Jambands, Concert Review >>
by Jed Nussbaum
MarchFourth Marching Band, The Top Hat, Missoula, MT – 2/23
MarchFourth Marching Band arrived in Missoula, MT on one of the winter’s most brutal nights, with temperatures barely reaching 10 degrees and 40 mph wind gusts creating snow drifts that made the trek downtown an arctic endeavor. It’s not every night that an experience like M4 announces that they’re here to party, however, and the thought of cramming a colossal live band, accompanied by a formidable circus act roadshow, into a relatively small venue like the Top Hat was simply too absurd to miss. At the very least, it was bound to turn a Wednesday night into one hell of a party.
The decision to have LYNX, a singer/songwriter/producer who’s been making waves in the festival scene for a while, open for M4 on this tour seemed strange at first. Not that LYNX doesn’t possess the musical chops, but it seemed implausible that one woman armed with little more than a laptop and a microphone could entertain a crowd that showed up to see a 20+ member carnival. As soon as LYNX took the stage, however, she hypnotized the audience with the concentrated ability of a snake charmer. Her unique, expressive voice turned heads throughout the bar, and soon the floor in front of the stage was filled with people attempting to interpret her sound through the movement of their bodies. “I’m a folkie-trance cyborg,” LYNX announced at one point, proving it with a blend of forthright songwriting and imaginative beats, accompanied occasionally by her brother on a drumkit. She also showcased the rapping and beatboxing abilities she’s earned a reputation for, ending her set with a crowd-pleasing cover of Blackstreet’s “No Diggity.”
The air in the Top Hat was full of restless energy during the interlude between acts. M4 members were scattered throughout the venue, adding to the already surreal environment. At one point, a man climbed on top of a stool to converse with a stilt-walker that loomed over the bar drinking a beer. Suddenly, the intermission music stopped and the stage area transformed into a cacophony of costumes, lights, drums and horns. The band struck up a tune and the dance floor became a whirlwind of stilt-walker acrobatics. The crowd maintained a safe distance from the extended appendages until the second tune, when the performers ushered the audience forward. The festivities had officially begun.
Make no mistake; the musicians in M4 are not trying to compensate for anything with their numbers and showmanship. Nearly everybody wielding an instrument stepped forward to leave their mark as an accomplished soloist. It’s as if an assemblage of oddball band nerds got sucked into a David Bowie acid trip, adding strobe lights, feather boas, tattoos and sunglasses to their traditional marching band outfits and drawing influences from every corner of the musical spectrum. The inclusion of electric guitar to the band’s sound helps to highlight a ska influence on some songs, causing a couple dancers in the audience to skank like it was 1997. The band blazed through a wealth of new material, while peppering their setlist with older favorites like “Dynomite,” before taking a short break a little after midnight.
Second set was kicked off with a provocative jazz number, and the crowd once again stepped back as a pair of female stilt-walkers performed a cabaret chair dance routine with equally tall chairs. It soon became impossible to find an occupied bar stool, and equally as challenging to find floorspace that wasn’t already overtaken by stomping feet. At one point, the horn players stepped back and left the drum section to pound out a jam that sent the audience into a tribal frenzy. Later, the band selected three dancers from the crowd to join them on stage for a dance-off. The band sent the winner home with a trophy custom-made for the night, but the rest of the audience barely noticed as they continued to demonstrate their own boogie abilities undeterred. The ensemble pushed their set until the last possible moment, thoroughly proving to Missoula that when MarchFourth brings the circus to town, wind and snow can’t stop the show. 03/07/11 >> go there