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HONK! returns with a multi-day music extravaganza

The Extraordinary Rendition Band, hailing from Providence, is one of 20 bands that will take to Davis Square for this year's HONK! Festival.Greg Cook

The 17th annual HONK! Festival returns for Indigenous People’s Day weekend with 20 marching bands convening in Cambridge to promote music, community, and a sprinkle of local activism. Musical groups such as the Jamaica Plain Honk Band, Rude Mechanical Orchestra, and Bread and Puppet Circus Band will partner with local nonprofit organizations to get the word out about various causes, from voter registration to gentrification.

The festival will kick off on Oct. 6 with Chilean band Rim Bam Bum, which will perform at the Main Branch of the Cambridge Public Library at 6:30 p.m., with a lantern parade through the streets of Davis Square the following evening. Most band performances will commence on Oct. 8, with the 20 brass bands performing at six locations around Davis Square. A concert featuring four performance venues around Harvard Square on Oct. 9 will coincide with the Harvard Square Business Association’s annual Oktoberfest celebration.


“You have the unsuspecting folks that are having a great time at Oktoberfest, which is always fun,” said Mary Curtin, who will be performing as part of the Dirty Water Brass Band. “But then you have this parade of activist bands and organizations invading the scene, for lack of a better word.”

In addition to resource tables for the nonprofits in attendance, Curtin said, “we would like [Oktoberfest attendees] to wander over, ideally, and engage in some dialogue if they’re interested.”

Dirty Water Brass Band will be teaming up with the Somerville Community Land Trust, which aims to increase awareness about evictions and rent hikes in the area. But it’s not all work and no play, Curtin said.

“The bands also want to have fun,” Curtin said. “None of us get paid; we’re just totally donating our time. Some of the bands are more quasi-professional, but they donate their time for this particular event, because they feel so empowered by it.”


Maya Homan can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @MayaHoman.