The Honk! TX Festival of street bands has been going on all weekend.
I recommend listening to these recordings, from the festival, while you read this!
These highly organized groups featured all sorts of drums, trombones, saxophones, tubas, clarinets, trumpets, and more. They marched all over the place, bringing the music and the party with them. Each day, dozens of bands played at different stages across the city. They seemed happy and free, people doing what they love.
The first group we saw was the Austin Samba School. They are a group of over 100 drummers and dancers spreading the sounds of Brazilian Carneval. When we arrived on the scene, we felt the groove before we saw it. It drew us in!
The dancers were beautiful and full of energy. The drummers were all smiles, led by an older timbale player with a whistle for commands. There was a huge crowd around them, and everyone was dancing!
Once they marched away from the stage, keeping the beat, another band materialized and proceeded to blow their heads off. “…Its as if all the hooligans that got kicked out of marching band for their boisterousness and punk rock covers came together and formed a circus-punk-brass band.” – Do512
After the show, we talked to Datri, the woman who arranges the music for this group. She told us about the Annie Street Arts Collective, a unique record label that has secret shows in Austin. She also told us about a booming vintage jazz scene here, with bands like the Thrift Set Orchestra and the Jazz Pharoahs bringing back the classic sound of the 20’s and 30’s.
The last band Friday night was this funky outfit from New Orleans. The bass drum, snare, and tuba players held a dance groove while two trombones and a trumpeter traded solos and blasted away harmonies.
I saw this band perform several times over the weekend. They had unique steampunk style and a ton of energy. They played in strange time signatures, such as 7 and 9, and they had a middle eastern feel, with a prominent clarinet soloist. The tuba player was exceptional, blasting the crowd and running around like a madman. They are originally from Somerville, Massachusetts, where the Honk! Festival originated.
This was the last group we saw perform on Saturday, before we went to interview a few Austin hip-hop artists. It was great to see so many passionate musicial groups come together.
Sunday was the big parade. Our van was in the shop, so we took the bus downtown and walked to East Austin, on the other side of the highway, where things are a bit older and cultural.
We spotted the bands marching down 3rd street. They were making their way to the Pan Am Park, where a large stage was set up for a final showcase.
A representative of the city of Austin took the stage, saying that this festival, in its 3rd year, is what Austin is really about! He passed a proclamation, declaring the 22nd to 24th of March into official Honk! TX days.
Each band got about 10 minutes in the limelight. The field was packed with people dancing and lounging in the sun. The military band was surprisingly funky. We recognized many of the bands from earlier performances, elsewhere in the city. Marching bands are truly mobile musicians!
I hope you enjoyed the sights and sounds of this festival! Questions and comments are encouraged.