Paste teamed up with Horny Toad at the Telluride Blues & Brews Festival to capture off-the-wall performances around town. Click to watch the feature video they produced.
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Paste teamed up with Horny Toad at the Telluride Blues & Brews Festival to capture off-the-wall performances around town. Click to watch the feature video they produced.
“All Telluride is a Stage”
-Local Perspective by Seth Cagin (August 17, 2011)
There’s a possibility that the Telluride Jazz Celebration could be fined for closing Main Street on Saturday night.
That’s too bad, really. The town ought give Jazz a reward for bestowing on us all a bit of old Telluride magic. The festival can’t really be faulted for not knowing in advance that the crowd attracted by the MarchFourth Marching Band would force the street closure.
The town likes to plan street closures in advance and to approve them and exact proper compensation for the costs involved–as it is a town’s prerogative to do so.
But here’s the thing about magic: You can’t always anticipate or plan for it. When it happens, you sure as hell don’t want to get in its way, either, and the town does deserve credit for quickly closing Main Street when it was clear what was unfolding.
Odds are that the magic is not entirely new to fans of the Portland-based band. This outfit is certainly popular wherever they perform. But I have to believe that the magic they brought with them was elevated by Telluride’s Main Street at dusk.
MarchFourth (M4) was a hit at Jazz, performing first in Mountain Village on Friday and at Elks Park on the Town Park stage on Saturday afternoon. Word spread that they are something special and so a crowd gathered for the scheduled parade Saturday evening on Main Street. It was too much of a crowd to confine to even the wider sidewalk on the north side of the street, as was originally envisioned, so the Town Marshal’s Department had no option other than to close the street to vehicular traffic.
M4 is a circus act, featuring performers on stilts and magicians and baton twirlers, bright costumes, and a musical act inspired by Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and whatever mythical marching band of the imagination inspired the Beatles to create Sgt. Pepper in the first place.
They play “marching” music, not exactly John Phillip Sousa and not jazz, but horns and drums that make you feel good, like you may have felt as a child when you first saw a marching band and could feel the pounding of the drums in your chest. They’re musically tight at the same time they create an impression of controlled chaos and the upshot is an unreasonable sensation of joy.
So this is what the dorks who played trumpet and trombone in your high school band became when they grew up, you think. Who would have guessed they were artists? And yet, weren’t they always kind of cool, really?
Bill Pence, the co-founder and longtime co-director of the Telluride Film Festival, often observed that the town of Telluride itself was a major part of his festival’s success, because it is in that nature of this picture perfect town wedged in a box canyon to allow itself to be entirely overtaken by a modestly scaled event like the Telluride Film Festival and the Jazz Celebration, or at least to seem as if it has been co-opted for at least as long as the event lasts.
So it is with M4 and their command of Main Street for less than an hour on Saturday. Telluride’s Victorian buildings proved to be the perfect backdrop for what M4 was doing, transporting everyone who followed the band up and down the street into a place not really of this world.
I realized later, thinking about the magic of this moment, how often Telluride performs this extraordinary feat, when there are hot air balloons aglow on Main Street, for example, and every year on the Fourth of July. And it’s not just on Main Street or on the Town Park stage that it happens. It can happen when you’re skiing Gold Hill on a powder day, or rafting the San Miguel, or hiking the Sneffels High Line. It might be catching a glimpse of a passing herd of elk on a hillside. It’s a combination of our cool, dry mountain air, the deep blue of the sky, the alpenglow on the surrounding peaks, and the things people do here to express their love of bluegrass music in June and mushrooms in August and of softball and beer in the park.
This is all hopelessly sentimental of course, the kind of sentimentality that anyone is entitled to when they express a love of their home. But on this weekend when the stock market was crashing, again, and the outside world was consumed with talk of a new economic order and ongoing political instability, again, Telluride more than ever felt like a sweet refuge from it all.
We know that we can’t really stand apart from the world. Monday morning will come and we’ll go back to our day jobs and the parade will have gone by. Sometimes, though, there is no percentage in puncturing the illusion that life in this valley is something special.
