In October, geese honk on their way to warmer climates, but so does trombones and trumpets in Somerville, MA during the Honk Festival, the annual gathering of live outdoor brass band music. Honk Fest takes place during the weekend preceding Indigenous Day, and has been running since 2006 focusing in bringing brass bands, from various part of the US (and some from abroad) to share their musical idiosyncrasies with attendees. All free!

The Fest is runned by volunteers and donations, and fueled by an ethos of activism, community, collective liberation, solidarity, further expanded in their Principles of Unity.

Some of the bands arrive to Honk with their own history of political engagement, like the Bread and Puppet Circus Band, or Rise Up! Action Band (from Seattle, WA), who joined a rally of hotel workers, organized by UNITE HERE, in Downtown Boston, to protest the NY Yankees players for crossing the hotel picket line.

The Honk weekend closes with a parade, where community organizations joined, marching towards Harvard Square, where bands performed their last sets of the weekends. In the evening, on the most attended action of the weekend, members from various bands gathered across from Suffolk County House of Correction and the ICE immigrant detention center to play in solidarity of immigrants awaiting deportation in that facility, in an event organize by Resist the Raids. From the overpass where the bands were standing, one could see the light of the cells shining, and the silhouettes of those inside moving in reaction to whatever they could see. In different moments during the event, the hundred of musicians chanted “No borders, no nations: stop the deportations!’ standing in community and solidarity with those incarcerated.

Witnessing this, it’s easier to understand the words from the Honk Fest website: “these bands create an irresistible spectacle of creative movement and sonic self-expression directed at making the world a better place. This is the movement we call HONK!”

Hotel workers during the rally in front of the Ritz-Carlton, owned by Marriot Hotels. Workers have been in strike demanding better workers conditions. Among hose marching were members of Rise Up! Action Band.


Hotel workers marching with signs during the protest.

A member of Rise Up! Action Band during the Ritz-Carlton.

Members of Rude Mechanical Orkestra during one of their musical sets on Saturday, in Davis Square, Somerville, MA.

Bread and Puppet performing during a performance on Saturday.

New Creations Brass Band, from New Orleans, LA performing in Statue Park, Davis Square.

Brass Balagan from Burlington, VT

  1. A friend of Minor Mishap Marching Band from, Austin, Texas feeling the energy of the music.

Forward! Marching Band, from Madison, WI

Members of Forward! Marching Band, from Madison, WI and Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Brass Band join during a transition to the latter’s set.

Inside the bus toward the Suffolk County House of Correction and the ICE immigrant detention center, in Boston, MA. Over a hundred musicians gather to play music in solidarity with immigrants detained at the facility. The event was organized by Resist the Raids.

While the band played those incarcerated saluted from their cells.

One of the youngest musicians of the festival plays the sousaphone at the event across from the Suffolk County House of Correction and the ICE immigrant detention center, in Boston, MA.

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