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MarchFourth in July 2017 at the Big Mine Ice Arena in Crested Butte, Colorado. [crestedbuttearts.org]

MarchFourth a brassy blast of funk

MarchFourth was founded 15 years ago for a Fat Tuesday party in Portland.

"I was putting together bands for themed events in Portland," says bandleader and bass player John Averill. "So we put together a New Orleans-style, second-line thing, except with electric bass because I didn't know any tuba players at the time. So what started out as a band for a Mardi Gras party just kept growing."

With its four percussionists, seven horn players and electric guitar and bass, the band has no shortage of big, brassy and funky tunes. Throw in dancers, stilt walkers and acrobats and you've got a high-energy, in-your-face show.

"It's not like Cirque du Soleil," Averill says. "It's a modern-day, funky big band. We throw all kinds of things into the mix, Latin, Afro-beat, Eastern European Gypsy brass and New Orleans stuff, along with rock, jazz and funk. We don't really sound like anyone else."

MarchFourth performs at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 9, at the Rogue Theatre, 143 S.E. H St., Grants Pass. Rogue Valley duo Intuitive Compass opens the show. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at roguetheatre.com, at the box office, or by calling 541-471-1316.

Averill is still based in Portland, but some of MarchFourth's players live in the San Francisco Bay Area, New Orleans or Washington state.

"We always tour with the same number of players," he says. "So there will be 12 musicians (our sax player also plays guitar), and three performers. That part changes up, but stilts and acrobatics seem to be the staples of our shows."

The first show of this 13-day tour brings the band to Southern Oregon, followed by stops in California, Las Vegas, Utah, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico, before it returns to Portland to play its annual anniversary shows at the Crystal Ballroom.

The last five years or so, the band has averaged about 150 days per year on the road.

"Last year, we played Winnepeg, Rhode Island, but haven't been to the southeast in a while," Averill says. "This year we've been doing tours that range from long weekends to a week-and-a-half out."

Averill and his band mates also serve as their crew on the road, loading in and out of performance venues as a team.

"There's like 20 of us on the bus, including a sound man and the driver," he says.

MarchFourth performs its own music, with the horn players generally writing more compositions than the drummers. Averill writes some songs, and the group throws a few covers into its sets.

"We've found that audiences like it when there's something familiar," he says. "But for the most part the shows feature original music. We have a lot of material, and we've recorded a lot of music. We never really play the same show twice, but mix it up each time. It keeps the whole thing organic."

In 2015, the group traveled to New Orleans to record its fourth studio album, "Magic Number," at The Parlor Recording Studio. The album was fan-funded through Kickstarter and independently released in September 2016. It represents a shift in musical progression by including more vocals and guitar than on previous records. It's also the first by MarchFourth, though MarchFourth Marching Band can still be found on Spotify, CD Baby and iTunes.

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