In the world of professional musicians, touring is a great way to get to know your bandmates intimately. Thats not necessarily a good thing.
Sleeping habits, quirks, odd smells and bad habits become problems for the people with whom you share a van, a cheap hotel room and the stage. Its a problem for small outfits such as trios and quartets; for a group of 23, including 19 musicians, two drivers, a roadie and a merch person who are on the road 200 days a year, that, to me, seems like hell. I have trouble traveling with one person. Good thing Im not in a band.
Despite the overwhelming numbers, if I was in a band and it couldnt be Thin Lizzy, it would be the March Fourth Marching Band, a musical, vaudevillian traveling stage circus that will pull in to the Abbey Theatre on Sunday night. The band is touring in support of its latest release, Magnificent Beast, recorded in Portland, Ore., and produced by Steve Berlin from Los Lobos.
What began as a band thrown together for a Mardi Gras party nine years ago has grown into a full-time venture.
Weve been touring relentlessly over the last two years, and the project keeps evolving. It started out as a party, and weve become a serious band, said bass player and band leader John Averill last week from the Pacific Northwest.
I mean, its still fun and crazy good times, but the musicianship and overall production has improved over the last few years.
And a production it is. A March Fourth Marching Band show is a rock concert, New Orleans second line and high school marching band performance that also is a vaudeville show.
Its pretty organic, Averill said. We have stilt-walkers and dancers, and they do specific routines to specific songs. We are pretty unscripted with our set list. I put it together the day of the show, depending on feeling out what the room is like, what town were playing in and if its an all-ages show with kids or an over-21 show at night.
Sadly for those of you younger than 21, Sundays show is the latter.
Magnificent Beast is a 12-song collection that flows from rock standards with horns to striptease soundtracks.
The new record we just made has more jazz, funk and rock and even a little bit of blues in it, Averill said. Our earlier records had more of a European gypsy brass sound, we had a lot more samba and Latin stuff, but now the sound has been rounded out by American forms of music over the last couple of years.
Its a reflection of the March Fourth Marching Bands bread and butter, which is playing live. Its a show for the audience.
Its a really fun show, the music is very high energy and people like to dance, Averill said. We try to integrate the audience into our shows, so we all have a good time.
Want to get on board? The bands website has a substitute member band application, and theyre always ready to take on an eager performer or even a CDL license holder.
Bryant Liggett is a freelance writer and KDUR station manager. Reach him at Liggett_b@fortlewis.edu.