Monday, May 20, 2024

A street band plays the Honk! festival in Somerville in 2018. (Photo: Troy Sankey via Flickr)

The Honk! festival of activist street bands returns to a full weekend schedule this year after a 2021 version shrunken to a single day by Covid concerns.

The free festival takes place Oct. 7-9 in Somerville, Cambridge and Boston neighborhoods, according to a Friday press release. It promised details and a schedule of in-person outdoor events after the Labor Day weekend.

“Many festival events will be reminiscent of the ‘before times’ Honk!s, while also incorporating several of the experiences realized in Honks!s in 2020 and 2021,” said Mary Curtin, a publicist working on behalf of the Honk! festival.

The raucous festival, always tinged with progressive politics, began in Somerville in 2006 and grew to encompass more than two dozen bands annually from as far away as Brazil and Berlin, first playing around Somerville’s Davis Square and traditionally marching to Harvard Square to merge with a Sunday Oktoberfest. 

The Harvard Square event is again Oct. 9, but there’s been no formal announcement from either Honk! or the Harvard Square Business Association that the events will join this year.

The coronavirus changed the festival’s approach. In 2020, it was “glocalized” and held mostly virtually to avoid the dangers of travel and mass gatherings; the 2021 version began with a similar no-travel rule and a “decentralized” concept for around 15 bands, calling for “outdoors, in-person, on-site in many small gathering places. [The] intention is to reach communities that have not been able to participate in the past, for example Nubian Square in Roxbury, while also retaining Honk!’s historic connection to Davis Square,” Curtin said.

Then came news that the 2021 event would be limited to Saturday, skipping the 42nd annual Oktoberfest – an outdoor event, but still one that draws more than 100,000 people, according to the HSBA.

While Covid protocols were loosened Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and many have all but forgotten there’s a pandemic on, Honk! organizers said the festival would follow “up-to-date health and safety protocols … at all times during the festival.”

The press release suggesting a pre-Covid feel – though with Boston performances staying a part of the festival – explained the intimate nature of the performances. “By performing at street level, usually for free, without sound amplification and with very little distance between artist and audience, Honk! bands create a participatory spectacle to reclaim public space in ways that place them at the heart of activist politics,” it said.