Bring the Noise: Somerville’s Honk! Music Festival Returns


Photograph by Ben Greenberg

Honk! just may be Boston’s most joyous music festival. This year the three-day event begins Friday, October 11, with street bands from as far away as Rio de Janeiro and London filling Somerville’s Davis Square with music. On Sunday the 13th, those bands will parade down Mass. Ave. to finish the weekend with a four-hour jam at Harvard Square’s Oktoberfest.

In the eight years since it was founded, Honk! has spread to other cities—Seattle and Austin now have their own festivals—but the Somerville event is still the biggest. “People just want to come here and commune with like-minded musicians,” says Ken Field, an organizing committee member. While the 25 bands featured this year are wildly diverse—their styles range from New Orleans jazz to Balkan brass band music—they all share a DIY spirit, a progressive political bent, and a John-Philip-Sousa-goes-to-Burning-Man aesthetic. Not to mention a lack of inhibition.

“An activist street band exists primarily to make a positive change in their communities,” Field says. “They live out on the street level, they’re a little wild and crazy, and they’re people with something to say and a lot of will to say it.” Just as long as it sounds good performed outside, at top volume, and with maximum audience participation.