When Portland-based band MarchFourth comes to town Saturday, attendees can expect much more than a typical concert.
The 13-person collective is nationally renown for its live, circus-like spectacle featuring stilt walkers, dancers, and acrobatics to the tune of a full brass lineup, riveting percussion section and overall rock-and-roll attitude. Between the flashy homemade costumes and breathtaking stunts, it's nearly impossible to divert your attention when the band is on stage.
"I would describe it as a super high energy dance party with lots of funk, jazz and brass," says John Averill, who plays bass. "All our songs have a groove."
MarchFourth is one of more than 50 bands that will pass through Arlington's Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts this summer as part of an annual free concert series originally founded to bring vibrancy to the downtown area. Now in its eighth year, the series attracts an estimated 127,000 people to its outdoor space from late-May to mid-July with a mix of popular names and up-and-coming indie bands.
"For decades, literally decades ... Arlington was looking for a way to revitalize its downtown area," recalls Cathy O'Neal, communications director for the Levitt Pavilion, which is part of a nationwide network of music venues built by the Mortimer and Mimi Levitt Foundation.
And there was clearly local demand for it.
Once the foundation settled on Arlington, local organizations and residents raised $1.2 million in a year to make the pavilion a reality, O'Neal says. The 3,500-person venue opened in 2008 and remains the only one in Texas.
Much has changed since that first 16-show run, says O'Neal. For instance, the event's growth has increased infrastructure in the surrounding area.
"This was really to help jump-start that revitalization of downtown Arlington and it clearly has because new restaurants pop up around us every year," she says, citing a new Mellow Mushroom, Twisted Root Burger Co. and Flying Fish.
Additionally, organizers have upped the ante in talent booking. Local a capella sensation Pentatonix has played twice, drawing an estimated 12,000 people each time. When Jimmie Vaughan performed last year, 10,000 people crowded the pavilion's lawn and spilled out into the blocked-off street and an adjacent parking lot, according to O'Neal.
Staff has also begun recruiting newer and hipper bands by watching which ones play Granada Theater and Kessler Theater in Dallas, and by attending music conferences such as South By Southwest.
That's how they found MarchFourth, which will be playing the Levitt Pavilion for a second time on June 6.
And it's a good time for locals to take note -- MarchFourth just finished recording its fourth studio album in New Orleans, which Averill anticipates will be out in early 2016. And the band, which formed spontaneously to play a hybrid Chinese New Year and Mardi Gras party in 2003, recently iterated on its sound by adding more vocals and expanding percussion parts. (The group's name is a reference to that March 4, 2003 event.)
With all the added flips, hula-hoops and dancing, MarchFourth undoubtedly brings a lively, vaudevillian energy to any stage. But Averill attests he and his cohorts have been shaped into a solid bed of talent in the process.
Plan your life
MarchFourth plays at 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 6 at the Levitt Pavilion for the Performing Arts, 100 w. Abram St., Arlington. As always, the concert is free and patrons are welcome to bring food and beverages to the venue. To see who else is playing this summer, visit levittpavilionarlington.org.