Exuberant HONK music coming to the Swiss

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The Neon Brass Party is one of four area honk bands that will bring their brash, brassy blare to the Swiss on May 18. Photo courtesy of Neon Brass Party

On May 18, from 9 p.m. until 2 a.m., the Swiss Restaurant and Pub (1904 Jefferson Ave., Tacoma) will play host to the HONK! Showcase. The Swiss will become party central in Tacoma as the joyful sounds of trumpets, trombones, tubas, saxophones, drums and an odd-ball assortment of other instruments play loud and proud, a brand of music known as “Honk.”

Honk bands have become a way for all those band kids to still have fun with their instruments after the school years are over. If you want to continue to play your beloved band instrument and be inventive, wild and brazen, a honk band is the place for you. 

Honk bands have been popping up all over the country. There are annual festivals devoted to the music. Honk Fest West will take place in Seattle June 1-3 (visit www.honkfestwest.org for information). There are resident honk bands in Seattle and Olympia. It is time for Tacoma to get involved. We have plenty of players of wind instruments that want to get their honk on.

If you know about honk music, come enjoy the fun. If not, let the HONK! Showcase at the Swiss be your primer to what the fuss is all about.

The May 18 show features four honk bands: 8-Bit Brass Band, Neon Brass Party, Artesian Rumble Arkestra and the Chaotic Noise Marching Corps.

The 8-Bit Brass Band, from Seattle, claims interest in “all which is nerdy, geeky, joyful, brassy and bangy.” They dub themselves a neighborhood brass band with some serious “nerd creds.” They play music from video games like Zelda, Mario Brothers, Mortal Combat and Pokémon. The group also performs adaptations from television and movie soundtracks like “Battlestar Galactica,” “Dr. Who,” “Ghostbusters,” “Lord of the Rings” and others. Cartoon show themes are also a favorite with the band.

The band’s color is “wild orange.” (In keeping with marching band tradition, many honk bands have a color scheme for their uniforms/costumes.) For more information, visit 8bitbrassband.com.

Also hailing from Seattle, the Neon Brass Party calls itself “a new brass band tearing up the streets of Seattle that is going to get you movin’, groovin’ and shakin’ that brass.” The players in this band deck themselves out in neon colors. Their website — not functioning at the moment — is neonbrassparty.com. They have a Facebook presence at www.facebook.com/NeonBrassParty.

Olympia’s Artesian Rumble Arkestra was founded way back in 2007. Their music is influenced by many traditions, including jazz, Balkan brass, Brazilian samba, Bollywood film music, traditional hymns and pop tunes. The Artesian Rumble Arkestra works to contribute its portable and mostly unamplified energy to local social and economic justice events. They support Olympia Fellowship of Reconciliation, Women in Black, Transition Olympia Climate Action and TCTV, Earthbound Productions, Interfaith Works, Planned Parenthood and Honk Fest West.

They also participate in Peace Vigil (every Friday since 2007), MLK Lobby Day for economic and racial justice, CROP Walk to raise money to fight hunger, NW Detention Center Hunger Strike Support Rally, WA State Workers Combined Fund Drive, Fundraisers for Marriage Equality and the Funeral for Democracy (a protest against “Citizens United”). Visit oly-wa.us/artesianrumble/index.php for more information.

The Chaotic Noise Marching Corps — another Seattle-based group — calls itself “a renegade marching band that’s bringing the party to Pacific Northwest streets, bars, clubs and beyond.” The group, which dresses in blue, plays high energy music, drawing on a wide arrary of musical styles.

The Honk Fest website gives the following introduction: 

“Throughout the country and across the globe, a new type of street band movement is emerging — outrageous and inclusive, brass and brash, percussive and persuasive — reclaiming public space with a sound that is in your face and out of this world. Called everything from ‘avant-oompah!’ to a ‘brassroots revolution,’ these bands draw inspiration from sources as diverse as Klezmer, Balkan and Romani music, Brazilian samba, Afrobeat and highlife, punk, funk, and hip hop, as well as the New Orleans second line tradition, and deliver it with all the passion and spirit of Mardi Gras and Carnival.

“Acoustic and mobile, these bands play at street level, usually for free, with no stages to elevate them above the crowd and no sound systems or speaker columns to separate performers from participants. These bands don’t just play for the people; they play among the people and invite them to join the fun. They are active, activist, and deeply engaged in their communities, at times alongside unions and grassroots groups in outright political protest, or in some form of community-building activity, routinely performing and conducting workshops for educational and social service organizations of all kinds.

“At full power, these bands create an irresistible spectacle of creative movement and sonic self-expression directed at making the world a better place. This is the movement called honk!”

The show at the Swiss costs $8. For more information visit www.facebook.com/events/168072033908559/

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