MarchFourth Marching Band

From the looks of it, the marching band in Prince’s halftime Super Bowl show couldn’t touch the fun factor of Portland’s favorite band with a 10 foot pole.  Named after the date of their first gig, the MarchFourth Marching Band is a high-energy mobile unit of good times.  Taking a Fellini-esque mix of Mardi Gras mayhem, Afro beat, Mexican hustle, sultry samba, big band, and gypsy folk to the streets and the club/ festival scene; MarchFourth allows for people to seek liberation through booty-shaking beats, driving bass, and high-flying horn arrangements. Accompanied by their surrealist troupe of stilt-dancers, fire-spinners, and costumed beauties, they are a new love-party paradigm.

Glide caught up with frenetic founder/manager/lone bass player John Averill to see what (literally) drives this Portland-based happy fest to the streets, the playa and everywhere in between. 

What’s the most challenging thing about being the leader of a band with 35 members?

Hard to say. The role requires a sense of knowing when to "be a sword or be like water" in both musical and interpersonal situations, which can change from moment to moment. Certain logistics get tricky, for example, getting a large group from point A to point B, plus knowing our goals and navigating the best way to reach them. We sort of have to pick our own path and hope for the best. Another challenge is trying to be sensitive to everyone in the band and be willing to do whatever can be done to make everyone feel comfortable and happy. Musically, it can be challenging to get everyone on the same page in terms of groove, meter, etc. Oh, and then there’s also the challenge of making a large endeavor succeed both artistically and financially for everyone involved, under the pressure of knowing that personal sacrifices are being made by individual members.

Were you a band geek when you were in high school?

No. I didn’t even start playing music until halfway through college. I think my high school had a band program, but I guess the opportunity wasn’t attractive enough for me to pursue it. I blame my own teenage insecurities for not exploring more things back then. I’m sort of a late-bloomer in terms of being a musician and listening to my heart.

Gwen Stefani used a marching band on her last album.  Good or bad for business?

Hmm, interesting. We opened for No Doubt in 2004, and less than a year later Gwen came out with her marching band thing. I don’t know if she actually saw us play, but the coincidence wasn’t lost on me. I’ve recently noticed that a lot of other bands are incorporating the marching band aesthetic into their act. I don’t know if that’s good or bad.

Describe the vehicle you use to cart the band to local gigs.

Oh, it varies. In the summer, we drive around in our friend’s convertible firetruck, which is awesome. Otherwise, we travel locally in an old Tri-Met bus that was purchased for the amazing low-low cost of four cigarettes – no joke. Of course, it always needs work, but it recently made it to Mexico and back (MarchFourth was not actually on board to witness the journey, however). Purchasing a real tour bus is on our short-list of "things to spend our hard-earned money on in 2007."

Where do you find your groovy band uniforms?

Thrift stores, Ebay, enthusiastic relatives, and garage sales. A few of our members are also clothing designers, and generally most folks in the band are somewhat crafty.

 Where do you see M4 in five years?

World domination! You know, the standard "shaking hands with dignitaries" thing, plus appearing on every magazine cover from Good Housekeeping to Adbusters. Oh, and if a utopia-bound spaceship arrives in a timely fashion I’d like to think we would be invited on board for some interstellar jamming. According to the Mayan calendar, the world is supposed to end in 2012, so I don’t know how that will affect our long-term plans. Seriously, in five years I would love to say that we traveled the world, shared our music, brought joy into people’s lives, and hopefully made enough money to support ourselves and our families.


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