Five questions for a brass-travaganza organizer
By Raoul Hernandez,
10:00AM, Thu. Mar. 26, 2015
Chris McMillan, bandleader of Dead Music Capital Band and an organizer of Honk!TX, answered an email about this weekend’s fifth annual brass band blowout for some color accompanying the schedule in today’s print issue. Since band times took up nearly all the space in the paper and none online, our exchange runs in full herein.
Austin Chronicle: What do you yourself play, and how long that instrument?
Chris McMillan: For DMCB, I play bass drum and bark through a megaphone. Four happy years on that bass drum because no one else wanted to carry it.
AC: How about a bullet-point CV on DMCB – how long, how many, how come?
CM: Dead Music Capital Band, founded 2011 as a musical extension of the KreweDCM Halloween Parade:
• Twenty-five members on the roster for this Honk!TX.
• Why do we do it? The party doesn’t have to end just because life does. We’re equal parts “laissez les bons temps rouler” and “memento mori.”
• Our first Honk was Honk!TX 2012, just five months after we were abandoned in Austin by our former employers, the Circus of the 7 Dawns.
• Honk!TX asking us to play the 2012 festival helped keep our band together. Otherwise, we could have disappeared into the ether like some sort of myth.
• The Sunday Honk!TX Revue @ Pan-Am park will be our 150th appearance amongst the mortals of Austin, TX.
AC: Do y’all do SXSW?
CM: Dead Music was on the standby list for SXSW 2015.
AC: Does there need to be a Honk!TX showcase at SXSW?
CM: I don’t know – does there? Honk bands and the community/street band movement in general are popping up like brilliantly diverse weeds. The first international Honk happened this past January in Wollongong, Australia, and the original Honk Festival in Somerville, MA., celebrates their 10th Anniversary in October.
AC: Who and/or what excites you about the Honk!TX schedule this year?
CM: So much! I’m always happy to see groups like the Reagan High School New Orleans Funk Band and Big Wy’s Brass Band from Westlake HS. Those young players are great examples of where the community street band movement is heading. Groups like Shree Kripalu Band and Bramaya – both new to Honk!TX this year – will be a nice complement to the NOLA or Balkan style brass commonly heard at Honks.
Our Sunday parade has been routed to include Second Street, so as much of the neighborhood as possible can be a part of the procession. In addition to the bands, the parade is stacked with a great lineup of community groups, like puppet troupes, people-powered floats, the Ruckus! Children‘s Parade Clubs, Aztecas Guadalupenas, the Austin Bike Zoo, and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence.
AC: SXSW booked 2,200 acts this year. When can we expect something comparable from Honk!TX?
CM: We aren’t looking to expand in that way. It’s a question of sustainability. The number of bands we invite to play is directly tied to the number of volunteers willing to help. We can only increase that number based on how much the local community will support us.
During the festival, visiting bands are housed by amazing volunteers who open their homes for the weekend. A lot of those same folks and many of the members of the Austin Honk bands also help feed the festival volunteers and musicians. Potluck dinners and great sponsor/donors like Wheatsville Co-op and Homeslice Pizza help to make sure everyone gets to eat.
We couldn’t make this festival happen without our volunteers.
AC: Describe what Honk!TX is to a new Austinite who’s never been.
CM: Imagine you’re out to meet friends on SoCo Friday evening, grocery shopping Saturday at Wheatsville, or grabbing tacos at Las Cazuelas Sunday morning and you hear brass music in the distance. You follow the sound around the corner and suddenly you find yourself in the middle of a brass party. There are colorful bands everywhere and everyone is dancing.
There are no stages, no amplification, no one asks you to pay a cover. It’s free and it’s for everyone, regardless of age or where you’re from or where you live.
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Honk!TX, Chris McMillan, Dead Music Capital Band, KreweDCM Halloween Parade, Circus of the 7 Dawns, Reagan High School New Orleans Funk Band, Big Wy’s Brass Band from Westlake HS, Shree Kripalu Band, Bramaya