Adventures at Honk! Fest West

I’ve always loved marching bands. They’re my favorite part of any parade. They’re loud, they’re flashy and they play cool music. The sheer volume of band members all working together to play music while moving in formation has always been mesmerizing and impressive to me. I always wanted to be a part of that. It stirs something in my guts that I cannot deny and yes, I have cried on many occasion as bands marched by or while experiencing some intense drum-line cadences.

In school, I got a taste for it but only a small one. If I had stuck around and gone to college, I would have been in the marching band drum-line and maybe even gone pro, I love it that much.

One of my favorite musical and visual spectacles to behold is MarchFourth Marching Band. The first time I saw them, I seriously felt like the Mother Ship was calling me home! These people, this music and the costumes all within the parameters of being a marching band, blew my mind! This thing that I had been dreaming about in my head for years but had no idea that anything remotely close existed, did in fact, exist. Not only that but they’re amazing, talented and a thriving, world touring ensemble!

One small step closer.

I had never heard of Honk! Fest until I joined Skitnik. I also didn’t have a desire to go right away because, I don’t know, I play accordion and sing (not exactly brass band material) and I was relatively uninterested.

That is, until last year about this time. A band stayed with me who had just come from Honk! Fest West and another seed was planted.

Somewhere within this last year I decided that I would actually learn to play the trombone and came to terms with the fact that I would really love to form or join a world-traveling marching band. So it seemed to me that Honk! would be a good place to start networking and to get a general beat on the marching band scene.

Honk! is packed full of endless talent and weirdness. There is a little something for everyone. Call me a band geek, I don’t care, I have found my people and they have found me!

There were so many amazing bands that I did not get photos of but here are the pics I did get. Enjoy!


What Cheer? Brigade

What Cheer? Brigade  from Providence, RI

I about wet myself when I found out WCB was going to be at Honk! I admire all of what they do and how they do it. If they’d let me join them, I’d march with them to the end of the world!

Their focus is not only skillfully performed, rowdy brass and drum lines, but to get you into the middle of it all while they play. At some point, it feels like the entire crowd becomes the band, yourself included. This is part of what gives these performers their amazing energy and what sets their performance apart. They are right there with you and you with them, sweat, blood, dirt, ringing ear drums and all!

What Cheer? Brigade

What Cheer? Brigade from Providence, RI

Chaotic Noise Marching Corps

Chaotic Noise Marching Corps from Seattle, WA

I have no idea how many members are in CNMC but they’re everywhere! During their set, sound comes from out of nowhere! You’re getting blasted from out front then all of a sudden you’re surrounded by beautiful horn melodies and you are a part of the whole experience.

LoveBomb Go-Go

LoveBomb Go-Go from Portland, OR

I didn’t catch a whole lot of this team’s set but they’re quite a visual spectacle. They also have pretty impressive musical dynamics while bringing it across as easy and seamless!

Loyd Family Players

Loyd Family Players from the Bay Area

This is a drum band that had us all dancing on the sundial at Gasworks Park at sunset on the Solstice. Pretty epic! These folks do a great job at producing the beats with tons of energy to boot!

Environmental Encroachment

Environmental Encroachment from Chicago, IL

I didn’t see much of these folks either but what I did hear was pretty great. It didn’t hurt that they’re also quite the visual spectacle. I have a feeling that they only scratched the surface of what they’re capable of here at Honk!

Dead Music Capital Band

Dead Music Capital Band from Austin, TX

DMCB looks like they’ve risen from the grave with lovely, catchy brass harmonies to match and a chance to sing along. They marched onto the scene and sucked you right into their world.

Another notable band I did not photograph is the Bridgetown Brass Band. These guys are amazing musicians! Everything they did was incredibly tight. They performed a medley of “When the Saints Go Marching In”, “War Pigs”, “One”  and another song or two that I couldn’t place. It was a well executed and subtle yet bold statement.

I did not join or form a marching band this last weekend but there is still time. I plan on making it to Honk! in Boston this October. The most important thing that I took with me from Honk! this weekend was that my world-touring-rowdy-marching-dance-band dream is absolutely possible and that other people in this world also share my dream and are willing to make it a reality.

Shit. just. got. real!

Honk on my friends!

Adventure Tip:

Honk! West happens to fall on the same weekend as the Fremont Solstice Fair. I don’t care too much for street fairs but they also have a parade! Before the Solstice parade starts, there is the naked bike ride. I found out about it the morning of and decided to participate. If I had known how serious folks are about painting themselves up for the ride, I would have put a little more thought into it and showed up earlier to get painted. Most of the participants were completely naked but you couldn’t really tell when they were totally painted as a super hero, a bumble bee or an oompa loompa. Some people seem to think that not everyone has the kind of body that should be seen bare in public but I think the opposite. I really don’t see what the big deal is other than for actual, personal safety. I showed up thinking that pretty much everyone was going to have a way nicer body than mine and that just wasn’t the case. The truth is that everyone’s body is different and the idea that only the most socially idealistically, beautiful bodies should be the only ones we see is absolute hooey…ya, I said “hooey”…deal!

So if you ever have the chance to participate in a naked bike ride, DO IT! You might be surprised how freeing it actually is.





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