The Art Inventory

As The Band Goes Marching…To Gasworks!

by Kirby Lindsay, posted 6 May 2011



Titanium Sporkestra performs for Fremont crowds at Honk! Fest West 2010. Photo by Nic Launceford

On Sunday, May 8th, starting at 8p, two bands – Brass Menažeri and Orkestar Zirkonium – will perform at High Dive.  Yet, do not be take off guard if a few wandering minstrels, or several full-on marching bands, also invade the ‘hood, for this concert will be the kick-off for the fourth annual Honk! Fest West.

In 2010, one random Friday night in April, Fremont found itself overrun by honking brass.  This year, Fremonsters will still be able to revel in a festive convergence of melodic mayhem, only the gathering has shifted and requires a short hike.  For the Fremont portion of the 2011 Honk! Fest West will be Saturday, May 14th, from Noon – 6p at Gas Works Park, to be followed by a Honk! All-Star Revue at Hale’s Palladium at 7p.

For those who need even more of the lively mix of samba lines, marching bands, horn players, drum corps and assorted other rhythmic ruckus-makers, on Friday, May 13th, the Georgetown neighborhood (starting at the corner of Vale & Airport Way, from 6p – 10p,) will launch the weekend.  Then, on Sunday, May 15th, the Experience Music Project (EMP) Sky Church will host a special Honk concert, from 2 – 3p, followed by an improvised musical tour, by all the bands, of the Seattle Center grounds.

‘Perverse Love of That Surprise’

Three of the Honk! Fest West 2011 Organizers - l to. r - Tyson Lynn, Summer David and Kool Whip Photo by K. Lindsay

“I have a perverse love of that surprise,” admitted Tyson Lynn, one of the primary HFW organizers, “the dumfounded look of people who find it.”  Last year, that look appeared on a lot of Fremont faces and, according to anecdotal evidence collected after the fact, most of them loved it too.

“We are a free festival,” Lynn explained, run by volunteers, who struggle to get the word out, and causes many a comic double-take as people stumble across the merriment.  The grassroots event does sit beneath the non-profit umbrella of The Vera Project, and continues to build an audience – which can also bring them volunteers, and talent.

Lynn came along as an HFW volunteer in its second year.  Kool Whip (a.k.a. Luke Koval) only joined on last year, when he heard about the Fest the day before it took place.  A quick adoptee, he has helped organize this year, and will perform as well, playing the flaming trombone (seriously) with Titanium Sporkestra.

Yet, as it grows, Honk! may never become a settled, conventional and/or mature music festival.  “That surprise is part of the Honk culture,” explained Kool Whip, “so many of the bands crash a space…”  Mobility is a main characteristic of a Honk! band, which means they tend to meander…  “From an organizers stand point, it is a nightmare,” acknowledged Lynn, “if a crowd is not there, they will go find it… and hopefully bring it back with them.”  Summer David, another HFW committee member, acknowledged, “then again, some of the bands will runaway…”

A Festival In Procession, And Process

Bringing brass to the masses during Honk! Fest West 2010. Photo by Nic Launceford

Honk! Fest West does continue to evolve and adapt – to find new methods of bringing music onto the sidewalks, and to the people.  “Every year that I’ve done it,” explained Lynn, “we’ve changed the structure, to find the perfect balance.”

There do have a model to work from, sort of.  The original Honk Fest, now in its eighth year, takes place in Somerville, Massachusettes (near Boston) in October.  In March 2011, another Honk! launched – in Austin, Texas.

“It comes out of a tradition from Europe,” explained Lynn.  Not the festival, but the music some of the bands play, which has roots in Balkan brass music, a relative of circus and/or gypsy music.  Although, “each band is vastly different,” admitted Kool Whip.  Even with somewhat similar material, each band will approach it radically distinct ways, Lynn explained, “you never feel like you are hearing the same thing twice.”

A wandering accordian player performs at Honk! Fest West 2010. Photo by Nic Launceford

The extensive list of performers scheduled also demonstrates that vast variety.  Expect to see local bands VamoLa!, the Nu Klezmer Army, the Bucharest Drinking Team, and the Artesian Rumble Arkestra.  Bands will come from all over as well, including Bolting Brassicas Marching Band (Lasaqueti, B.C.,) Environmental Encroachment (Chicago,) and Young Fellaz Brass Band (New Orleans, LA.)  Then there are the sports-related music makers, trained in getting people moving, including the Garfield High Bulldog Drumline, the Seattle Seahawks Blue Thunder Drumline, and the Seattle Sounders FC Soundwave Band

Expect The Unexpected Spontaneity

Although, any list of bands that performed will not be complete until the last note sounds at Seattle Center on Sunday, May 15th.  “We do have an open door policy,” Lynn invited, “bring your talent, bring your fun!  Street performers are welcome!”

Lynn also invited non-profits to table at Gas Works (contact him to find out more,) and they will always welcome more volunteers.  Yet, this isn’t about working.  “All we ask is that people come down, dance with us, and have a good time,” Lynn asked.  As David avowed, “We are really nice people.”

While the majority of the festival is absolutely, no-kidding Free, and all ages, the show at High Dive, May 8th, will be 21 and over, and tickets cost $12 at the door.  The All-Star Revue at Hale’s Palladium is all ages, but also requires a $10 ticket, which can be purchased through Brown Paper Tickets, or at the door.  Everything else, including Gas Works, Georgetown and the EMP Sky Church concert, come at no cost – although donations will be gratefully accepted…

At that price, why not wander along, join the fun and Honk!

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Thank you to Nic Launceford for providing photos from Honk Fest West 2010.  See more of his amazing images on his Flickr site.

©2011 Kirby Lindsay.  This column is protected by intellectual property laws, including U.S. copyright laws.  Reproduction, adaptation or distribution without permission is prohibited.


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