Festivals & Expos

Listen to live street music at Somerville’s HONK! Festival

The boisterous festival of street activist bands returns to Davis Square Oct. 6-8.

Street band performers liven up Davis Square the weekend of October 8. Photo by Greg Cook

From Friday, Oct. 6 through Sunday, Oct. 8, street bands take over Somerville’s Davis Square for a weekend of music making and community celebration during the 18th annual HONK! Festival of Activist Street Bands. 

Hundreds of performers travel from around the country and beyond to Davis Square for the celebration, putting on lively shows. Most performers are housed by community members, and the entire effort is grassroots and nonprofit. The street bands will play all different styles of music, like Klezmer (Jewish folk music), Brazilian samba, Afrobeat, New Orleans second line, punk, hip hop, and Romani music, all with a spirited, Carnival-esque energy.

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The weekend kicks off Friday with a musical lantern parade through Somerville. On Saturday, dozens of street bands take over Davis Square for a day of partying and dancing. On Sunday, local activist groups supporting causes like environmental, economic, and racial justice join the bands for a musical parade along Mass Ave. from Davis to Harvard Square, coinciding with Harvard’s Oktoberfest in which food vendors line the streets. 

Bands play without amplification and at street level, blurring the lines between performers and spectators and using public spaces as their stage. HONK! in Somerville has inspired other activist street band festivals throughout the world in places like Brooklyn, Seattle, Austin, and as far away as Australia and Brazil.

“Throughout the country and across the globe, a new type of street band movement is emerging—outrageous and inclusive, brass and brash, percussive and persuasive—reclaiming public space with a sound that is in your face and out of this world,” wrote organizers on the event website.

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