November 5, 2010
The Northwest's funkiest musical troupe
MarchFourth Marching Band was born in a bar called Binks on Alberta Street in Portland, Oregon in 2003. A few musicians and a tangle of dancer/stiltwalker/firebreather types had been brainstorming ways to start a band and put on a party for Fat Tuesday that fell on March 4th that year. They needed a name. They were going in circles trying to come up with one when one of the dancers said, trying to re-focus the discussion on planning for the upcoming party in March, “Yeah, but what about March 4th?” Something clicked. Yeah, what about MarchFourth? Perfect name.
The way they put it: MarchFourth is a date, a command, a band. They tour, produce their own CDs (they have three), write their own music (they play only a few covers) and they make the fun-est, funkiest, most-over the top, move-your-feet music ever. And, the accompanying band of ‘beauties’—dancers, stilt-walkers and fire-breathers—turn their music into a full-blown carnival.
If anyone can tell them what style music they play, they’d love to hear it. Clearly, it’s a marching band, although they never march in formation. The band has a horn section, a drum and percussion section and an electric bass. Their style is a mix of: Jazz, Afro-beat, Balkan, Bollywood (they have a song called Delhi Belly), Big band, Ska, and New Orleans Mardi Gras second-line arrangements to name just a few of their influences. Name the style and they probably play it—so long as it’s got serious rhythm and will get the feet of whoever is listening dancing. Because that’s what happens when you hear March 4th. You can’t help it.
When I first heard them, I didn’t know what was happening. I was gallery-hopping in Old Town one night when I hear this super funky rhythm. It is good and sounds live and is weird to hear floating on the air at night. I keep following my ears to find where the beat is coming from, turning down streets that seem to make the music louder. I wind up on the South Park blocks and all of sudden in the glow of the streetlights I see… a marching band? How random. And, it is no ordinary marching band. Everyone’s uniforms are mismatched. In fact, I wouldn’t call them uniforms at all, but costumes. It’s more Mad Max meets Burning Man meets circus meets burlesque dancer meets steam punk. There aren’t just musicians either, but dancers, hula-hoopers, and stilt-walkers too. Everyone is jamming. The rush of a band of drums and a pack of horns live in the middle of park with crazy dancers is almost surreal. But, before I know it, I’m dancing too with people I don’t know and my night has gone from a regular old Thursday night to flipping kick a** FUN!