MarchFourth returns to Belly Up Aspen on Saturday
IF YOU GO …
Where: Belly Up Aspen
When: Saturday, Sept. 8, 9:30 p.m.
How much: $18
Tickets: Belly Up box office; bellyupaspen.com
On MarchFourth’s brassy Latin-tinged toe-tapper “Magic Number,” an electric bass player sings, “If you see a soul laying down, pick it up!”
That chorus could double as a mission statement for the band, which has traveled the world as pied pipers of joy and weird fun for 15 years now. Their chaotic, circus-like stage spectacles — with some 20 musicians and performance artists running amok — are a brilliant, escapist balm for the soul.
MarchFourth — formerly known as MarchFourth Marching Band — bring the big show back to Belly Up Aspen on Saturday.
“Magic Number” was the title track on the band’s most recent album, released in 2016. The band released an endearingly childlike video for the song in February before its big annual MarchFourth festival in Portland (which falls on March 4, naturally). The album has marked a turning point for the band. It features more vocals, more guitar, more traditional verse-chorus-verse structures.
The band’s live shows have followed suit. They still take on a spectacular, carnival like atmoresphere. But whereas the old MarchFourth let the music provide a soundtrack to the stilt-walkers and the wild stunts, this maturing version of the band is trying to put on a great musical performance, not just a great show.
“We came out of the gate with this huge spectacle, and the spectacle bought us time to develop as a band,” Averill, the band’s ringleader said during a recent swing through Aspen. “And now what’s happened over the last couple years is a major shift in the improvements of the musicianship and the material.”
They still bring dancers and other performers along. But some of the theatrics have been dropped for the sake of playing a better concert. “Magic Number” was a bid to make the band’s music as noteworthy as its notorious shows.
They enlisted Galactic saxophonist Ben Ellman to produce it, recorded it in his hometown of New Orleans, and brought in guest appearances from contemporary New Orleans music greats like Trombone Shorty, drummer Stanton Moore and sousaphone player Matt Perrine. New Orleans also is in the DNA of MarchFourth, which was formed as a one-off band for a Mardi Gras party on Fat Tuesday in 2003 in Portland.
“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.”
While New Orleans may be the spiritual home for the new album, Colorado has proved to be something of a second home for the band. The band’s wild heart and rebel spirit instantly clicked with music fans in ski country when MarchFourth started hitting the road. Some years, Averill said, they played more shows in Colorado than in their homeland of Oregon. Averill estimates that MarchFourth has played at least 30 towns in Colorado. Here in the Roaring Fork Valley, they’ve hit Aspen, Snowmass Village and Carbondale. This swing through the Centennial State includes stops in Nederland, Crested Butte, Fort Collins, Denver and Aspen (and they’ll be back in Colorado Springs and Durango come November).
“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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