It’s hard to describe the scene that is Honk! The annual gathering of activist street bands that takes over the streets and spirit of Somerville every Columbus Day weekend.
Since its founding, more than 50 bands from around the world have come to Somerville to rejoice, protest, and express. Some are radical, some are overtly political, and many have a crafting ability that would put a radicalized Martha Stewart to shame.
When the bands are in town, the streets come alive with music, voices, and collective power. The staging area for the Honk! parade, pictured above, is a marvel of costumes, characters, and music.
As the Honk! website explains,”they honk their horns because it’s the best way they know to protest a world of violence and oppression…each band has a unique sense of humor to complement their sound, as they mock and discredit the roots of hatred and injustice through the whimsical act of making music together. The result is a spectacle that is radical and subversive without being militant or sanctimonious.”
Making music together.
It sounds so simple. It makes me think of school children playing xylophones or regimented marching bands.
But the music of Honk! is alive. It inhales through every player and exhales through every listener. It pulses through the crowd. A calming cacophony. A baby joyously banging on pots and pans like that’s the only thing in the world.
There is hope and anger. Passion and despair. A public community of sound and expression.