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HONK! festival makes some noise in Davis Square

Street bands get crowd dancing

SOMERVILLE - An elderly couple with canes, parents with young children in strollers, and twenty-somethings were all dancing up a storm in Davis Square yesterday.

The second annual HONK! festival transformed the square into a musician's playground as more than a dozen activist street bands - some from as far away as California, Montreal, and Italy - gathered to perform and share ideas.

"What's most enjoyable is blowing that opening honk and seeing the faces of all the other musicians doing it too," said Maury Martin, an event organizer who also plays a saxophone in the Second Line Social Aid & Pleasure Brass Band.

Most of the bands have specific causes they want to highlight, but Martin said his group performs at a variety of political events and social rallies.

"We aim to please, if the cause is true and the time is right. That's our motto," he said.

The bands banged snare drums, waved purple-feathered signs, and "honked" brass horns in a Mardi Gras-like celebration that drew residents out of their homes and commuters away from the nearby Red Line station.

"We were heading away this weekend but we wanted to stay and see this before we left," said Shepley Metcalf, a Somerville resident who was enjoying a picnic lunch with her visiting daughter while they listened to one of the bands. "How many events are like this? It's open air, it's low tech, it's free. It really resonates with the people of Somerville."

The festival is organized by an all-volunteer group that hosts the hundreds of visiting musicians in local homes. Area businesses donate food. However, as the event grows, so does the cost of organizing the festival. "We can't continue at this scale or larger without the support and staffing," said Martin. "We need to bring together others who can help run and fund this."

The festival will conclude today with a parade from Davis Square to Harvard Square starting at noon. Some bands will continue to perform after the parade during Oktoberfest, which is being held this weekend in Harvard Square.

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