Band geeks rule

March Fourth marches to the beat of its own drums

Andy Batt

In an online event description, the City of Louisville has this to say about March Fourth Marching Band: “This is impossible to explain, you’ll just have to be there.”

It’s not impossible to explain March Fourth, though it certainly is a challenge. To see the band play is to have joyous percussion and bass work into your ear canals as you find yourself surrounded by dancers and acrobats. Everyone wears intricate, colorful costumes adding to the audible liveliness. Between the dancers, the rhythms and the spectacle, it’s something of a pocket of hyper-reality in which everything seems brighter and more vivid, like whatever it was that The Beatles were singing about in “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”

But it’s just March Fourth, and you’ll be able to see them perform at the Louisville Downtown Street Faire on Friday, June 27.

March Fourth (also known as M4 to its growing fan base) originated in Portland, Ore., getting its start when a group of musicians decided to put together a seven-song brass band set for a Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras party on March 4, 2003.

“It ended up being a huge success” says bandleader and bass player John Averill. “We decided we would stick with the theme and name the band after its first ever successful performance.”

The band booked more shows for its brass and drumline ensemble, and performed regularly in the Last Thursday art walks in Portland. Before long, it began to be viewed as the oddball city’s unofficial mascot.

March Fourth is best described as a high-energy brass band mixed with a circus performance. In fact, March Fourth Marching Band isn’t a marching band at all.

“We decided to add marching band to our name because we felt that fit pretty well with the theme of the band,” continues Averill. “However, through the years, we’ve actually realized how misleading the marching band at the end of our name really is and I think we’re actually going to drop that from our name to better clarify who we really are and be able to better reach out to other audiences, especially the college community.”

Though at times, its membership has swelled upwards of two-dozen, March Fourth currently consists of 13 musicians and a team of dancers, stiltwalkers and acrobats. A typical performance consists of an 18-song set with the performers frolicking around for four of them. The band members say they love to go out into the audience and encourage it to get involved and dance as they unleash their energetic melodies. Although there are now only four of the original members of the band (attrition is due to member’s personal lives outside the band) March Fourth has maintained its New Orleans brass and groove-heavy rock style.

March Fourth played locally in Oregon for about four years before going off to tour nationwide. The band earned a reputation for stellar performances that bridged genres. Good reviews led March Fourth to tour Germany in 2006 (while the nation was hosting the FIFA World Cup) to perform at the Altontale Festival where it won the “Best in Show Award,” beating more than 50 other group performers from around the world.

But even with international acclaim rolling in, the band likes it here in the Rockies.

“Within the last 11 years or so we have travelled to perform all around the country and Colorado is by far one of our most favorite places to play,” says Averill. “I would say we have performed in 25 to 30 different cities in Colorado, covering many mountain and ski towns, and its great to see how energetic the people in this state get when we get to go out and perform here.”

Between sold-out shows around the globe and well-received albums, March Fourth has had a steady rise since its debut in 2003, continuing to tour and never failing to seize the moment and bring its audience together for a fun experience that — almost — defies explanation.