If you're walking in Fox Point October 8 and you hear hundreds of horns blasting, don't be alarmed. It's not an air raid or a traffic jam or a Hitchockian gaggle of geese flying straight for your head. It's just an army of peaceful musicians stomping through the streets for the Providence Honk Festival, better known as PRONK!
PRONK! 2012 will once again provide an encore for the brass pyrotechnics of the HONK! Festival of Activist Street Bands in Somerville and Cambridge, MA. After bands like Chicago's Environmental Encroachment and Seattle's Chaotic Noise Marching Corps — not to mention Rhode Island's Extraordinary Rendition Band and What Cheer? Brigade — fulfill their vow to "reclaim the streets" of Greater Boston "for horns, bikes, and feet" over the weekend, they will shuttle down to Providence to do the same here on Columbus Day (or Indigenous People's Day, as the folks at PRONK! prefer).
According to organizers, PRONK!'s 15 bands will begin tuning and tooting in India Point Park around 3:30 pm. Then at 5:30, they will cross the pedestrian footbridge to parade down Wickenden Street, blasting New Orleans funk and Bollywood dance numbers as they go. At the bottom of the hill, the procession will turn left on South Water Street toward the festival's main stages at the stone amphitheater next to the Hot Club and the concrete echo chamber under the I-195 overpass.
In past years, this last leg of the event has continued well into the evening, featuring lengthy jams from each of the bands and impromptu dance-offs. This year's lineup includes musicians from as far away as Rome, Vancouver, and Austin. But this year, there will be a bit of added programming.
Around 6 pm, when the parade ends, the bands will join in unison to play an arrangement of Woody Guthrie's "This Land is Your Land," in honor of the centennial of the singer's birth in 1912. During the performance, students from the Trinity Academy for the Performing Arts and Nathan Bishop Middle School, both in Providence, and Lincoln's Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy will join the more than 200 musicians in singing those iconic verses about redwood forests and Gulf Stream waters.
"Artwork should be public," says Avi David, a music teacher at Blackstone Valley Prep, PRONK! organizer, and bass drummer/trombonist in Extraordinary Rendition. "We should be able to celebrate our work, our community, our city all together in public, on the streets."
But it isn't just a Guthrie sing-along that will set this year apart. There are whispers of a surprise involving longtime PRONK! participant Big Nazo — the troupe of giant, foam creatures you may have seen at street events around the state.
Most organizers were mum about the details, but I was able to shake a few loose from Rusty Dawgg, the ebullient Nazo canine who hosted a PRONK! benefit concert at the Roots Café a few weeks ago. Right around 6 pm, South Water Street will play host to "a water landing" involving "some kind of sea creature spawned under the Providence River" Dawgg said, before trotting back on stage.