse anything from klezmer with tango, to oompah with rock. Field says the one thing that unites them all is a belief that music can be a force for positive change in their communities and in the world.

Special guests this year are dancers from the Original Big Seven Social Aid and Pleasure Club, a traditional second line parade organization based in New Orleans’ Seventh Ward, whose annual Mother’s Day parade this year was interrupted by gun violence, but who responded by successfully staging a “ReDo” parade. HONK! organizers said honoring the club “reaffirms the principle that the streets belong to the people.”

The 2013 HONK! festival starts making noise this Friday, October 11, with HONK! in the Neighborhoods, as the bands spread out around Somerville, Cambridge and Boston to play at, for and with youth organizations and other community groups. In a unique collaboration, Somerville High School students will play alongside Os Siderais, a street band from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in East Somerville’s Chuckie Harris Park from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Kids of all ages can participate in Friday night’s Lantern Parades. Seven different parades, led by seven different bands along seven different routes, will all leave Somerville’s Hodgkins Park at 7 p.m., illuminating the way with bike lights and homemade lanterns. Parade-walkers can get to the park early to create their lanterns during free workshops from 4 to 6 p.m.  And Friday night also boasts a free evening of live music onstage at Johnny D’s in Davis Square, kicking off at 8 p.m. with a HONK! jam session featuring members from each of the festival bands.

The volume turns up a notch on Saturday with a full afternoon and evening of progressive street music in Davis Square, with two dozen bands spread among seven venues, from noon to 9 p.m. Original Big Seven dancers will entertain throughout the day. And kids can get up close and personal with music-makers at an instrument petting zoo from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

On Sunday the HONK! party moves en masse from Somerville to Cambridge, with a midday parade from Davis Square to Harvard Square, billed as a march to “Reclaim the Streets for Horns, Bikes and Feet.” The moving spectacle kicks off at noon with a line-up that features all of the HONK! bands, along with street performers and an ad hoc community band that will form just before the start. By Sunday afternoon, HONK! will merge with Harvard Square’s Oktoberfest, capping off the weekend with an All-Band Blowout Concert.

Field said HONK! represents the best of non-commercial community efforts, since most of the funding  comes from individual donations, with a limited amount of city support, and unpaid volunteers do everything from staffing events to opening up their homes to hundreds of out-of-town musicians. Organizers don’t track attendance numbers, but HONK! 2013 is preparing to host lively crowds as in years past.

“What can you lose? It’s fun, it’s free, it’s outside. Check it out,” said Field.

HONK! 2013 runs from October 11-13. More information, including a complete schedule and line-up of bands, is available at honkfest.org.


26 Responses to “HONK! if you love…”

  1. ritepride says:

    Let’s just hope they follow the plan. Last year one group went beyond and was walking in the street from North St. down the boulevard till a lady yelled for them to get off the street and go to Davis Sq (at least that’s what Confetti Rossetti touted).where the event was scheduled.

  2. faxR4fools says:

    I hope they clog the streets for blocks.

  3. Barry the Pig says:

    It’s official: Davis Sq is a zoo!

  4. Transparent says:

    The problem with these events is that there is no control. Participants have the feeling they can do what they want, go where they want, and there is noone from the city telling them they can’t. It has happened before with this and other events and will happen again.

  5. a matter of time says:

    I say this with my Amazing Kreskin hat on, but in absolutely all seriousness. Someone is going to die in this city. Common sense is being ignored for the sake of bikes, dogs, artists, and festivals. I hope i’m wrong, but something’s coming. I slammed my brakes the other day to prevent killing a moronic biker. my work and laptop went flying, and I was ready to get out of the car and beat the crap out of this guy who was laughing at me. Someone will give in to this feeling someday, I’m sure. Or flip at re-directed traffic one more Sunday. The HONK group gets a free pass because they say they advocate Social Justice?? haven’t heard what they actually do, but i’m sure they do something besides clog streets and make noise. Regular people are crying for support for elders, HP rights, etc. and they’re ignored. But these projects are absolutely sacred. Mark my words, someone will get hurt. I hope it’s nobody in YOUR family.

  6. Jim says:

    Just what the world needs, more activist street bands……………….to fight the oppressive silence of the establishment

    If you haven’t seen it, make sure to watch the South Park episode where the town is invaded by hippies who say they want to change the world……….but in reality just smoke weed, complain, and lay around doing nothing all day

  7. Maria says:

    @a matter of time…..So sad but true. Almost every day I turn onto a one-way street in this city, and nearly collide with a biker coming the wrong way down the middle of the street. It truly is just a matter of time. The only reason it hasn’t happened yet is because the oft-villified motor vehicle drivers are so cautious and have been able to stop in time. I pity the poor driver when this happens as he/she will most likely take the fall and be charged with reckless driving or worse.

  8. faxR4fools says:

    Beware the HONKing boogeyman. Now get off my lawn!

  9. Their “Down by the Riverside”, scared the begezzus out of our cat with ears pinned back as they crossed through Teele Square. Maybe they should just honk at city hall and DC, if they want to protest inequality and taking away rights of the people.

