Review by Sarah Thatcher – Photos by Alex Kreutzer of LouderPhotography

Part New Orleans Jazz band, part burlesque acrobatic team, March Fourth Marching Band is the band you wish you were in when you were in High School – if only you were cool enough. In addition to just being a great band, this ensemble out of Portland, Oregon is a visual treat. There is so much happening on stage that you are afraid to look away.  Their September 29th show at Musikfest Cafe in Bethlehem, PA was a high-energy, high-impact evening of entertainment.

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Twelve musicians, two stilt walkers and two dancers, all in re-imagined band uniforms, seem to share the stage seamlessly. There is a constant flurry of activity from beginning to end. Musicians move to the front of the stage for their solos, then recede back into place to let someone else have the spotlight. At other times the musicians themselves are dancing.   The music has hints of Dixieland jazz, big-band bombast, traditional drum line and marching band sounds, and the occasional dip into jam band grooviness.  Throughout all of the musical excellence, stilt walkers groove in unison and do high kicks across the stage, musicians shimmy and shake across the floor, and dancers keep the crowd pumped. Even though they are such a large ensemble they are able to highlight each member’s talents.

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This show is more than just a concert, it is a theatrical experience. It is as if you are listening to a live soundtrack that is brought to life visually by the choreography of the dancer-acrobats on stage. They act out love triangles and put on a puppet show with life-size marionettes. They perform feats that would be difficult on your own two feet, let alone performed on stilts. During the song “Snake Five,” one stilt walker supports a pole while a dancer shimmies up and performs an gravity-defying pole dance. Later in the show the stilt walkers support the acrobats as if they were a living jungle gym. It’s an awe-inspiring display of strength and agility with a touch of suspense.

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All of this frenetic energy translates to the audience. In this mixed crowd the dance floor was packed from the start. Those who weren’t already on their feet were guided through a “seventh inning stretch” during the song “Delhi Belly” to get them up and moving half way through the show. Nothing like a little audience participation to connect everyone in the room and loosen things up.  The way the dancers, and sometimes the band, move through the crowd makes you feel part of the spectacle.

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A March Fourth show is the best circus you’ve ever been to with music that is electrifying and diverse. The variety of influences merge to make their style keep you guessing from one song to the next. I don’t know what mastermind dreamt this group up, but they have found their niche and will make you think twice about those marching bands on game day.

FULL SHOW GALLERY

Photos by Alex Kreutzer of LouderPhotography