Steamboat Free Summer Concert Series closes Friday with a spectacle
A band named after its own birthday must love to celebrate.
And celebrate they do in a spectacular fusion of music, dance and visual arts in the spirit of free expression.
Nearly 10 years after its formation in Portland, Ore., the MarchFourth Marching Band will make its first appearance in Steamboat Springs on Friday in the final show of the 2012 Free Summer Concert Series.
The concert kicks off at 6 p.m. at Howelsen Hill with Billy Franklin Trio opening.
Then, MarchFourth takes the stage with more than 15 members including dancers, acrobats and stilt walkers.
“It’s about music, and it’s about movement,” said John Averill — a founding member, bassist and the group’s bandleader — during an interview with Explore Steamboat on Wednesday:
Explore Steamboat: How did you come to form the MarchFourth Marching Band in 2003?
John Averill: I was sort of putting together bands. … But all those bands were kind of one-offs. This one happened to stick.
It’s been 9 1/2 years, and the band has gone through so many mutations though since then. It’s changed a lot.
We had the spectacle right off the bat. We had the dancers and some drummers. And we only had four horns. Now, the band’s become a real band instead of a community revolving-door thing. What we are now is four dancers, five drummers, eight horns, me on bass and our sax player also plays guitar. We have a lot of guitar in the band. It’s become a big, funky rock band. There really isn’t anything “marching band“ about it.
Instead of a drum kit, we have five drummers that make up a kit. We had all these elements at the very first show, and so we’ve just refined that in all aspects.
The music definitely has stepped up. For the first show, we learned, like, seven covers.
Now, we play all originals. We have some really good writers, and we have developed our very own sound. It’s a very bass-heavy horn sound. What I was focused on in Portland nine or 10 years ago was putting on fun events in the spirit of New Orleans. Maybe not New Orleans, specifically, but maybe more like a Burning Man sort of get-together and bring out all these people and costumes and have a good time.
ES: I noticed MarchFourth will be performing at Burning Man this year. Are a lot of the members regular participants at the festival?
JA: Most of the band has been to Burning Man several times. I went 13 years in a row, and no one in the band or myself have gone in the last two years.
It’s not a big musical festival — you don’t make money going to Burning Man; you spend money going to Burning Man, but it’s returning to our roots.
ES: How has Burning Man influenced MarchFourth as a band?
JA: I think it’s more just the inclusive factor. It’s getting to where the audience is more involved in the show. We do a lot of things to break down that wall. It’s about the atmosphere where people are free to express themselves. That’s one of Burning Man’s better values, the M.O. of free expression.
People are encouraged to freak out and be a part of the show instead of just sitting and watching us.
ES: The Steamboat Free Summer Concert Series is a place where people of all ages come out to see the show. What do you like about playing for families?
JA: I love playing for kids; I love when they freak out. They’re not dancing to be cool. They’re not dancing to try to get noticed. They’re moved by something, and they’re jumping around. It’s so free form. We learn forms of dance: People come up with their cool dance and their sexy dances, but the kids are all about completely dorking out. And we’re dorking out on stage.
ES: Do you guys really make your own costumes? How does that process work?
JA: We find some stuff at thrift stores and vintage stores. We don’t have a dress code or anything uniform. We match because everything’s so mismatched that we all kind of match in some inverse way.
By Nicole Inglis, Steamboat Today (August 16, 2012)
Magnificent Beast review (Spring 2012)
Marching bands aren’t just about blaring horns and boosterism anymore. If, at their core, they might bring out the regimental soldier in all of us, then it’s the rhythm that speaks the loudest–whether you’re talking about the New Orleans-style second line or the latest hip-hop hybrid from Young Buck, Outkast or Kanye. Two recent albums accentuate how radically different the music can get, depending on who’s at the controls.
