A Minor Mishap in Boston

or HONK! if you love HONK!


Michael May

Last year, I wrote in the Observer about my trip with Austin’s Minor Mishap Marching Band to the annual HONK! Festival in Boston, where dozens of activist marching bands from across the country converge to make one hell of a joyous ruckus in the streets. This year, Boston NPR station WBUR invited me on Radio Boston to talk about my article and why I travel halfway across the country for the event. Take a listen here.

Simply put, the festival is an amazing example of a grassroots musical happening. There’s no corporate sponsors or major donors or, for that matter, any obvious leadership at all. Yet, somehow, the event has gone flawlessly both years. Bands are fed and housed. Streets are closed to make room for wailing and stomping. The Greek Orthodox church provided space for a late-night jam session. It’s truly inspiring to watch Honk unfurl in a spectacle of organized chaos. Here’s a brief scene from a Minor Mishap show in the center of Davis Square:

Last year at Honk, Minor Mishap was still in its infancy. In the past year, our leader Datri Bean has perfected her transcendent, full-body conducting technique, clearly culled from watching Baryshnikov and Zimbabwean spirit-possession ceremonies. During practices, we’ve been drilled into competency by the stern-yet-lovable Brian Carr. And we’ve added several amazing soloists, which have added a spectral layer of complexity to Datri’s earthy melodies. At Honk, the hard work paid off—we had one audience literally leaping along.

Our band has been so inspired by what we saw in Boston that some of us are organizing the first annual HONK! TX. It will take place from March 11-13 in Austin. Sign up here on our facebook page for more information.  If you want to catch some Minor Mishap in the meantime, we will be at Art Outside this weekend in Apache Pass. Art Outside is a festival full of music, from bluegrass to hip hop to marching bands, as well as visual and interactive art. Also, the epic MarchFourth Marching Band, from Portland, OR, will be at La Zona Rosa in Austin on Wed. October 27th. There are rumors that Minor Mishap will open the show . . .

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