Sunday, January 11, 2015


Honk! festivals started 9 years ago in Somerville Massachusetts. They've since spread to Seattle and Austen Texas and, as of this weekend, Wollongong (the 'Gong) Australia!

Honk! bands are colourful, acoustic, mobile, inclusive, community minded and even a bit political. A Honk! band draws on a diverse set of music traditions: Klezmer, New Orleans jazz, Balkan and Romani music, Samba, jazz, funk and pop. Honk! bands perform to celebrate, to protest, to proclaim - but all of them play to have fun.

We loved our first Honk! Oz Fiesta this weekend in the 'Gong!  Our friends David and Lotte were the driving force behind the festival and had drawn in a great line up of Honk! bands from OS (the US mainly) and from interstate.

Our experience of Honk! started Friday afternoon in the 'Gong's Arts Precinct. Bands performed with amazing wild energy, crazy outfits and made magical music in the process. Performers had been in workshops together since Thursday so were all really comfortable improvising and creating magic in all different combinations of instruments - but working together. It was a complete eye opener, quite anarchic and fantastic fun!

The bands had great names. Some of our favourites were:Brassholes, Junkadelics, Purple Tusks, Havana Palava, Red Brigade, Underscore Orkestra, EE Band (Environmental Encroachment Band).

David is the director of the "Con Artists" the Wollongong Conservatorium's all ages community band combining up and coming Con students, adult community musicians and some folk musicians.

Their playing is amazing but their outfits were a bit more restrained than some of the other bands in the Festival. We loved seeing David playing with his two older boys, Miles and Marley, in the Con Artists. They are already amazing musicians (aged 16 and 14 years respectively)

Although this amazing musician (a member of the Con Artists) showed everyone how to dress for a Honk! Fest.

It was a wonderful treat to hear Lotte singing with the Con Artists - the Italian song Bella Ciao

Friday evening there was a lantern parade (and more music) around the Arts Precinct.

 ..and a Honk! after dark program hosted by some of the 'Gong's groovier clubs.
Saturday morning started with a Honk! street march through the central shopping mall - which must have left some of the locals feeling a bit non plussed - but not too alarmed it seemed to me...New Orleans Carnivale comes to Wollongong!

There were hours more music on Saturday following the parade and then everything moved to Centro CBD for jam sessions, a Band Slam and a lively session of Balkan inspired music and dance - but very funky!

The energy of Honk! Fest was amazing. I've never seen so many people, so alive, so tuned into music over such a long period. It made the National Folk Festival in Canberra look like an afternoon singalong!

As the weather turned hazy and increasingly stormy in the evening we sought out a quiet drink and something to eat as we gazed out on the steel grey seas off Wollongong city beach and reflected on what we'd loved about Honk! Oz. I hope David and Lotte can do it all again next year.

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