HONK NYC celebrates street music with lineup of brass and drum bands

The Gotham Easy is one of several bands slated to perform in New York City during the HONK festival. (Photo: Chris Woodard)

BY SHAYE WEAVER | In New York City, everything happens in the street — and one festival aims to celebrate that.

HONK NYC is a weeklong music festival that kicks off on Tuesday with nightly performances across the boroughs with groups like Brass Queens, BB and the Polkahaus, Black Fire Percussion, The L Train Brass Band and many others.

Organized by musicians, performers, and curators, the musicians and ensembles featured “redefine brass and percussion music and parade culture,” according to HONK NYC’s website.

The bands all use instruments they can carry while playing that use little or no electronic amplification — much like a marching band.

The celebration opens with a festival at the Market Hotel with The L Train Brass Band, Seed & Feed Marching Abominable and Frank London’s Shikere Kapelye (Inebriated Orchestra) with Deep Singh. Those uptown can head to The Apollo on Wednesday evening, when there will be a free, pop-up performance outside the historic venue by Extra Syrup Horns, a Brooklyn-based brass band that is inspired by classic R&B, hip-hop and soul.

HONK NYC is even taking to the water this Saturday with a “boat-in,” which encourages boat owners to turn out in their vessels for a performance by Wollesonics Plezi Rara in Newtown Creek. 

The Brass Queens will perform with other street bands during HONK NYC, which begins Tuesday night. (Courtesy HONK NYC)

Most of the festival’s events are free with a handful that are ticketed, including the HONK Rubulad Brass-tastic Blowout on Saturday night to close out the festival. Brasilian band Sagrada Profana, Atlanta’s Seed & Feed Marching Abominable, The Gotham Easy and others perform that night. Tickets for the paid events range from just $10 to $15.

The festival got its start in Somerville, Mass. in 2006 and has spread to other cities across the country like Seattle, Austin and Providence, and around the world, including Rio de Janeiro and Wollongong, Australia.

But according to HONK’s co-founder Sandra Glazer, New York City “has always been a diverse and vibrant City that is a street culture.”

“HONK NYC celebrates the tradition of bringing multicultural musicians to our streets to share the ‘sass in the brass’ with New York audiences everywhere,” she said. “Gentrification of neighborhoods that were once cultural meccas has made many of our city’s traditions obsolete and its people hungry to revel in its roots. For this reason it is even more thrilling to behold the joy on the faces of New Yorkers when they take a few minutes out of their hectic day to stop, smile and spontaneously dance to the street band music we share.”