  10. A.Moore says:

    Anyone ever check the sound levels to see if they exceed the EPA laws? I would if they came near my hosue.

  11. Paul says:

    This message board feels like it is being run by cranky old men.

    Please just for one weekend find some time to get out of your car, come to Davis Area and enjoy some free music, which incidentally is quite good. Then maybe walk to one of the restaurants, have some lunch with your significant other. Then take a leisurely walk home.

    You might find your blood pressure goes down.

  12. ritepride says:

    Naturally these musicians fighting for rights, etc., all belong to the Musicians Union and pay the appropriate fees for copyrighted/trademarked songs they play?

  13. To Paul says:

    I’m far from a cranky old man. I work very hard and am tired of footing the bill and the mess from endless parties. I’ve been to many of these things, and have a good time. We are trying to say, enough is enough. You may pass through and have a good time, but it’s a burden on a city to constantly detour people, close off things they need to get to., etc. Your post shows what people are really tired of. Our concerns are met with this kind of , hey, get out of the house, crabby old man stuff. This month alone: several road races, Flufffest, HonkFest, Somerstreets Fest. i’m missing a few more. every weekend something else is closing streets and making a giant noisy mess. People are beyond frustrated and are sounding grumpy because they are not being heard and/or respected.

  14. Sounds like age discrimination to me–everyone over 40 doesn’t get to weigh in on their opinion of how this city is being poorly managed. As long a one segment of the population is happy, that’s all that counts.

    It’s always the easy standby–when people of less influence are pointing out mistakes, they get labeled, “crazy”, “mentally ill”, or “old and cranky”.

    The only problem is that once gentrification takes over completely, who will be cleaning up the filthy streets created by the anointed ones?

  15. Villenous says:

    Yeah, I hate how there’s something going on in the city every weekend. Why I can’t I live somewhere boring with lots of boring people around me?

  16. A.Moore says:

    Was down by Assembly today, where the horse show was it is wide open. Could easily have had these events there without putting the residents in danger. Why not that big Tufts field? It is close enough to Davis. Or maybe Tufts would rent it to us.

  17. MarketMan says:

    If the festival is out of the way in Assembly, it wouldn’t have the same turnout or same attraction. Part of the attraction is that it is right in the square. Each year that I have enjoyed the Honk fest, it was because I stumbled upon it by accident just passing by.

  18. Music lover says:

    Honk=out of tune noise

  19. Ron Newman says:

    Holding these events in squares brings customers to businesses that are located there. Putting them in an open field at Assembly Square would not do this.

  20. Maria says:

    @Paul, gee, why didn’t I ever think to do that? Oh, I know, it’s because my husband has a disability which makes walking near impossible. So we are shut out of all of these festivals, etc. And we can’t even use our HP plate to park near enough to take part, because they have closed off the streets and instituted a zero tolerance policy toward the evil cars. And not everyone is free of responsibility over the weekend. We have jobs to get to, yes even on a Saturday or Sunday. So please, everyone, stop with the sanctimonious comments to get out of your car and walk to the Square to enjoy a leisurely lunch.
    I think the HONK fest bothers me the most (cue the ‘cranky’ comments….), because at least the others are for and about Somerville (sort of). The honk fest is nothing more than noise created by people who are advocating an agenda, with no known connection to the city. I am done with the revelry for some…..

  21. lifer says:

    Hey A Moore …..MOVE ! and stop our belly aching ! GEEZ !!!

  22. business owner says:

    @Ron Newman, it is the purpose of a business, not the city, to attract customers. If they have a good business, the customers will find them. I don’t think tax-paying citizens should constantly be inconvenienced in order to bring business to Davis Square.

  23. A.Moore says:

    You could be right about not being as many people if held at Assembly or elsewhere. I just think the safety of the people should come first. I really don’t expect any changes just because I think that way and some others. I do know that there are people that need medical services there that many are probably not aware of. I am because I know someone who does that and quit because they could not get to the clients. I don’t care how many of these they have and what for, just find a safe way to run them. We have been very lucky so far and with all those fires going on one would hate to think what would happen if one got started when this is going on.

  24. next party says:

    my experience with my favorite corner store/gas station. my daily stop on my commute. on Sundays i walk there for papers, coffee. last year during the Halloween Somerstreets i stopped in. didn’t realize their customers are completely cut off by the festival. They can’t sell gas all day! so i’m trying to be positive, saying well you must at least sell snacks,etc. No, the festivals bring their own food. This business is open all day, paying staff for nothing. That’s not exactly forward thinking of the planners to shut someone off from all business. They can’t be the only ones.

  25. Ron Newman says:

    Maria: local residents are heavily involved with organizing and volunteering for Honk. The event would not happen without us.

    Three Somerville-based bands are involved: Second Line Social Aid & Pleasure Society, Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band, and Dirty Water Brass Band.

  26. business owner says:

    I went into Demoulas during the last Somerville Ave. Somerstreets. This was on a Sunday and it was a ghost town. Of course, I had to go through Cambridge, making many detours. They had sent most of their cashiers home. So all of those people you see ringing and bagging at Demoulas? All lost a days’ pay. How’s that for ‘community’?

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