Wednesday, October 18, 2017

A Few Notes From Honk! Festival 2017

Emperor Norton's Stationary Marching Band 
Usually my trips to Boston are built around at least a few key concerts. This trip, however, was all about getting up to the White Mountains to celebrate my girlfriend's birthday (the Kancamagus Highway from Conway to Lincoln is beautiful). That doesn't mean, of course, that we didn't get to see any bands perform. We made it back to Boston in time for the later portion of the Saturday lineup at Honk! The festival started at noon in Davis Square, with bands starting at 1 p.m. - this was on October 7th (the festival is actually three days) - and we got there a little after 6 p.m. My girlfriend had been telling me about this festival for years, but this was the first time I was able to attend.

Honk! is a free music festival in Davis Square, focusing on bands that are either largely or entirely brass, most of them playing at the same level as the crowd, usually among the crowd, without amplification. As you might guess, it's a whole hell of a lot of fun. The bands play in several different locations around David Square, and we started at the statue, with an all-female brass band called Damas de Ferro. They were good, but we left before the end of their set, as we wanted to get over to the plaza before 7 p.m., so we wouldn't miss any of Emperor Norton's Stationary Marching Band's set (this was my girlfriend's favorite group from previous years, though every time she mentioned them I thought she was saying Edward Norton's Marching Band). Though we got to Davis Square Plaza approximately ten minutes before 7, Emperor Norton's Stationary Marching Band was already performing.

Emperor Norton's Stationary Marching Band 
These guys were excellent. I think I counted fourteen musicians, but it was difficult to get an accurate number as they were constantly moving around, and the dancing crowd partially blocked my view. They did a Michael Jackson medley that included "Billie Jean," "Happy Birthday, Lisa" (from The Simpsons), "Thriller," "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'" and "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough." For a mainly instrumental band, they have surprisingly good voices. I particularly liked the accordion player. As they finished their set at 8 p.m., the next band moved in, so there was really no break in the music whatsoever. That next band, The Party Band (yeah, not the most imaginative band name), started up just behind where most of the crowd had been standing, so folks basically just turned around to face them and kept dancing. Pretty cool. We caught a good portion of their set, then headed over to the park to see Hungry March Band. There was more room to breathe, more space to dance over there, and I really enjoyed Hungry March Band's set, their group including dancers as well as musicians.

Hungry March Band
When they finished, we expected them to lead us to some central place where the rest of the bands would gather. From what I've heard, that's what has happened in previous years, the bands all playing together, with the audience joining them in some delirious march around the area. Last year that march apparently took the crowd down into the subway station. But this year it was not to be. Hungry March Band finished, and that was that. We went back to the main part of the square, thinking perhaps some other bands would take part in a march, but after a band there (I'm not sure of the band's name) played "When The Saints Go Marching In," the music ended. Still, I enjoyed the evening, and I hope to make it back for the festival next year.

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