MarchFourth returns to Aspen with new tunes
If You Go …
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Thursday, Sept. 22, 10 p.m.
How much: $18
Tickets: Belly Up box office; www.bellyupaspen.com
MarchFourth hasn’t exactly grown up or cleaned up its act — the 17-piece band’s live show remains as brilliant and chaotic as ever. But its music has matured amid the madness.
When the band first hit the road a little over decade ago, it was a wild and whimsical spectacle of performance art with a soundtrack of brassy funk, rock and gypsy jazz. While the carnival atmosphere and theatrics earned MarchFourth — then known as MarchFourth Marching Band — a lot of buzz and a growing audience, the music took a back seat.
That’s begun to change in recent years as the band has honed its kaleidoscopic sound and focused more on the music.
“We came out of the gate with this huge spectacle, and the spectacle bought us time to develop as a band,” John Averill, the band’s ringleader and electric-bass player, said from a recent tour stop in Pennsylvania. “And now what’s happened over the last couple years is a major shift in the improvements of the musicianship and the material.”
The band still has dancers and other performers onstage at its shows, but the big acrobatic stunts, stilt-walkers and Vaudeville bits have been phased out by better songs. The band returns to Belly Up Aspen tonight in a show that will preview new material from MarchFourth’s forthcoming album “Magic Number,” which is due out next week.
For its fifth studio album, Averill and his bandmates raised the bar for themselves.
“We wanted to make the best record we’ve made so far, and I think we achieved that,” Averill said.
MarchFourth went to New Orleans to make “Magic Number,” working with producer and Galactic saxophonist Ben Ellman. New Orleans greats like Trombone Shorty, drummer Stanton Moore and sousaphone player Matt Perrine joined in on the sessions. The city has been integral to MarchFourth’s spirit from the start. It originally was formed as a one-off for a Mardi Gras party in Portland on Fat Tuesday in 2003 (on March 4, to be exact). But this was its first time making a record there.
“We immersed ourselves in that culture,” Averill said. “So after we finished recording, we’d go out and see bands or just hang out and get in the spirit of New Orleans.”
Roaming the country in a bus named “Razzle Dazzle,” the band has played seemingly everywhere in the U.S. over the past decade, and Colorado — where it has a fervent following on the Front Range and in ski towns — has become something of a second home. Some years, the band plays here more often than in its native Oregon. By Averill’s count, MarchFourth has played at least 30 different towns in Colorado (Aspen, Snowmass Village and Carbondale among them).
“Colorado is a special place,” Averill said. “I don’t think there’s any other state that has small towns where everybody comes out like that.”
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