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About the Band

With a rallying cry of “JOY NOW!” MarchFourth Marching Band (known as M4 by its growing legion of fans) throws itself and the audience into a swirling volcano of high-energy music and spectacle. What began as a Fat Tuesday party on March 4, 2003 in Portland, Oregon has become one of the nation’s best live touring acts. Thanks to word-of-mouth will soon be graduating from “best kept secret” to a band on the brink of exploding in popularity. Whether at a family matinee in a small town in Colorado or a sweaty nightclub in New York City or a festival mainstage in Louisiana, MarchFourth wins over audiences of all ages at every occasion, and has consistently been named a “festival favorite.”

Aside from the band’s marching band themed costumes, percussion corps and brass, M4 is far from a “marching band” in any traditional sense (though the band has been known to parade down Main Street before taking the stage). M4 is anchored by funky electric bass, and has been evolving into a more guitar- and vocal-driven musical experience. In one 90-minute set the band will take you on a journey from the swamps of Louisiana to the gypsy camps of eastern Europe to the African jungle by way of Brazil, along the way stopping to sample the deepest grooves of the best of American funk, rock, jazz and boiling it all together in cinematic fashion with high-stepping stilt-acrobatics and sexy dancers. This genre-busting approach is usually the territory of DJs, but this band is real people making music and art in real time—and every show is different.

At the core of the band is its DIY ethic. The band has been writing and arranging all of its own material, designing and fabricating its own costumes and merchandise, developing its own choreography and managing itself from Day One. With the addition of their booking agency (Skyline Music) in 2010, M4 has been touring relentlessly. MarchFourth is akin to a team sport with a roster of nearly 30 performers to choose from, though the band tours with approximately 6 horns, 5 drummers, bass, guitar, and 4 dancers/stiltwalkers.

The first two studio albums released by MarchFourth were recorded, produced and mastered entirely “in-house.” Their new release, Magnificent Beast (out 10/25/11) was produced by Steve Berlin (Los Lobos) and features a wide array of genre-mashing groove-based material that incorporates more vocals and guitar than previous albums. Following their 2009 release, Rise Up (a tribute to post-Katrina New Orleans), Magnificent Beast has now evolved into a full-blown big-stage brass-rock-funk assault peppered with moments of swing, jazz, bollywood, ska and metal.

With so many members and writers, M4’s influences are all over the map, but fans of Sgt Pepper, Duke Ellington, Gogol Bordello, Ozomatli, and Cirque Du Soleil would likely feel at home in the audience. MarchFourth has shared the stage with a wide variety of acts, including Pink Martini, Budos Band, Balkan Beat Box, Trombone Shorty, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Beats Antique, Bassnectar, Antibalas, Melvin Seals and JGB, The Motet, Hot Buttered Rum, and Yard Dogs Road Show. The band has also been climbing the festival roster, with return appearances at Wakarusa, Bumbershoot, Voodoo Festival, Telluride Jazz Festival, High Sierra, Wanderlust, Lotus World Music Festival, and Strawberry Music Festival, as well as recently appearing on ESPN’s Espy Awards (Los Angeles) and WGN-TV (Chicago).

MarchFourth inspires dancing… when the audience can tear its eyes from the kaleidoscope of visual energy (and maybe even a crowd-surfing stilter) pouring from the stage. “Part New Orleans brass ensemble, part groove-heavy rock group, and part vaudevillian circus, this group unleashes such a technicolor experience that using the word ‘concert’ to describe their performance falls flat” (5820 Magazine). M4 provides the opportunity to come together in joyous union with a band whose mission is to seize the moment, bring communities together, and leave everyone feeling as if the world is a better place.

 

History

MarchFourth Marching Band got its name from the date of their first show: March 4, 2003. It all began when a handful of artists and musicians in Portland, OR decided to put together a marching band for a Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras party on March 4th, originally performing a 7-song set of tunes that included covers of Rebirth Brass Band, Fela Kuti, and Fleetwood Mac. The night was a smashing success and encouraged the group to book more shows. Opening for the Youngblood Brass Band and playing with Pink Martini cemented the group that first year: they played a total of 34 shows in their first ten months as a band (mostly neighborhood street fairs and nightclubs).

By 2004 MarchFourth Marching Band had been dubbed M4 by the local press (a nickname that sticks to this day), and was voted Best Local Band by Portland alt-weekly readers. Their first annual birthday party on March 4, 2004 was a sold out show.

MarchFourth Marching Band released their first album in 2005, a nine-song self titled studio album featuring cover songs and originals that has sold 10000 copies to date.

M4 was ready for a real challenge in 2006, so they planned a two-week trip to Germany for 35 people in conjunction with the FIFA World Cup. There they won the “Best in Show” award at the Altonale Festival, beating over fifty other performance troupes from around the world.

By 2007 the band was becoming better known in Portland and beyond. They expanded their fourth anniversary party to two shows at the Crystal Ballroom (a family matinee and an adult evening show) and sold out both shows. It was time to take the show on the road. They bought a 1984 MCI coach on eBay, then converted it to fit about 28 people comfortably with convertible bunk-beds, wi-fi, kitchen and roof rack. Members of the band did all the bus customization. They planned an 8-week national tour (booked, promoted and organized entirely in-house) of 35 shows in 22 cities. Highlights of the tour included playing with Pink Martini at the Hollywood Bowl. M4 also released its second album, Live, featuring eight new M4 original songs and a few covers – all from live appearances in 2006 and 2007.

