Musicians from as far away as Brazil, Vancouver, Seattle, New Orleans and Chicago, and as close as Somerville, Massachusetts, and Hartford, Connecticut, participated in Monday’s 11th annual Providence Honk! Festival, known as PRONK!
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A man dressed like a stilt-walking Uncle Sam without his stilts sat on a low wall near Hot Club on Bridge Street.
Behind him, musicians from as far away as Brazil, Vancouver, Seattle, New Orleans and Chicago, and as close as Somerville, Massachusetts, and Hartford, Connecticut, lined up to register and go through the lunch line, as the 11th annual Providence Honk! Festival, known as PRONK!, tuned up.
Paul Graseck, 68, explained that his loud red-and-white striped pants met the uniform guidelines of his band, the Extraordinary Rendition Band, for which he plays clarinet. The Providence band, which rehearses every Thursday from May to October near the Hurricane Barrier, requires players to wear “Red, white and shiny.”
Gold hightops gleamed under his rolled-up pants cuffs. Over a red shirt, he had tied a white shawl dotted with red hearts into a Windsor knot, then cut off the rest of the shawl. He offered to fetch the asymmetrical women’s jacket and sparkly hat that completed his look.
Compared to those of some of the other bands, Graseck’s costume was understated.
The Extraordinary Rendition Band is dedicated to turning up for protests, marches and other worthy causes. It and the What Cheer? Brigade were the local host bands for Monday’s PRONK!, a “celebration of music” that “reclaims the streets with brass, beats, and feet,” with the purpose of blurring “social boundaries between audience and performers.”
PRONK!, following close on the heels this weekend of Honk! in Somerville, benefited from visiting bands having already made the trip. Graseck had attended the Boston events and seemed to know everyone.
“Our purpose is to put unity back in community,” said Donna Vallese, 40, a former Extraordinary Rendition Band member until she moved to Syracuse. “I wanted a street band in Syracuse,” so she and another woman put together the Unity Street Band, which had just arrived. Vallese — whose uniform included a tambourine for a hat, a working tambourine and a samba whistle (it plays three notes) around her neck, a purple feather boa, and a belly-dancing skirt with dangling coins that plinked against each other — called herself a “rock star piccoloist.” She also operated her group’s bullhorn.
Soon, the Hot Club deck was filled with bands — some performing, some dancing in place and still others finishing lunch. Rhode Island spectators, many with dogs, helped with the dancing, while the dogs scouted for every fallen crumb within a leash’s reach.
A polka-dotted Sousaphone floated by, carried on the polka-dotted shoulders of Joanna Vouriotis of Somerville, accompanied by other polka-dotted people. She said she started as a Honk! volunteer in the early days, which led to her learning an instrument. Members of the School of HONK!, she said, teach bandmates to play. They were headed to one of the grassy areas in the park across Wickenden Street.
Spectators blissed and grooved in a wide half-circle in front of each performance. Toddlers met on the dance grass. Jesse Costello, 31, of Central Falls, gave his daughter, Astrid Costello, 13 months, some fancy arm moves and kept her diapers pulled up, as a New York City band, Funkrust, played.
Astrid’s dad’s outfit included a long-billed cap with four-inch fringe hanging from the bill. He found it on Etsy. “I like it because it looks like what Princess Di would wear to Burning Man.”
The band from Brazil, Unidos do Swing, clearly came from another league. “They have dancers,” one participant said enviously. Another participant, from Somerville, wearing the uniform of Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band, danced fluidly without taking a step.
Band and audience blurred, not entirely from the mist turning to rain.
On Twitter: @donita22
Published at Tue, 09 Oct 2018 03:22:38 +0000