scorecardresearch Skip to main content

HONK! blends music and activism across Somerville and Cambridge

Stiltwalkers stride into Harvard Square on Sunday for the final day of this year’s HONK! festival. Greg Cook/<a href="/" shape="rect">Wonderland</a>

HONK! sounded loudly in the streets of Somerville and Cambridge this past weekend. The free, 14-year-strong festival — a reliably colorful blend of brass-band music and brass-tacks activism — organized this fall’s festivities around the unifying theme of home for all, with stated causes including affordable housing for all, sanctuary for immigrants and refugees, and environmental justice.

Twenty-five activist street bands came out to perform at the three-day fest, including three notable out-of-towners: Chicago’s Clamor & Lace Noise Brigade, Brazil’s Fanfarra Feminina Sagrada Profana, and Berlin’s Bolschewistische Kurkapelle Schwarz-Rot. Another notable new addition: the local, jazz-inflected youth group Summer Street Brass Band.


On Sunday, the HONK! acts collided with Oktoberfest in Harvard Square, where reportedly more than 200,000 revelers milled between artisans’ stalls, multiple musical performances, and five beer gardens.

Though two political actions on Friday were rained out, HONK! culminated in a die-in in Harvard Square attended by hundreds of activists and musicians, followed by a triumphant “rise-up.” An action later in the evening brought activists to the steps of the Suffolk County ICE Immigration Detention Center, where 200 detainees had been held until late last week.

Isaac Feldberg can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @isaacfeldberg.