Oregon’s MarchFourth Marching Band (or M4) are the hip fusionists of the genre, folding occasional lead vocals and electric instruments into the latest studio outing, which was produced by Los Lobos’ Steve Berlin. The album borrow from ska (“Soldiers of the Mind”), Bollywood (“Delhi Belly”), rock (“Fuzzy Lentil”), dark zydeco blues (“Rose City Strut”) and more. “Fat Alberta” is M4 at its best–true to the percussive horn lines of the traditional march, and funky-as-all-get-out on the swing meter.
The idea of an album of marching-band music is pretty funny, but MarchFourth Marching Band doesn’t go for laughs in “Magnificent Beast,” as trombonists, trumpeters and sax players use their horns to build alluring melodies and throbbing beats. The group goes even brassier in “Rose City Strut,” as it’s joined by the Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s clarinetist, tenor saxophonist and tuba. The Preservation Hall band had come to Portland, Ore., home base for MarchFourth, for a joint concert last April; the New Orleans players agreed to improvise some solos for free if the recording could be made at the concert hall.
The horns push and pull, wail and oompah, share conversations and sometimes seem to have a difference of opinion, but always reunite in blissful harmony. The band was going for a dark, sultry mood, but an optimistic spirit is just as evident. The bah-BOMP-a-BOMP BOMP melody insinuates itself into the listener’s brain, while the pace is perfect for a stroll down the street. The song’s “Rose City” title calls out to a dancer named Rose who performs with the band, but it also functions as an homage to Portland’s nickname. Portland has many musical identities, but here, it sounds like the grooviest place in America.
Portland’s MarchFourth proves the old adage that bigger is better
PHOTO COURTESY ANDY BATTThe MarchFourth marching band from Portland, Ore. is comprised of over 30 individuals including brass and drum musicians, electric bassists and guitarists, stilt walkers and dancers. “We’re pretty free-spirited,” says bandleader and bassist John Averill, “and once people see us the whole uptight military-esque stigma of ‘marching band’ kind of flies out the window.”
By Yale Cohn.
All day yesterday I told people what an amazing show I had seen the previous evening at Gabe’s: the March Fourth Marching Band.
“What were they like, Yale?”
And that was the problem. I couldn’t say what they were “like” because they were so damn unique. I’d never seen anything “like” them ever before in all my years of going to concerts or seeing marching bands perform at football games or parades.
I had to describe them then for what they are, not what they were “like.”
What they are is a band so butch they make the Village People seem like N.W.A. by comparison, but with no tongues in cheeks at all – they mean it.
I think Salvador Dali is their manager.
They buy mustache wax by the drum.
H.R. Geiger designed their drum kits.
After seeing their show I am now sexually attracted to hats.
The space was not big enough for them and the sound and spectacle they brought with them and neither was my brain, it’s still throbbing. (Though that may also be the energy drink-based cocktails I had, lesson learned.)
I wanted to steal their poster from the door of the bar and crawl inside it in live there with the red-headed gal featured on it.
Their show was an Alejandro Jodorowsky film that jumped off the screen only with fewer exploding bullfrogs.
Some mad scientist somewhere took a marching band that died in a bus crash outside his castle, reassembled the bodies, laid them out on a platform that he pulled to the ceiling where it was zapped with a lightning bolt and brought them back to life as a monster, cackling all the time as he admired his creation, a monster of a sort that had never existed before.
A sweaty, beautiful, chaotic, organized, hyper-realized, super tight, fever dream of a monster that defies categorization and pumped out so much beat and rhythm that Gabe’s better call in a structural engineer to look at their roof sometime soon because it may have been blown clean the fuck off.
This was their first show in Iowa City and we all gushed and pleaded and threatened them that they better come back – or else – and I certainly hope they do.
Mostly for the sake of everybody who didn’t get to see them this time and are – rightfully – feeling bad about it given how much those of us that did have talked them up.
Would I go see them again myself?
I don’t know. They set the bar pretty insanely damn high themselves with their show on Monday and how could they possibly top it?
Then again, if anybody could, it would be them, wouldn’t it?
That’s a chance I’m willing to take.
