More thoughts on HONK!

We went to the parade today, and while my video from that is uploading, I have some amendements to make from my prior post.

I was sort of sour on the whole politics angle of the HONK! bands. I think what I said was true, that basically, if the goal is to convert the unconverted, spectacles like this aren’t going to be the forum where that happens. My experience is that the only time peoples’ minds are changed is when there is some personal connection between two people that transcends politics, and then they have to reconcile their feelings to their viewpoints. Anyway, so, maybe people are not going to hear the Leftist Marching Band’s song about Wal-Mart and are suddenly going to see the light and say, yeah, they treat their workers like crap, I’m not going to shop there.

But I think there is something to the politics of the music itself that I basically buy into. First off, it’s just a total non-product. Very few of the bands there were even selling CDs. None of these people are making their living from their music, they are just out there for the joy of the thing. (I’m guessing here, to be fair: but I suspect that only a relative handful of people are making a living from music these days, and the folks in the HONK bands have not given up their day jobs). But the format of this kind of music is just not salable; it can barely even be recorded well. I mean, it technically can be recorded, and it can even sound pretty good. But unless you have a really crazy sound system at home, it’s just not going to sound like 10 horns and 5 percussionists (or more) standing 3 or 4 feet away from you, there’s not going to be a crowd dancing all smelly after a day of dancing.

I also feel like it opens a viable door for popular music. I guess it’s not popular in the sense that a lot of people like it. But it is pop music in the sense that you don’t need any kind of specialized cultural context or background to have an immediate visceral human reaction to people blowing horns and banging drums in front of you. It’s a popular music that you can participate in just by listening to it and ditching the snobbery and admitting that you like it– you don’t have to buy a T-Shirt, you don’t have to participate in some kind of record store nerd snottery, you don’t have to claim your turf as part of a subculture (there were townies, trustafarians, old crusty Cambridge folkies, new somerville yuppies with their kids in their maclaren strollers, and Click and Clack the Tappett Brothers for god’s sake). You can just listen and shake your butt and be happy to be in the middle of something great on a couple of gorgeous New England autumn days.

... and it was beautiful... but so's Maine

And I love that it just harkens to a time when if you wanted music, you just made it. You didn’t go shopping.

Honk! 2008 photos and video

HONK! 2008

I’ve mentioned the HONK! festival in previous years. The third one is happening this weekend (parade from Davis Square to Harvard Square is just 2 hours from now). You can read more about them and what they’re about at their website.

Here’s Providence RI’s What Cheer? Brigade, who knocked my socks off last year (strongly recommend watching this full screen since it’s rather dark).

A shorter clip:

And another, where it’s actually light and you can sort of see them. The gorilla guy wore a scarier but probably significantly less hot mask this year.

Due to a program misprint (which said they were going on in statue park at 8:00, not 6:00), I almost missed What Cheer?. Happily, I did not, though I did miss the first few minutes of their set while I was distracted by these folks playing in front of the T station, whose name I did not catch.

Also a notable group from earlier on were the Loyd Family Players who were sort of a Brazilian-style drum group from California (yes, many bands trek very far to make the fest).
Loyd Family Players, HONK! 2008(Photo by Terri)



Loyd Family Players at HONK! 2008

There were lots of other bands as well who were also notable, but it’s almost impossible to see them all, what with 4 simultaneous stages going on all around Davis Square. Anyhow, I love the HONK! fest, and the general outpouring of energy and creativity and feel like I’m in a good place when such awesome stuff happens within walking distance of my house.

Davis Square during HONK! 2008

Still, I’m not a political guy, and while I wish them luck in their project, I’m mainly there for the spectacle and the talented musicians and the spirit of the thing. My impression of the effectiveness of most acts of political street theater is the same as Tom Lehrer’s eventual opinion of political satire:

I don’t think this kind of thing has an impact on the unconverted, frankly. It’s not even preaching to the converted; it’s titillating the converted. I think the people who say we need satire often mean, “We need satire of them, not of us.” I’m fond of quoting Peter Cook, who talked about the satirical Berlin cabarets of the ’30s, which did so much to stop the rise of Hitler and prevent the Second World War. You think, “Oh, wow! This is great! We need a song like this, and that will really convert people. Then they’ll say, ‘Oh, I thought war was good, but now I realize war is bad.’” No, it’s not going to change much.