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Bet you haven’t heard of HONK! Fest West 2022

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On June 3, I was on my way to Bike Works in the Columbia City neighborhood when I heard a variety of horns playing a couple of blocks away. I was intrigued to what it was and decided to postpone my bike shop trip to find out where the music was coming from. To my surprise, it was a music festival happening at Columbia Park and the surrounding area.

A band from Tacoma playing their darker take on brass band music.
Juan Miguel Jocom | The Seattle Collegian A band from Tacoma playing their darker take on brass band music.

HONK! Fest West is a music festival that highlights brass band culture within the Northwestern United States. However, the festival also includes performers from states like New York and California. From the afterwork hobbyist, to the middle school band member, HONK! fronts a diverse set of crowds that delivers different takes on brass band music.

A conductor with his own definition of a one man band.
Juan Miguel Jocom | The Seattle Collegian A conductor with his own definition of a one man band.

The annual music festival has been running for more than a decade. One attendee, who has visited the festival since 2014, said, “This really is an important event to Seattle’s cultural scene. It showcases a genre of music that isn’t the most popular, and it gives local musicians a chance to shine in front of an appreciative audience.” 

The head of operations, Lizzy Bourton, said, “I don’t get paid a cent to do any of this.” Although not a musician herself, Bourton expressed her appreciation with the brass band culture, “It’s a fun music subculture, [and] itself is a great community.” HONK! is staffed by volunteers, so the 3-day musical event is completely free.

Lizzy Bourton, introducing HONK! to visitors.
Juan Miguel Jocom | The Seattle Collegian Lizzy Bourton, introducing HONK! to visitors.

Bourton also emphasized activism within the music festival. The bands that perform at the festival are often heavily involved with activism in regards to social issues and the reclamation of social spaces as a way to build community. 

bands that plays on the HONK! mainly consist of activist, that mostly strive for social justice.
Juan Miguel Jocom | The Seattle Collegian bands that plays on the HONK! mainly consist of activist, that mostly strive for social justice.

The music that played throughout the park, and the diversity of performers at the event, exemplified the teeming multi-dimensional subculture that Seattle shelters. Sometimes a simple detour off of a bike ride can show you things that you would have never discovered

Attendees dancing together as different brass instruments fill the air.
Juan Miguel Jocom | The Seattle Collegian Attendees dancing together as different brass instruments fill the air.

Juan Miguel Jocom, or Juanita Banana as his friends call him, is an Editorial Board member at the Seattle Collegian, where he focuses on writing about the experience of immigrant students at Seattle Central College. A documentarian, he hopes to create videos that will showcase the chaos and glory of humans.

As a Seattle local, he’s an aspiring granola boy, who enjoys rock climbing and jumping off cliffs. His recent documentary, Welcome to the Neighborhood, was an official selected entry for the 2021 SCOOP film fest.

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