If we’re lucky enough for them to come to our town again, so should you.
It’s hard to say what was the best moment at the tenth annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival last weekend in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Maybe stretching out on a hill, looking up a trees and sky while Rosanne Cash sang songs from the list of important songs her late father, Johnny Cash, gave her. Maybe Del McCoury’s high notes or the Carolina Chocolate Drops revitalizing vintge 1930s string band music (music researcher/Oberlin alum Rhiannon Giddens dropped ina phenomenal a cappella Scots Gaelic number she learned while studying in the UK). Maybe “Guitar Town” from Steve Earle & the Dukes. Or T Bone Burnett’s jam fest where the quicksilverish Elvis Costelo introduced a new song he descirbed as how rock and roll was done in the 1920s (it sounded like cabaret to me).
As for old timers like Doc Watson, Hazel Dickens (the voice of West Virginia coal mining coutnry) and EArl Scruggs, Ralph Stanley was going strong at 83, ornamenting his voczls far more than he did in bygone decades. Like in his early days with his late brother Carter, his is a family band thanks to grandson Nathan (now moved from mandolin to guitar). “He’s 18 and never been murdered — I mean married,” Ralph joked, prehaps referring to the violence of his southwestern Virginia culture that lies within his regional music. The crowd danced happily has hapless Pretty Polly was tossed in to her grave. Nathan, by the way, looked rather goth, but when you think about it, his grandfather’s repertoire (“O Death,” “Man of Constannt Sorrow”) is Appalachian gothic.
Surprises abounded. Long-ago Blaster Phil Alvin joined younger brother Dave Alvin and the Guilty Women as “Marie” became Spanish language. Dave and Christy McWilson convereted Doris Day’s 1956 white-bread “Que Sera Sera” to pure rock with ad libbed verses about Dave himself. Whereas Day’s Eisenhower era orginal exuded optimism, Dave sees the song as fatalistic.
Allison Moorer and her older sister Shelby Lynne (nee Shelby Lynne Moorer) did their first public appearance as a duet act tentatively named Sissy. (When each one’s autobiographical lyrics refer to Sissy, it’s the other she’s talking about.) Besides their own songs (Allison’s Oscar-nominated “Soft Place to Fall”) they covered old Everly Brothers hits, opening and closing the set with a buoyant take on Kay Starr’s “Side by Side.”
Joan Baez largely retrenched to the trad ballads (“Lily of the West,” “House of the Rising Sun”)and apocalyptic Dylan material (“Farewell Angelina”) of her ’60s heyday. Good move.
Richard Thompson stretched out “Demons in Her Dancing Shoes” to close with English country dance music. It was an ironic ending given that the song’s setting (1960s crime-syndicate London) is such a far cry from the world of English country dance.
Of course, there were numerous references throughout the weekend to bluegrass’s stern o ld founder, the late Bill Monroe. McCoury and Peter Rowan, of course, had been in his Bluegrass Boys.
Needless to say, this report can’t include all the great acts that played. With six stages, you couldn’t be everywhere. People say Patti Smith was phenomenal.
One final delight was Portland, Oregon’s Marchfourth Marching Band, which woke up Sunday morning’s crowd with, besides their music, an amazing trio of acrobat/comedians on stilts.
And thanks to investment banker/bluegrass lover Warren Hellman for once again creating and footing the bill for this incredible festival.
The MarchFourth Marching Band may just make you feel like a kid again John Averill, bass player and leader of the MarchFourth Marching Band, says the group’s joyous, freewheeling and funky performances are designed with both adults and children in mind.
I’ll go a step further: When I saw MarchFourth, it made this adult feel like a kid again.
