MarchFourth! headlines Copper Mountain’s Cider Circus
A couple on stilts dance across the stage; the woman is spun, flipped and carried around with aplomb. A lineup of horns blares from the back of the stage, while a drummer saunters across the front. Dancers in elaborate costumes appear from the sides, slinging hula hoops hypnotically around their bodies, while a performer in an animal costume leads the crowd in a conga line.
After more than 12 years of performances, MarchFourth! has their shows down cold, from sound to stage presence. What originally began as a fun project for a Fat Tuesday party has morphed into a full-time touring band. The Portland, Oregon-based group now features 13 musicians and four dancers in its lineup. MarchFourth! embodies dynamic stagecraft and exemplary musicianship. However, practice doesn’t necessarily make perfect.
Band leader and bass player John Averill says the band is highly improvisational on stage.
“We rarely ever practice,” he said. “The practices occur on stage. When we have to bring in new players, we definitely rehearse with them. But usually, we just get in the bus and use sound check as opportunity to run some songs, but most of us have been playing our material long enough that we don’t really need to practice.”
That means the shows are never the same. It also means there is an element of danger.
Because the performances are spontaneous, he said the band has had to learn to be hyper-aware of each other and what’s going on around them. Once, he was hit in the head with a stilt.
“Fortunately, I was wearing a very sturdy hat; otherwise, it would have cracked my skull open,” he said.
OVER THE YEARS
A couple of highlights from MarchFourth!’s career include a Disney/Pixar feature in 2013 of the band’s song “Gospel,” from their album “Rise Up.” The song is used in the closing credits for the animated film “Monsters University.” MarchFourth! also played on Jam Cruise 11 and 12 in 2013 and 2014.
“(Jam Cruise is) one of my favorite festivals, for sure — every band in the world wants to play Jam Cruise, I’m hoping to get back on the boat; it was one of the most fun festivals we’ve ever played,” Averill said.
The sprawling band has evolved over the years, with different members joining and leaving. As their busy touring schedule can be demanding, sometimes not every member can play every show. Alternates are put in their place, so even though the band always brings 13 musicians to the stage, there are even more who call themselves members.
“It’s sort of like a baseball team, we have this roster, and have to make sure we have all the positions filled for every tour,” Averill said.
“It can be challenging; there is definitely a lack of personal space on the bus, there’s 20 of us on that thing,” he continued. “Fortunately, we all get along; there’s really no room for drama on the bus, people are pretty mellow. The whole thing about being on tour is, it’s two hours onstage and 22 hours of whatever else, traveling, driving around. That’s where we let all our energy out is on the stage; it becomes our release, that’s why we are out there.”
MarchFourth! has a full lineup of tours across the country, and will be in Colorado for three dates this month. They’ll first hit the Belly Up Aspen on Thursday, Aug. 27, with a stop in Nederland on Friday, Aug. 28 for the Nederland Music and Arts Festival before hitting Summit County to headline Cider Circus on Saturday, Aug. 29, at Copper Mountain Resort.
“We’ve played more towns in Colorado than any other state in the country,” Averill said. “We keep coming back to Colorado in general because we’ve always been well-received there. We feel like our main fan base seems to be in Colorado, even more so than Oregon where we are from.”
The band continues to come back to Summit County, having played a previous year’s Concert in the Park put on by the town of Frisco and most recently a performance at The Barkley Ballroom.
“We’ve always had a really good time in Frisco … It’s such a beautiful part of the country. Colorado is the only state in the country I’ve experience where people come out in the small towns to see music — a lot of the small towns in any other state are pretty dead and nobody really goes out, so there’s not a lot of music coming through. Colorado just seems to have an abundance of people who really appreciate what we’re doing, like to come out and dance. It feels like home there.”
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