HonkTX! — and BBQ.

In Uncategorized on April 1, 2019 at 8:26 pm

If you hear the words “marching band” and think of Sousa marches and football half-time: if you picture layer upon layer of teenagers in epaulets and boots parading through the streets in between fire trucks and convertibles full of celebrities and beauty queens; well, one good Honk! Festival could change your life.
HonkTX! Is one of several Honk! Festivals that happen at various times around the country, including the Pronk! Festival in Providence RI.
Honk! festivals are a celebration of street music, more akin to Mardi Gras than Macy’s. These are mainly community bands, sometimes ragtag collections of trumpets and saxophones and tubas and trombones and percussion, with a smattering of clarinets, and the occasional flute or mouth piano, but rarely any strings. They tend to be eclectic and inclusive. Anyone can join in, you don’t have to be professional caliber, just committed, passionate about fun and the music, and willing to put on something outrageous and get up in front of people. The quality of the music may vary according to the musicians and the conductors, but the quality of the joy rarely flags.
People travel to see their hometown favorites play alongside and around the corner from other bands, but it’s a festival, not a competition. In Texas this weekend there are bands from Massachusetts (Somerville sent TWO), Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Ohio: and those are just the ones we’ve seen. There are bands from Brazil, El Salvador, Missouri, Washington, Illinois, New York, Kentucky, and of course, Texas. We are here because Extraordinary Rendition Band, from Providence, are friends of ours, and it was past time for a road trip in Gallivan.
The musicians are of all ages. You’ll see and eighty-year-old wearing his rub board and dancing through the streets in the same band as his son plays the sax. (That would be our dear friends Greg and Matt.) I recently discovered that a man I have known for at least thirty years plays clarinet with ERB.
A band called Big Blitz, out of Pittsburgh, consists of three incredible young men, two of them brothers. Lucas and Nick Grabigel are brothers — Lucas plays the tenor and baritone sax, Mason plays drums (also guitar, but Honk! was all about the brass). The third member of the trio is Mason Ciesielski on tenor sax. These guys rock. Only one of them (Lucas?) is out of high school.
But the distinctions are convenient, not solid. Around Austin you could hear members of various bqnds jamming and mixing it up. Some players even belong to more than one band and simply chose which one to travel to Austin with. All in all, for three days, the streets of Austin were filled with music and dancing and fun.
And costumes. The street bands are all decked out in bright colors (except a few Goth-looking groups), feathers, fancy hats, beads, ribbons, braids, and bangles.
And there is food. Turn in any direction and there are BBQ joints. Sam’s BBQ is one of the favorites. Sam has been making barbecued ribs and brisket forever. If you get there when the ribs are ready, they will literally fall off the bone. No, really, when Sam is satisfied they’re done you can pick up the bone and the meat will stay on the plate.
Austin can be hard to drive through when the traffic builds up on East 51st St. or Guadalupe Boulevard or the other major roads through downtown, but no more so than any good sized city. The difference is that Austin has grown so rapidly in the Texas tech boom, that they don’t seem to have figured out how to manage all that traffic. You can drive all the way from MLK Boulevard to 29th ST. on Guadalupe and never find a place to make a left-hand turn. If you live there, though, you can bypass all that with the rental scooters or bicycles. The city is criss-crossed with protected bike lanes.
There is a flock, by the way, of wild parakeets in Austin, mostly centered on Hemphill park. Apparently, several parakeets escaped from their cages, eventually found each other and, having few natural predators and enough natural camouflage to make them difficult to spot even a few feet away in the trumpet vines, have created an immigrant community in the heart of the city.
It was fun. It was tiring. Today, we finally said our goodbyes to Austin and our see-ya-laters to friends from Rhode Island and Connecticut, and headed up I35 toward Oklahoma. Tonight we will sleep at the Oklahoma Welcome Center and tomorrow make our way to Oklahoma City, I40, and back toward home.
Oh, and our refrigerator door broke. It’s apparently a common occurrence, as the top hinge is not well designed. But we stuck the short end of an Allen wrench into the socket, braced the door against the ravages of rough roads and potholes, and we are on our way.

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