Being a member of Portland’s MarchFourth Marching Band means never having to go without good sleep, at least while on the road.
The group, with its 21-person crew of musicians, acrobats and stagehands, has built up a mighty network of friends and family across the country willing to offer a place to stay when the performers are on tour.
After the band plays the Rialto Theatre tonight, some of the MarchFourth ensemble will recharge at the local home of a former associate who lives in town.
The rest will hang on the bus.
“It is like Christmas if the people we are staying with have kids,” said bandleader John Averill. “It’s like having circus folk pile into their house.”
The M4 sleepover is a technique that MarchFourth leaders have learned during its time on the road.
The MarchFourth Marching Band started as a second line-style brass band for a Mardi Gras party in Portland more than 11 years ago.
The group’s style is a raucous blend of New Orleans jazz, funk, rock and other world influences.
When MarchFourth embarked on its first major tour in 2007, it had more than 35 people in the mix.
“We’ve had to streamline since then,” Averill said. “That was our first tour. It was like a field trip. Everybody wanted to come along. We are tighter now and sound better because of it.”
The group has made several trips to Tucson. Though they are not promoting a recently released album, Averill said, MarchFourth has plenty of new material.
The band has worked out a series of new songs, and has taken on a few covers.
Fans can expect to hear some interesting renditions of classic tracks, including a MarchFourth version of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.”
“We avoided covers for a long time,” Averill said, “but people have been really responding to them. We’ve been playing them at shows. I have been shocked by the response.”
Averill said the band is still trying to build an audience in Tucson. Despite its kinship to many of the circus arts acts in town, such as Flam Chen and Cirque Roots, it still pulls bigger audience numbers in Phoenix than it does in the Old Pueblo.
Still, it is hard to resist the pull of Southern Arizona, especially when there is a shower and a warm bed at the end of the night.
“It is nice to see how people live around the country,” Averill said. “It is a radically different experience going from New York to Oregon to Arizona.
“It has been an interesting community-building experience.”