MarchFourth makes their Snowmass debut at free concert series
The band MarchFourth began as little more than a Fat Tuesday bash in 2003, but since then, it has performed in a variety of permutations. And, as band leader and bassist John Averill joked during a recent phone interview, it’s “still ‘permutating’ as we speak.”
“We started off as just a party 15 years ago,” Averill said. “We were 30 people. We weren’t paying ourselves. We were just doing it for the fun. It started out as a social club.”
Currently, the band performs with 12 musicians and three dancers, but the lineup changes regularly.
“No two tours have the same personnel,” he said. “I play bass, and we have four drummers. Having that core group be the same is great; that has been consistent for a few years now.”
Part marching band and part circus, the band sets itself apart by refusing to focus on any one musical style or type of show. Even calling the performers “dancers” is a bit of a misnomer.
“I like that we’re not a particular genre,” Averill said. “Funk is one of many elements. When we started out, we began with seven cover tunes but expanded over the years.”
Audiences can expect to hear anything from Afro beat to samba, New Orleans-second-line styles and Eastern European “gypsy-grass.” They might see dancers, acrobats or even performers on stilts. The music involves a mix of songs written by several different songwriters, no one person married to any particular sound.
“It just sort of has to have a groove to it,” he said.
So how does that work, with different songwriters, a rotating roster of musicians and a variety of performers each touring season?
“The drummers have to play as an ensemble, so they stick to a routine,” he said. “For dancers, we adjust depending upon who’s in the ensemble.”
That means audiences will usually get something fresh and fun each show, year after year. Yet, one thing remains consistent: The fun factor.
“It’s always been a blast to be in the project,” he said.
While becoming a recording and touring band “just sort of happened,” Averill said the culture of the band started to change around 2010, when they got down to business.
Touring with 20 members in a converted Greyhound bus, the schedule is robust while the band is on the road.
“As we speak, our bus is in the shop, and we’re getting it back at 8 p.m., and we leave at 8 tomorrow morning,” he said.
With musicians scattered across the country, stretched across Portland, Oregon to New Orleans, Louisiana, those mixed musical influences will travel to Snowmass for the free Thursday night concert on June 23. While MarchFourth has never taken the stage on Fanny Hill, the outfit has played the Belly Up in Aspen several times over the years, as well as one outdoor concert in the downtown core. So, what can audiences who are uninitiated expect from the group?
When: 6:30-8:30 p.m. Thursday, June 23
Where: Fanny Hill, Snowmass
“We’re going to bring the party. Our aim is just to get people dancin’,” Averill said.
The musicians also have new material since the last time they played in town.
“Music is a big part of our jam here in Snowmass,” said Rose Abello, Snowmass Tourism director. “We are thrilled to celebrate 30 years of live music on Fanny Hill this summer. The MarchFourth marching band is something to behold. They are so much more than a band; they are an experience.”
And that experience, while rewarding, has been a long road for the 20-year-old troupe.
“It’s amazing we’ve made it this long without some sort of sponsor,” Averill said. “It’s been a really fun journey but also very challenging.”
The band is touring a bit more this summer, then working on recording a new album, which they started a few years ago. And before they hit the studio, they, like a lot of concertgoers, are ready to blow off some steam.
“It’s good medicine, our music, especially after the last two years,” he said.
So, if you’re looking for a dose of that good medicine, pack a picnic and head to the hill.