Drones and Trombones

by by Jonah Wolf

Monday afternoon, brass bands from all over the country convened in India Point Park for the fourth annual Providence Honk (PRONK) Festival. The attire tended to the artfully tattered, with matching patches; repertoires included "The Final Countdown," "War Pigs," "Enter Sandman," "I'm Shipping Up to Boston" (with a chorus of "Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell"), "Ignition (Remix)," "Hava Nagila," the Star Wars theme, and "The Imperial March (Darth Vader's Theme)," as well as countless harmonic minor ditties I couldn't ID.


Around 6:30, as the bands prepared to march down Wickenden Street, some aliens from Big Nazo showed up to shake appendages with the kids.

The parade went down South Water Street and ended under Route 195, where band members explained, via call-and-response shouts, that some bands would play there while others would play in the Hot Club. The crowd cleaved in two to shouts of "Occupy! Providence!" There was free bicycle valet courtesy of Recycle-a-Bike.

By ten, the oldest and youngest audience members had gone to bed, and the action had moved inside an empty lot under the highway. Providence's own What Cheer? Brigade handed out candy cigarette packs with the sheet music to their song "Bad Kids."

Then everyone marched onto a field outside, where there were fireworks and it was hard to take pictures.

Sick of the rain, the Midnight Hour headed to Paragon to see Shinji Masuko, the leader of Tokyo's Dynamite Masters Blues Quartet, and the luthier for Boredoms, in charge of the noise group's seven-necked percussion instrument Sevena. At Paragon, Masuko noodled psychedelic over his bassist's pedal notes. There was one chord change, and then another back before the two locked into an odd-metered ostinato eventually drowned out by effects swells.

In the next room, Lightning Bolt bassist Brian Gibson was starting to play with his group Slime. Gibson got some nice twang out of his bass's banjo strings as bandmate Diana Joy doffed her black robe and Blade Runner umbrella to writhe on a mirrored mat in shoulder pads.