Marching to a different beat


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An explosion of upbeat music fills the room as a group of 22 dancers, trumpet players, acrobats, drummers, and stilt-walkers march onto the stage and start to perform. A variety of musical influences, including samba, big-band, and gypsy brass music, combine to create an eclectic musical sound.

The dancers and stilt-walkers groove to the melody in mini-skirts, striped shirts, and fingerless gloves, adding to the circus-like feel of the show. Some marching-band staples are worn in a new fashion with zebra-print feathered hats and studded boots.

Within seconds, audiences can tell MarchFourth Marching Band is not a traditional marching band.
"I want people to walk away saying it's the best show they've seen all year," said John Averill, the band leader and bass player for the band. "And people have said that a lot."

The band from Portland, Ore., will play in Iowa City for the first time at 8 p.m. today at Gabe's, 330 E. Washington St., as part of its fall tour. Admission is $10. On the tour, the group will visit many Midwestern states it has never played in before, including Iowa.

"Coming to a brand-new city is always exciting for me because you just don't know what is going to happen," Averill said.

The band was created on March 4, 2003, when a group of musicians in Portland decided to play together for a Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras party on that date, giving the band its name. The band was extremely successful in its first 10 months, opening for the Youngblood Brass Band, performing with Pink Martini, and playing in 34 shows.

In 2008, it became a familiar name in the national festival circuit when it played in the Festival International de Louisiane, High Sierra Music Festival, and Waterfront Blues Festival. Averill hopes the band's MidWestern shows will help expand the band's popularity and increase the number of its fans.

Lindberg Chambliss, a talent buyer for Gabe's, said the group is "not your average band" because of its large size and its variety of musical influences. The animation in its performances made him want the group to play at Gabes's, and he booked the show as soon as he heard the band was touring in the Midwest.

"It was the overall performance that really drew me in," Chambliss said. "Words are not enough to explain the energy, excitement, and magic [the band] brings to each performance. You have to see it to believe it."

Averill, too, believes his group brings a kind of atmosphere not normally seen in musical acts, one that's full of whimsy and excitement.

"Our performance is exciting; it's a … sort of spectacle that you can dance to," he said. "It's hard to see everything at the show because there are so many things going on all sides of the stage."

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