2019 HONK! Fest: Brass Bands Taking Stands

Annual Multi-Day Music Event Gets Attendees, Activists Riled Up

Charlie Reed, Around School Editor


As the weather takes a turn, with the leaves changing colors and the seasons shifting, Cambridge sets up for the annual Honk Festival, kicking off the fall and exciting those ready for the cold weather to start. The 14th annual Honk Festival lasted from October 11th-13th. The festival is a giant street fair that takes over Davis Square in Somerville with free music for all to enjoy.  Twelve bands from all over the country performed all throughout Davis Square in Somerville. Davis Square is a logical spot, as there are many little areas within the heart of the square for the bands to play while people walk around and enjoy the scene. 

Honk, however, is more than a music fest. The purpose is to combine music with social activism. This year, in the middle of the square, there was a wide table stacked high with notecards and images left by those who wanted to share a little about themselves. Some notes described rough past experiences, while others shared more celebratory things like who or what they love. 

After the morning portion of the festival, a full afternoon of Honk performers played on the main stage. This year, more than 28 brass bands from around the world participated. Alex Jacob from Cambridge, who attended Honk, stated, “Honk is a place where the people of Cambridge unite and share with each other their excitement.” Even though the day was cloudy on Saturday, the vibe was festive and electric.  

Since the first Honk Festival in 2006, many cities have followed suit, planning Honk festivals of their own—now there are Honk festivals all over the world. Honk in Davis is the longest-running festival of its kind. Begun by a group of members of an activist band, The Second Line Social Aid Pleasure Society Brass Band, the goal was to gather people who wanted to promote peace and joy and civic engagement through music and the gathering lots of people. Sharmey Johnson, an employee at Honk, said, “Honk is special because it takes away the business in people’s lives by allowing anyone to come out of their own world and share the expression and excitement they have for the upcoming season, and potentially the upcoming year, and the political mood of the day.”

This piece also appears in our November 2019 edition.