Honk! is Boston's Mardi Gras for Activist Street Bands

Honk! is the kind of festival where you'll see a drummer dressed as a unicorn grooving alongside a trumpet player in a superhero rabbit costume.

Street bands from all backgrounds gather once a year in Somerville, Massachusetts, to celebrate music and promote community involvement and political activism.

The three-day festival includes street performances throughout the city and a parade as lively as the musicians themselves. Crazy outfits and dancing comes from not only the performers but the audience as well, as spirited people from all over gather for the festivities.

Dozens of bands from the Boston area and beyond perform music inspired by many different genres, including Brazilian Samba, Punk and New Orleans-inspired brass bands. These are street-level performances that encourage onlookers to gather around and move their feet.

PHOTOS: Honk! Festival Let's Activist Street Bands Make Some Noise

Honk! was created in 2006 by the Second Line Social Aid & Pleasure Society Brass Band, a New Orleans-style street band based in based in Somerville and Cambridge that wanted to unite other community-minded street bands.

“Some people have said it is the closest thing to Mardi Gras they’ve seen outside of New Orleans, and having been to Mardi Gras many, many times, I will attest to that. It’s really quite the scene” said Ken Field, who plays saxophone for the Second Line Brass Band and is on the festival's organizing committee.

The whole city becomes a party, with a new band performing around every corner. Underneath the music are messages of engagement, protest and a call to action to various causes.

Whatever your political affiliation, this is a citywide party that should not be missed by both locals and visitors alike.

“So many people come to the festival. They’re maybe not totally aware that the festival is a festival of activist street bands,” said Field. “They come for the spectacle, for the music.”

For more information on Honk! visit

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