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HONK! Festival to bring over 500 musicians to town

Posted by  October 10, 2013 12:50 PM

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By Samantha Laine, Town Correspondent

Get ready to toot your horn and play in the streets as the 8th annual HONK! Festival takes place in Boston, Somerville, and Cambridge this weekend. 

The festival will bring about 25 bands to the Boston area to celebrate bands and musicians that use music as “street activism.” The free carnival, which will take place Friday, October 11 through Sunday, October 13, invites the public to pay tribute to the way in which music can be used to protest, commemorate, reclaim, and generally benefit society. 

Ken Field, a member of HONK! Festival’s organizing committee, said it has been amazing to see the festival grow throughout the years. He said that in HONK’s first year, only 12 bands participated. Now, with over 500 musicians participating from around the world simply for the sake of honking horns and pounding drums, the festival has become an exciting part of Somerville and Cambridge’s musical and activist identity. 

“A lot of the people who witness the festival may not know it, but these bands are coming because they love playing and community involvement. They’re not coming because we’re paying them to come,” Field said. “It’s the pureness of it, in a way. It’s not tainted by commercial considerations. That’s what makes this festival unique.” 

Mary Curtin, a member of Somerville-based Dirty Water Brass Band, said this is the fourth year her band will be participating in the festival. She said that one of the great things about the festival is that people often don’t know what it’s about, which draws them in and eventually keeps their attention. She said it has become a great way to speak out about social involvement and bettering the community. 

“When people go to HONK! they don’t think of it as a festival of street activism, they think of it as a great party,” Curtin said. “For us, it’s this opportunity to attract more flies with honey. You might be able to lure people into your cause . . . It always helps [the cause] if there’s a little bit of music.” 

The three-day festival incorporates multiple types of music into its line up, including New Orleans second line brass bands, European Klezmer, Balkan and Romani music, Brazilian Afro Bloc and Frevo traditions. The festival also provokes the passion and spirit of such festivals as Mardi Gras and Carnival. 

During different scheduled and nonscheduled events throughout the weekend, bands roam through Boston, Somerville, and Cambridge to play in various locations. On Sunday, the bands will march in a parade from Davis Square to Harvard Square and finish the festival with an all band concert on the main stage at Harvard’s Oktoberfest. 

Field said HONK! is a great opportunity for musicians and the public alike to hear some great music. He said that this year, there are bands flying in from Brazil, London, and New Orleans to participate in the festival, and that the festival normally draws thousands of people to the streets. 

“Everything is free and the bands are really excited to be here,” Field said. “You can tell by the way they play and the way they interact with the people who are there. They integrate [the audience] into the festivities.” 

Curtin said that the best thing about HONK! is that it gives everyone a chance to participate. She said that playing music as part of a street activist band makes her feel like she is making a difference, and that she’s glad that HONK! gives this opportunity to so many people. 

“If nothing else, this festival gives people a feeling of empowerment that they too can do this,” Curtin said. “Come so you too can carry on. Pick up this tradition, and carry on.”

HONK! Festival will take place Friday, October 11 until Sunday, October 13. Activities include Pre-HONK! musical performances on Thursday night, a lantern making workshop and parade, concerts, parades, and performances throughout Boston, Somerville, and Cambridge. For more information about participating bands, the schedule, or to donate, visit the HONK! Festival’s website

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