The activist street bands and community brass outfits that populate the Honk NYC! festival prize human-powered, unamplified, mobile ensembles.

Their elaborate technicolor costumes, big personalities and high-octane output marked the opening of the 13th Honk NYC! festival, which kicked off at the Market Hotel, a former independent punk venue, in Brooklyn on Oct. 15.

Members of L Train Brass Band perform during the opening night of the 13th Honk NYC Festival at the Market Hotel, Sumner Houses, Brooklyn on Oct. 15, 2019

L Train Brass Band performs at the Market Hotel on opening night of the 13th Honk NYC! Festival. (Síle Moloney)

Seed & Feed, which has been playing together for 45 years, opened the show, the first of 20 bands that performed during the five-day festival in venues ranging from Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village and the Grove Street pedestrian plaza in Jersey City to schools in Brooklyn and Staten Island.

Performances by L Train Brass Band, Frank London & His Inebriated Brass Band, and an all-band jam completed the opening night lineup. 

Festival co-founder Sara Valentine said Honk traditionally celebrates brass groups. Yet, she added, “if I found somebody who played in a marching laptop band, I would take them!”