When asked to describe MarchFourth Marching Band in three words, bandleader John Averill had some trouble. After all, it’s hard to put three words to a marching band that is ever-changing and genre-bending. MarchFourth does not fit into one category. It is electric, exciting and infectiously fun. The group is comprised of over a dozen singers, musicians, and dancers. When listening to their music, one can not help but be reminded of Snarky Puppy, a three time Grammy-winning fusion-influenced jazz band.
The band came to fruition after Averill and a couple friends played at a Fat Tuesday party in Portland 15 years ago. The celebratory day happened to fall on March 4th of that year, so, the name MarchFourth stuck. “We started off with ten drummers, four horns and a flute and then it caught on really fast,” The group started touring in 2007 and got a booking agent in 2010. Averill says the band has gone through many “phases of evolution” with their sound. They now have more vocals and guitars, and Averill describes the band as much more streamlined and focused.
Before music, Averill had an array of jobs, including graphic design and animation, until he realized music was what he truly wanted to do. He describes himself as a late bloomer, since he started playing bass at age 19. He never had any formal music training, contrasting most of his bandmates who either grew up playing an instrument, or went to college to study jazz and musical technique. He does not read or write music, but does have a good ear. When he does need to compose music, he finds a way to translate what he wants to accomplish.
Most of Averill’s training for being a bandleader, oddly enough, came from playing soccer. “Having a team sport mentality all the time I think is similar to music because you have all these moving pieces. You have to figure out how to create an environment in which everyone can work well together,” he said in reflection on how to run such a large band. “Each member has to surrender their own ego and become part of a bigger picture.” While most of the group members hail from Portland (including Averill), other members come from all over the country, from Northern California to New Orleans.
MarchFourth is best when experienced in a live show, it is a “visual, all inclusive dance party.” According to Averill, “There’s this energy that the records don’t capture.” On top of the live music, Vaudeville-style dancers and stilt-walkers perform, breaking the wall between the band and audience. The ultimate goal of their shows is to “uplift people, so when they leave the show they feel better than they did when they got there.” In this political climate of frustration and confusion, it’s important to take a pause and celebrate with music.
The crowd that shows up to the MarchFourth shows at the StateRoom, break the stereotype of our conservative city, a reason that Averill’s band continues to return. They are excited to perform their song, “The Quarter” and the rest of the material on their newest record, Magic Number.
Looking forward, Averill hopes the band’s music will reach more and more people. MarchFourth will be performing at the State Room on 8/30. More info can be found on StateRoom.com.