Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Charlotte's Lucky Five rolls the dice at SXSW Tuesday

Soul/funk-rock band Lucky Five is hoping to roll a lucky 13 Tuesday, March 13, when the Charlotte-based band performs a 40-minute set during opening night of the taste-making South By Southwest Music Festival and Conference in Austin, Texas.

With its mix of youthful energy, musicianship well beyond its members’ early twenty-something years, and a passion for danceable, yet meaningful songs, Lucky Five is as likely as any unknown act on the schedule to  catch the ear of someone with industry clout.

Lucky Five take elements from several genres but blend it in the way artists in the `70s and `80s did before categories were so stringently defined. There are moments of Dave Matthews Band-style pop, Stevie Wonder’s `70s piano funk, classic soul, anthemic rock grit, and colorful jazz that filter through the chops of a jam band.

Vocalist/keyboardist Marques Nash, who casts himself as the pop-rock piece of the puzzle with equal allegiances to “dirty” rock and underground hip-hop, keeps the jazz improvisations and tendency to jam in check for the sake of a good pop song.

“From an instrumental point we can get carried away,” says drummer Jesse Williams, gathered with three of the five members at the Wesley Heights home dubbed Sewercide Mansion that Nash shares.
“Marques keeps us grounded,” says guitarist Shago Elizondo.

Adds Williams: “He solves the Rubik’s cube in every song.”

Bassist Andy Mormimoto, who learned playing classic metal, drives the funk element home, while guitarists Shago Elizondo and Jonny Fung bring blues and jazz to the plate, respectively. Williams, a livewire of hair and arms on stage who played his first gig at age five, covers “everything else” in their musical makeup.

Not only is Lucky Five’s music a seamless melting pot of styles, the multi-racial group also represents a cross section of modern America with members of African-American, Asian, and Hispanic backgrounds. That’s exactly what Nash was looking for as an 11-year-old watching gospel musician Kirk Franklin lead an all African-American choir and band.

“He had no white people. I told my mom I wanted to play the piano because I wanted to do what he did, but I wanted to do it the right way. I come from a mixed family. My step dad is white. As a little kid (Kirk Franklin’s band) bothered me,” recalls Nash, who abandoned his goal to be a top praise and worship leader. “When I realized my vision was bigger than the church I walked away from that. There’s people hurting next door and at the gas station. I want my music to fix those hearts, not necessarily the people that are spoon fed every Sunday morning.”

“That’s probably why everyone is a different race in our band,” adds Nash. “It makes you realize one race doesn’t run a genre of music. I think people enjoy seeing that. No one ever guesses what we’re going to sound like. They assume I’m the bass player, which is just racist,” he laughs. “Or they assume I’m a rapper with a live band. When that doesn’t happen and we get to blow their minds - that’s probably the most satisfying feeling.”

Lucky Five, who attracted the attention of a SXSW scout at the Mid-Atlantic Music Conference in October, isn’t the only Charlotte act heading to SXSW. Hip-hop act the ThoughtCriminals and pop singer-songwriter Jon Lindsay also play Tuesday. Wretched and Young and in the Way play metal showcases Thursday and Friday, respectively. Indie rock act Junior Astronomers will also play parties in an unofficial capacity.

South By Southwest, which marks its 26th anniversary, has grown to include film and interactive media and technology. It now stretches for 10 days with six of those focusing on music. It’s gotten so big that stars like Bruce Springsteen, who doesn’t need the gig to get noticed, are booked alongside a small phone book of unknowns.

The 19-hour trip is an expensive gamble for the band, who failed to reach its goal with a Pledge Music (http://www.pledgemusic.com/artists/7716) campaign. That isn’t the only wrinkle. Mormimoto was already committed to a school trip to Canada. Instead live guest Adrian Crutchfield (Anthony Hamilton) will handle key bass and saxophone duties.

Regardless of whether Lucky Five lives up to its name at SXSW, locally it will return to play Charlotte’s second annual AWOL: the Benefit festival at South Park’s Symphony Park April 21. Robert Randolph & the Family Band, a multicultural band whose leader brought his own church-learned music to a wider secular audience, is set to headline. His is a career Nash would like to emulate.

“Robert Randolph can do whatever he wants,” he adds. “It’s soulful rock. I want to be allowed to do that. Not lose my roots. Not lose my culture. I want to be mainstream and have our sound.” 

(Photo Credit Daniel Clark Cunningham. Pictured from left: Mormimoto, Fung, Elizondo, Nash and Williams).


  1. Cool bunch of guys. Back in 2008 they played a benefit concert for our daughter, Emily Rose, when she was fighting leukemia. They jumped all over the idea when they were approached by friends and helped us raise over $2000 in one night. Good guys. Good sound. Do well and make Austin notice you!

  2. Amazing live band and a great group of guys. Hope they do hit it big. In a world filled with junk mass produced music they bring the real deal. Good Luck Boys!!

  3. cool for them. have fun in Tx... need to check these guys out, how about a snug harbor show with the O-getters? sounds like a good match.

  4. They are a great band!! I've seen them twice in Charlotte. Love the mix of musical style and the cool instrumentals. Vocals are unique and filled with raw emotion and talent. You just walk away feeling like their music has lifted your soul!

  5. We will definately be reading about these guys in Rolling Stone in the future. They got the Chops!!

  6. The Lucky Five are the real deal. They play music that makes your soul smile and your feet start to move. It is an interesting mix of soul, rock, and personality. The guitars are the relish, the drums the main course, the keyboard the glue, and the horns the cherry on top. When they come back to Charlotte go support their harmony of racial equality and a good time. You won't be disappointed.

  7. One of the best bands in Charlotte. Uplifting fun sound. You feel their good vibes. Have a great time in Austin!

  8. Thank you for the very kind comments, Austin interesting. and weird (the city's catchphrase) , but in a cool way. Tonight's the night...more later.

  9. I have come to know this band through the last five or six months, and they are so talented, so kind and so humble. They deserve all of the good things coming their way and much more. I wish them all the best in their performance today and I can't wait to see them perform back in Charlotte before they blow up and become huge

  10. Thinking of y'all! and wishing you a fabulous show! Love, Auntie

  11. Musical, danceable, relate-able and completely enjoyable live band. They bring the energy to every show in every way. Austin is in for a treat!

    Rock ommmmmmmmm guys.

    Much love, Rebecca & Richard

  12. Thank you to all for all the kind words... we do feel as though we rocked Austin with our patented honesty and energy. It was an amazing experience for all of us. From having Matt Sorum (Guns and Roses and Velvet Revolver drummer) digging our show and shaking his head in disbelief at Jesse William's showcasing on drums and asking"can you get us in the show'... with a much obliged "of course" from our manager Jim Jervis... to the musical instrument companies that expressed interest in a number of endorsement opportunities, SXSW was so much fun! We represented and promoted Charlotte for it's own very cool musical scene. We look forward to being invited back next year... bigger venue, more exposure and more "Here's what Charlotte's music scene is all about.... Much love to ya'll... Lucky Five