Deidra Montgomery remembers exactly her first encounter with the HONK! Festival.
“I was not at all familiar with the area,” she said. “I was meeting up with some friends in Davis Square, by chance, on the weekend of the festival. I don’t remember which day it was, but I definitely remember the spectacle. It was just there, and it was brilliant.”
At this weekend’s free HONK! Festival, a whole roster of street bands from all over the country (and sometimes from outside it) will perform in public spaces around Greater Boston, with activity centered on Somerville’s Davis Square. The festival is taking to the streets for its 10th year of colorful parades, wild dancing, and merriment with a message.
The germ of the idea that became HONK! originated at rallies against the Iraq war on Boston Common, where an impromptu band of amateur musicians started playing raucous brass music. “We were feeling the power of music and social change,” said Maury Martin, a festival cofounder and family physician. This group eventually became the Somerville-based Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society, taking their name from the New Orleans parading tradition of following behind a street band and dancing.
“We had had Second Line going for a few years,” said Martin. “Then I went to the Coney Island Mermaid Parade, and here came the Hungry March Band, a street band from Brooklyn. So we thought, I wonder if there are other bands like that?”