Festival of Community Street Bands


A Story of HONK! Family

The street numbers on the warehouses were hard to read under the streetlights, but I could tell by the growing ruckus that I was getting close. Stepping off a city bus in north Chicago on a bitter cold January night was not something this warm-blooded Texan was used to, but I knew I was on the right path.

Sitting in Chicago Midway airport earlier that evening, I was informed by a professional colleague that his plane was snowed in and would not be arriving until the morning. I was without a partner or a place to stay in a very cold city I was unfamiliar with. But I didn’t worry, because I have family in Chicago. Their name is Environmental Encroachment, the Magic Circus Band.

You see, HONK! is more than just a collection of music festivals hosted around the country – it’s a close-knit brotherhood of musicians and performers networked around the continent and the rest of the world. Bands involved in HONK! don’t compete against each other; there are no rivalries or grudges. We’re just thousands of men and women who love to celebrate music and community. Wherever we are gathered together, we love and support each other the same way a family would. We ARE family!

As I trudged through the snowy sidewalks of Chicago, out of habit I checked my cell phone for the address that had been texted to me. I didn’t really need to though, because I could hear behind the upcoming door that friends were already making magic happen.

I walked through a door into a warehouse that had been converted into a shared community art space. My head was immediately assaulted with the sounds of drums, brass, reeds, and raucous laughter. Environmental Encroachment, also known simply as EE, rehearses here every Friday night. I picked a good night to be stuck alone in Chicago.

Gathered in a motley circle surrounded by couches, parade puppets, and a few stray dogs, EE was jamming away on a fabulous tune. I had become friends with a handful of the band members during previous HONK! events, both in Austin and in Boston and Providence, but I knew almost everybody’s faces. I hoped they’d all recognize me without my yellow band jacket and face paint.

Sure enough, I was greeted with a welcoming roar and an impromptu rendition of my band’s signature song “Track Suit”. I laughed, talked, ate, and danced the night away with EE and their band of magic-makers for hours, finally leaving and crashing on a band member’s futon some time around 3am. Now THAT is HONK! hospitality!

The thing that truly lights up my soul is that I know this wasn’t just a fluke. If my plane had stranded me in Detroit, Boston, Seattle, New York, Lexington, New Orleans, or Vancouver (just to name a few cities!) I would still find a wealth of HONK! family warmth to support me.

As one of HONK!TX’s Housing Coordinators, I’m all about hospitality. It’s hard work, but I love getting to welcome hundreds of my brothers and sisters to the heart of Texas and finding them a comfy place to rest their weary bones after a long day of making music in my community. This year, HONK!TX is hosting more musicians than ever, and we need YOUR help ensuring that there’s a soft spot for each and every one of them. Even if you can’t open your house to a band, if you can donate bedding, cots, air mattresses, or even some tents, let us know!

Alison Earnhart

HONK!TX Co-Housing Coordinator

Minor Mishap Marching Band sousa player

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Narcopuppy —

Mr. Katovich, no ripping off my moves, sir.