If you are stuck in Providence this weekend and are somehow getting bored with drinking and watching Fox News by the time Monday rolls around, I’ve got just the ticket for you. This weekend boasts two Brass Festivals: Honk on Saturday and Sunday throughout Massachusetts, and Pronk! on Monday in Providence, are bringing over a dozen brass bands of international renown to our region, including Providence faves What Cheer? Brigade. Bear with me while I explain why you should care.
If—all right, big if—you have any memory of Spring Weekend last April, then you’ve already witnessed What Cheer? Brigade, and you should not need to read any further before blocking out Monday on your calendar and canceling those Peter Pan tickets to New York. WC?B is not your typical brass band, a fact I learned a month ago on one of the wildest nights in recent memory, when I (the poor designated driver no less), became fully and wholeheartedly enmeshed in a savage mosh pit, comprising horn players, dancers, students, senior citizens, and drummers alike. Led by the self-styled “Luddite Hardcore” Brigade themselves, we marched out of the venue and into Providence, electrifying the otherwise sleepy Downcity Arts district.
Pronk! (Providence Honk Festival) promises a full day of street-band exhilaration. In my quest to learn what makes these brass bands so infectiously fun, I reached out to Julie Pittman ’13, a current member of WC?B, who shared some insights (and the handy abbreviation). The band boasts a great diversity among its members, musically and otherwise—“the former band geeks, the superfans who pick up an instrument specifically for WC?B, and of course the virtuosos who push all of us to the next level.” The band’s internal diversity translates to a crowd representing all walks of life, and there is a unique excitement to be gotten from riotously connecting with complete strangers over the band’s beats.
Julie also noted that the brass band, as a medium, is by nature much more conducive to involving the crowd. “We’re not wired to amps or tied to a stage. We can go right out into the crowd and dance with everyone, or if they’re not dancing yet…well, we have our tactics!” The band sets a great example by “losing it” themselves onstage—falling all over each other, banging each other’s instruments, and making as much sound as they can—and it is simply contagious.
Check out What Cheer? Brigade and a dozen other bands from around the world this Monday at India Point Park! Festivities start at 2. At 5, there is a parade down Wickenden Street, and the music goes from 6-9:30. Complete information at www.providencehonkfest.org.