Marchfourth Marching Band at Crescent Ballroom, 4/27/12

I think I'm going to run away with the circus. If they can get out of Phoenix, that is. 

Last night marked the second time I've seen Marchfourth Marching Band live (And, admittedly, the first time I've seen them sober.) It's an act that's difficult to describe without raising a few eyebrows, and hey, that's understandable. After all, they have a roster of over 30 horns players, percussionists, dancers, guitarists and more that travel the country in military, circus-inspired costumes and whacky sunglasses playing a combination of polka, gypsy and rock. 

If it sounds bizarre and vaguely immature, it is, but in a great way. Here are these Portland-based 20-somethings that left behind prospects of a "real job" to tour with their buddies, play a few elaborately decorated instruments and make friends with stilt walkers. It's not a bad gig if you ask me. Hell, if they asked me, I'd probably join. 

They whittled down the roster to around 20 last night. Those brave souls went through hell trying to get to our dusty desert town, and when they finally got here, their bus broke down. Jokingly, they asked the at-capacity audience for cash to get them back on their feet. The crowd wadded up their money and threw it on stage. I'd tell you how much they received, but the band lost count. Honestly, I was pretty proud of our city. They were thrilled. 

In fact, they seem pretty much thrilled about anything. The band's range of emotions range from all business to straight up glee, as exhibited by the band's bass drum-tapping centerpiece, who couldn't wipe the smile off his face the whole time. His emotion was reflected in the audience, whose smirks forgave their sweaty bodies rubbing up against each other. 

As the music started, the crowd packed in, filling the room with panting, dancing, sticky, sweaty, lovable belligerents that collectively turned the room's average temperature from around 75 to an easy 90 degrees. It was worth the pain, though, as they led the crowd through a series of dance moves and really got the crowd pumped. 

Before you say they these guys are childish hippies, know that the band's "conductor" actually does some conducting. And everyone, even the stilt walkers, waits for his cue. There's some legitimate talent going on here. No one is single-handedly pulling the weight of the others. 

Ever seen a girl pole dance, where the poles are actually the stilts of her Vaudevillian male counterpart? I have, and this morning it feels a little like a bizarre fever dream. 

I want to go back. 

Critic's Notebook:

Last night: Marchfourth Marching Band at Crescent Ballroom. 

Personal bias: I caught these guys down in Tucson during a legendary show at Club Congress. They had a bit more space to work with there. Given Crescent Ballroom's size, they rocked the shit out of that venue. 

Random notebook dump: Between the donations and the crowd participation, anyone who says Phoenix crowds are docile, boring collectives can officially suck it. Add some stilt walkers to your act and see how Phoenix reacts. 

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Christina Caldwell