Named for the date on which it formed, MarchFourth is a collective from Portland, Ore., that usually performs with almost two dozen members: horn players, a drum corps, dancers, fire breathers, clowns and stilt-walkers. The group plays a few covers, but its material is primarily original, drawing inspiration from jazz and big-band music, rock, funk, vaudeville, conventional marching bands, gypsy and Balkan music, a wide range of Latin, Caribbean and African styles, TV and film scores and the New Orleans second-line tradition. Averill was one of the five founding members who agreed to learn seven cover tunes for a Mardi Gras party on March 4, 2003. The band exploded from there, he says. “In the beginning, we never really planned out where we wanted to go. This thing has taken off with a life of its own. Leading this project is a lesson in learning how to not over-control the situation. It’s like a chariot with 18 horses, and it took off right out of the gate. The individual players and their influences dictate where we go with it.”
MarchFourth will return to Tucson to play this Friday, June 4, at Hotel Congress, as part of the event March Into Summer, presented by the Parasol Project. The festivities will also include an appearance by the local “pirate string band” The Missing Parts and a circus cabaret featuring jugglers, freaks, aerial performers, clowns and dancers.
Tucsonans were first introduced to MarchFourth one balmy Friday night last October. The band played an early-evening set at the annual cultural festival Tucson Meet Yourself in El Presidio Park. As that performance wound down, MarchFourth marched through the Pima County Courthouse arch, took a quick jog on Church Avenue to Congress Street, then headed east, playing the entire time—with a growing crowd joyfully following behind. At a few street corners, MarchFourth took a break from marching to play on the sidewalk, blasting funky brass and drums through the Tucson night. At a couple of stops, local horn players spontaneously jumped in to jam with the group. When the band arrived at the Hotel Congress, it took a quick break to set up on the outdoor stage and played another complete set under the stars, while the dancers and stilt-walkers mixed, mingled and danced with the audience.
MarchFourth can’t stage impromptu parades in every city. The members have to research local ordinances and regulations beforehand, Averill says. “In some places, you can get fined for performing on a city street without a license. In some places, they’ll fine you $500. Per person.” Indeed, every MarchFourth performance is different. “To a certain extent, we always want to keep that spontaneity as a very important ingredient to the whole thing. A lot of our material is arranged in ways to allow for that. A lot of the songs have open-ended arrangements, and it depends on who’s soloing or the rest of the chemistry that dictates how a show will be. Sometimes that means random performers come up to us on the street to play as well.” Averill says some of the current MarchFourth players actually were drawn into the group after joining in during street performances. Nowadays, the extended roster for MarchFourth includes about 35 musicians and performers, although only about 20 travel together for each tour, he says. “Some of them have other commitments. Some are on the first-call list; some are considered substitutes. The money can only spread so far. We’re not making really great money, but I’d rather pay decent money to 20 people for a tour than take 30-plus and have them not making hardly anything.” Averill, 42, says an average MarchFourth tour will include a maximum of five or six horn players, eight drummers and four to six dancers and/or stilt-walkers. And, of course, there’s Averill on bass, trailing a cart with a battery-powered amplifier.
The members come from a variety of musical backgrounds, Averill says. “The horns have more of the formal training, and some of the drummers have experience in school band or marching band. I didn’t personally have marching band in my background. I’m more of a rock guy, originally. But now, I can write music for a mini-orchestra, and have nine different drum parts if I want. “And I don’t take it for granted, either. I feel really grateful that the band is still together and gets along as well as it does. I mean, we’ve had our growing pains and challenging moments, but compared to what I hear about other ‘alternative marching bands’ out there, we are a pretty well-adjusted group.” MarchFourth has recorded and released three independent albums, the most recent being Rise Up. To the group’s credit, the music is excellent on disc, too. “That’s nice to hear, because that aspect is important to me. We don’t just want it to be about the spectacle. We want it to sound like a real band that makes real music that moves you and records CDs that preserve that experience,” Averill says. Most of the band’s members also are full- or part-time artists, designers and craftspeople, who design and fabricate every piece of hardware used, from the stilts to the drum harnesses. And each individual member creates his or her unique uniform. “Everybody can do whatever they want in terms of how they look, for better or worse. Some of us can use a little more fashion sense. Some of the members look really good, and some people roll out of bed, put on a hat and call it good.” -Gene Armstrong