Also in 2007, saxophone player and composer Robin Jackson won third place in the International Songwriting Competition’s instrumental category for the MarchFourth Marching Band song, “Space Hole.”

MarchFourth Marching Band really delved into the festival circuit in 2008, playing Festival International de Louisiane, Lightning in a Bottle, Artown, High Sierra Music Festival, Waterfront Blues Festival, The Bite of Oregon, and the Lotus Festival.

The big focus of 2009 was recording the new studio album, Rise Up, which was released in October and continues to receive rave reviews.

On March 4, 2010, after years of fan requests, M4 released a full-length live concert DVD from their 2009 anniversary show in Portland, OR. The DVD also includes two music videos created and produced by members of MarchFourth Marching Band. For the first time, fans can share the experience of a live show from the comfort of their living rooms.

Clients

MarchFourth Marching Band has played a huge variety of events. The list below includes a selection of organizations, festivals, parades, street shows, and corporate events.
~FESTIVALS, PARADES, & CLUBS
Hollywood Bowl (CA), Kennedy Center Millennium Stage (DC), Voodoo Experience (New Orleans), Harvard Square Oktoberfest (MA), Echo Project Music Festival (GA), New Belgium Brewery’s Tour de Fat, Festival Internationale de Lousianne (Lafayette), Lotus Festival (Bloomington), Maple Leaf (NOLA), Antone’s (Austin), Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Lightening in a Bottle (CA), High Sierra Music Festival (CA), Shambhala (Nelson, BC), Carnival de Culturen (Germany), Altonale (Germany), Burning Man (NV), Waterfront Blues Festival, Oregon Country Fair, Northwest Folklife (Seattle), Red Bull Flugtag, Rose Festival Starlight Parade, Knitting Factory (CA and NY), Paramount Theater (San Francisco), Portland Rose Festival, Music Fest NW, Reed College Arts Week, Sisters Folk Festival, Lake Oswego Concert in the Park, Portland Saturday Market, The Bite of Oregon, Reno Artown, Portland Brewer’s Festival, and Star Spangled Sparks (NV).
~CORPORATE EVENTS
Comcast, Volkswagen, Portland Trail Blazers, United Way, Outward Bound, Portland General Electric, Cricket Wireless, Wells Fargo, Dr. Martens, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Nike, Cricket Communications, Burgerville, 24 Hour Fitness, Art Media, Proctor & Gamble (ZIBA Design), New Belgium Brewing Company, National Lawyer’s Guild, Ankrom-Moison Architects, Willamette Dental Group, Mario’s clothing store, the Oregon Tourism Board.
~CHARITALBE/EDUCATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS
MercyCorps, Amnesty International, City Repair Project, Cascade AIDS Project, Oregon Bus Project, Oregon Museum of Science & Industry (OMSI), Code Pink, ORLO, SCRAP Iron Artist, Blues for Katrina Benefit, Equity Foundation / Pride Parade, PFLAG, Portland Center Stage, Reed College, Lewis and Clark College, the Evergreen State College, Colorado College, and Obama for America.
~SPORTING EVENTS
Portland Trailblazers halftime show, Portland Timbers Soccer halftime show, Gorge Games, Cyclecross National Championships, and 2006 World Cup Soccer Tournament Fanfest (Germany).

Willamette Week: “Rise Up” Album Review

[BRASS ’N’ BALLS] Some great live bands just can’t seem to capture their in-person energy on disc. “You have to see ’em live,” we tell friends, apologetically, when the CD doesn’t bring it. I was afraid that would happen with MarchFourth, whose joyous performances owe so much to the visual—and visceral—impact of so many big-horn toters and percussionists having so much fun, marching into the audience and throwing down. That ambience is notoriously hard to capture on a recording, as even masters like the Dirty Dozen Brass Band have discovered.

Of course, no CD could quite encode all of March’s costumed energy—much less its flag-twirlers, stilt-walkers, unicycles, fire eaters, puppets and other accomplices—in little digital bytes.

But Rise Up comes a lot closer than any of us had any right to expect. Sounding tighter than ever, the two- or three-dozen member collective has miraculously managed to channel its raucous sweat, swing and swagger for home and headphone. Newbies can enjoy this party-ready record for its own sake instead of just as a pale souvenir of a full color concert.

The disk presents almost the full range of M4’s diverse sounds—Mexican brass band (“Contada Ridiculata”), odd-meter Balkan party gypsies (“Simplon Cocek”), throwback Latin big-band jazz (“Dynomite”), classic funk (“Freestyle for Miles,” which owes as much to James Brown as to its namesake), New Orleans second line (“Ninth Ward Calling”), gospel rave up (“Gospel”) and unclassifiable hybrids. If Herb Alpert were still running the Tijuana Brass, “Happiness” would be the perfect cover.

Some proceeds from Rise Up go to Sweet Home New Orleans, a nonprofit organization that helps the damaged Crescent City’s music and cultural institutions recover from Katrina’s helluva Bush-whacking job. Fresh as Rise Up sounds, there’s no substitute for the full MarchFourth live experience—lucky for us, the band plays this week. BRETT CAMPBELL.

11/18/09 >> read the article on the wweek.com website

Current Roster

  • Bass:

    Brass & Sax:

  • Dancers:

    Beats: