Marching bands join forces for weekend’s HONK! fest

This weekend radical and activist marching bands from all over North America will converge on Somerville and Cambridge for the increasingly popular (and populist) HONK! Festival.

Now in its fifth year HONK! offers opportunities galore for festival-goers to join in raising a righteous ruckus and for youngsters –like members of Dorchester’s Blue Hill Club of the Boys and Girls Club of Boston– to jam with visiting musical groups.

Rain or shine, some 30 bands including such memorably named troupes as Bahamas Junkanoo Jumpers, Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band, Factory Seconds, and Rude Mechanical Orchestra, will perform  outdoors from 12:30-9 p.m. in Davis Square.

On Sunday the mayors of Somerville and Cambridge will lead a parade featuring all the HONK! bands, an anyone-can-join “community band,” along with other non-musician participants, including puppeteers and visual artists such as the Bread & Puppet Theater and organizations that promote transportation alternatives and environmental and social justice, such as Bikes Not Bombs.  The parade leaves Davis Square at noon heading to Harvard Square’s Oktoberfest.

The very first HONK! came together on Columbus Day weekend, 2006. It was the brainchild of members of a local activist band, The Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Brass Band, who saw the need for a gathering of like-minded souls interested in applying the joy of music to the work of promoting peace, social justice, and civic engagement. A dozen socially conscious street bands from all over the US and Canada showed up to perform in Davis and Harvard Squares. And thus like First Night and the Christmas Revels, another arts tradition was born in Boston that soon was copied by art-lovers in other cities.

Between 2006 and 2010, annual HONKS! have arisen in places as close as Providence (PRONK!) and Brooklyn (BONK!) and as far afield as Seattle (HONK! Fest West), with new ones being launched every day, such as in Austin (HONK! TX).


A pair of HONK! bands will be visiting Dorchester tomorrow, hosted by Rick Aggeler, director of the Music Clubhouse at the Blue Hill Boys & Girls Club. According to the Boston Globe, “Three years after Aggeler started it, the Clubhouse has produced three CDs, helped one 14-year-old boy record a single that’s now on iTunes, and become the model for other music programs around the state.”

Tomorrow’s visit will follow the format set for all the other collaborative workshops in other Boys and Girls Clubs throughout Boston: An out-of-state HONK! band teams up with a local HONK! band to play in each location, and kids will participate using handmade percussion.  Some kids who are learning to play instruments will join in with the bands.

Brass Liberation Orchestra (from Oakland, CA) and the Expandable Brass Band (from the Boston area) will visit the 15 Talbot Avenue facility between 3 and 5 p.m.

Notes from HONK! Committee connection Bob Follansbee indicate that game plan for the October 8 visit goes like this: “Bands kicks off at about 3:15 to play a couple of tunes, then maybe listen to a tune from the kids, then bands and kids work together on a tune on which the more capable kids can play along on bass and drums and over which they can do some rapping. I suggested ‘Bumper to Bumper’ as a tune that almost any band could learn in advance and that would be a good one to rap to.” 

Festival updates are posted on and   The phone number is 617-383-HONK (4665). 


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