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This article is about Festival of Activist Street Bands. For other uses, see Honk (disambiguation).
Yellow Hat Band spilling out into Airport Way S. near the corner of S. Vale St. late at night in Georgetown, Seattle, Washington during the first HonkFest West (2009).

HONK!, also known as HONK! Fest, is a festival of activist street bands held annually on Columbus Day weekend in Somerville, Massachusetts. Each year since 2006, an all-volunteer organizing community invites more than 25 bands from around New England, North America, and the world to participate in this free three-day event that showcases acoustic and ambulatory bands playing free music in public spaces. Since its inception, it has inspired additional HONK! festivals in other locations.


HONK!s so far have been staged in Somerville, Massachusetts; Seattle, Washington; Austin, Texas; Providence, Rhode Island and New York, New York. Although each festival is locally organized and there is no central HONK! authority, they share common features. Each HONK! invites twelve to over thirty bands, who play multiple sets in outdoor public spaces over the course of two or three days. These shows are free to attend. Some HONK!s also feature a parade. The festivals are volunteer-run and get support from local sponsors.

The bands invited to play at HONK! share common characteristics: they are ambulatory; they use instruments that can be simultaneously carried and played; and they utilize little or no electronic amplification. As a result, the bands are able to play while moving. There is no generally agreed-upon label for this type of band; labels in use include "activist street band," "radical marching band," and "community street band."

Dead Music Capital Band playing at the Honk! festival in Austin, TX. 2013

Although many of the bands that play at HONK! have the phrase "marching band" in their names, they bear only superficial resemblance to a traditional marching band. Traditional marching band characteristics derive from their military history: they tend to feature regimented, synchronized movement and matching uniforms, and play music that has been composed and arranged in advance, with the goal of presenting the band as a cohesive unit without any differentiation between individual members. Band members are typically drawn from and affiliated with some larger organization, such as a school.

A HONK!-style street band, on the other hand, more often tends to encourage the individuality of its members: it may have a theme to its garb rather than a uniform, with individual members free to implement that theme in a manner of their own choosing; similarly, its music may offer more chances for improvisation. Many HONK! bands incorporate traditional marching band instrumentation, sometimes augmented with other instruments or vocalists; others use instrumentation drawn from non-Western music traditions, such as those of a Brazilian samba school. A HONK! band may exist for a specific purpose—some perform primarily at activist events, for instance—but they are typically autonomous entities not affiliated with another organization.


The longest-running HONK! has taken place in Somerville, Massachusetts' Davis Square neighbourhood every October since 2006.[citation needed] It was begun by a committee of members from a Somerville 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.[citation needed] Since 2007, it has included a parade titled "Reclaim the Streets for Horns, Bikes and Feet!"[citation needed] The parade features the bands 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.[citation needed]

Starting in 2008, HONK! Fest West has been held every spring in Seattle.[1] In its second year, HONK! Fest West 2009 took place in several locales around Seattle: Friday night in Ballard, Saturday night in Georgetown, Sunday daytime at Gas Works Park and Sunday evening at The Vera Project.[2] HONK! Fest West 2010 took place Friday night in Fremont, Saturday afternoon in the Central District, Saturday night in Georgetown, and Sunday afternoon at the Alaska Junction in West Seattle.[citation needed]

HONK!TX has been held in Austin every March starting in 2011. The 2011 festival took place on East Sixth Street on Friday, in the North University neighborhood on Saturday, and, following a march through the center of Austin, in Pan-Am Park on Sunday. Subsequent years have used South Congress instead of East Sixth.[3]

Emperor Norton's Stationary Marching Band playing at the 2013 HONK!TX

Participating Bands[edit]

Note that this section is due to be updated as follows: (1) It will feature a list of bands attending HONK! from 2006 through 2014 (2) Bands listed here as attending other HONK! festivals will be relocated to a page dedicated to other HONK! festivals (3) Links to band Wikipedia pages will be updated, where applicable (and in some cases, band pages created).

HONK! Fest West 2010[edit]


HONK! Fest West 2009[edit]


HONK! Fest West 2008[edit]

  • Anti-Fascist Marching Band (Seattle)
  • The Carnival Band (Vancouver, BC)
  • La Banda Gozona (seattle)
  • Samba Olywa (olympia)
  • Environmental Encroachment (Chicago)
  • Black Bear Combo (Chicago)
  • Hungry March Band (Brooklyn)
  • Samba Ja (Eugene)
  • Santa Cruz Trash Orchestra (Santa Cruz)
  • Weapons of Marching Destruction (Seattle) now Titanium Sporkestra
  • Yellow Hat Band (Seattle)
  • Vamola! (Seattle)
  • Peace Bandits (Olympia) now Artesian Rumble Arkestra
  • Ballard Sedentary Sousa Band (Seattle)
  • Raging Grannies (Seattle)

HONK! 2010[edit]

  • AfroBrazil
  • The Barrage Band Orchestra
  • Black Bear Combo
  • Brass Liberation Orchestra
  • The Bread & Puppet Circus Band
  • Detroit Party Marching Band
  • Dirty Water Brass Band
  • DJA-Rara
  • EE – Environmental Encroachment
  • Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band
  • The Expandable Brass Band
  • Extraordinary Rendition Band
  • Factory Seconds
  • Himalayas
  • Leftist Marching Band
  • Young Fellaz Brass Band
  • the Hubbub Club
  • Rude Mechanical Orchestra
  • Second Line Social Aid & Pleasure Society Brass Band
  • Seed & Feed Marching Abominable
  • The Springville All Star Marching Band
  • tint(A)nar
  • Veveritse
  • What Cheer? Brigade

HONK! 2009[edit]

  • AfroBrazil
  • The Bahamas Junkanoo Jumpers
  • Banda Roncati
  • The Barrage Band Orchestra
  • Black Bear Combo
  • Brass Messengers
  • The Bread & Puppet Circus Band
  • Caka!ak Thunder
  • The Carnival Band
  • Chaotic Insurrection Ensemble
  • EE – Environmental Encroachment
  • Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band
  • Extraordinary Rendition Band
  • Himalayas
  • Hungry March Band
  • Leftist Marching Band
  • Loyd Family Players
  • Minor Mishap Marching Band
  • Orkestar Zirkonium
  • Pinettes Brass Band
  • Pink Puffers
  • Rude Mechanical Orchestra
  • Samba Tremeterra
  • The Scene Of The Crime Rovers
  • Second Line Social Aid & Pleasure Society Brass Band
  • Seed & Feed Marching Abominable
  • The Springville All Star Marching Band
  • What Cheer? Brigade
  • Yellow Hat Band

HONK! 2008[edit]

HONK! 2007[edit]

HONK! 2006[edit]


  1. ^ HonkFest West official site, accessed 12 April 2009.
  2. ^ Friday, Saturday, and Sunday schedules, HONK! Fest West official site, accessed 12 April 2009.
  3. ^ Official Page HONK!TX website
  4. ^ "Detroit Party Marching Band". Honkfest.org. Retrieved 2012-10-09. 
  5. ^ List from program of the event
  6. ^ List from Honk Fest West Bands, HonkFest West official site, accessed 12 April 2009.

External links[edit]