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MarchFourth: a date, a command, a band

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I was only able to stay for the first set of the MarchFourth Marching Band concert last Friday, but I left feeling as satisfied and entertained as I would have after a full show. The Portland-based troupe of musicians and entertainers were some of the most intriguing and lively performers I’ve ever had the privilege of seeing.

The White Rabbit Cabaret’s intimate accommodations allowed for seated viewing (awarded to those who arrived early), as well as floor observation right in front of the stage. Although I erroneously sized up the venue in my preview (it’s actually smaller than Radio Radio overall, but White Rabbit’s stage does dwarf Radio Radio’s by a landslide), it still proved to be the most appropriate space for this show.

The MarchFourth Marching Band is comprised of a group of young adults who enjoy tattoos, piercings, and various other forms of body modification, including eccentric mustaches and vibrant hair dye. There were three female dancers with mystic shapes and squiggles painted on their faces to accentuate their eyes and whimsical facial expressions. One of the drummers, skilled at welding and metalworking, had modified the frame that held his drum to appear as a futuristic marching cyborg. Two risers faced each other on opposite sides of the stage, one for brass and the other for saxophones (including one male sax player whose face was plastered with glitter).

During the first song, the trumpets and trombones moved from their risers in the back half of the stage to form a line at the front, while stilt walkers danced around on the floor and in the audience. Next, the marching band played a song they had learned for Halloween. For this number, attention shifted to the stilt walkers, as they re-entered the floor holding real-life marionettes that attached long rubber bands to the arms and legs of two dancers. The women paraded about with an amazingly realistic lifelessness, but they soon became irritated with the stilt walkers’ control over them. Before the song concluded, the marionettes retaliated by running dizzying circles around their puppeteers, effectively tying them up in the elastic strings they were attached to. Another early song featured the dancers in burlesque-style choreography that revolved around a sequin-studded rope that they all held on to for the duration of the swing tune.

The crowd was captivated by the dramatic engagement and were moved by the music. They were active from start to finish, dancing with each other and interacting with the band through the conclusion of the first set. With other similar groups in existence such as Chicago-based Mucca Pazza and The Extra Action Marching Band from San Diego, MarchFourth has distinguished itself by leveraging on the incredible, high-quality, real-life visuals of their presentation. They've successfully branded themselves as "A date. A Command. A Band." and they do not disappoint.

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