MarchFourth! parades into Rialto

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Courtesy of Michael Lehman / March Fourth!

MarchFourth! performs its elaborate and eccentric act on stage. The marching band will perform Saturday at The Rialto Theatre.

On Saturday, The Rialto Theatre will host a performance like no other — complete with dancers, stilt walkers, acrobats and musicians, all of whom are a part of the “marching band” band, MarchFourth!. This spectacle, according to John Averill, the band leader, is “a modern-day big band spectacular with elaborate costumes and dancers and Cirque du Soleil-style acrobatics.” The group consists of 17 members — 13 musicians and four performers — who perform styles of music ranging from jazz and funk to Afro-beat and Eastern European Gypsy Brass. 

MarchFourth! first emerged in March 2003 when Averill was creating bands for numerous occasions in Portland, Ore. 

“A group of friends and I had the idea to put together a marching band for a one-off, and it just started from there,” Averill said.

Initially, the group had no intentions of starting an actual band, but that changed over time. Since 2003, the band has had over 100 different members join and leave. Presently, there are only 30 active members who rotate out during tours. Originally, there were five founding members of the band — Averill, Dan Stauffer, Faith and Nayana Jennings and Nathan Wallway. Now, two of the originals, Averill and Stauffer, still serve as the band’s managing directors. 

The band tours most of the time, often traveling for two to three weeks and then heading back to Portland for another two to three weeks to rest before heading out for another round of tours. A majority of the shows consist of the band’s most iconic songs, while adding in a few new tunes here and there. The band describes itself as being more than simply a band and more akin to a ritual, like “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” When super-fans attend the concerts, they expect a certain set list of the most popular songs to be played; therefore, the band must somewhat stick to the expectations while also mixing it up a bit at each concert. 

At its concerts, MarchFourth! does not simply play the music but also performs for the audience. The band’s publicist, Stevie Jay, said the band members do not perform because they want to be rich and famous but because they genuinely love their fans and want to keep making music for them. 

“[MarchFourth!] is bigger than life, and they make the audience feel bigger than life because their entire focus is on the audience, and they are able to connect to the audience in ways like no other,” Jay said.

At some concerts, the band comes down off the stage and into the audience, and the audience forms a circle around the band as it continues performing. 

Yale Cohn of Iowa City, Iowa, in the Little Village Magazine writes of the band, “Some mad scientist somewhere took a bunch of marching band geeks who died in a bus crash outside his castle, reassembled their bodies, laid them out on a platform, … zapped [it] with a lightning bolt and brought them back to life as a monster, all the while cackling as he admired his creation.”

MarchFourth! will be performing Saturday at the Rialto starting at 8 p.m. Admission is $14 if purchased in advance and $16 at the door. Doors open at 7 p.m.

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