The 54
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The 54

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The cliché “never a dull moment” may best describe the live show of The 54, an Atlanta hard rock band. The band played at the 5 Spot (http://www.fivespot-atl.com/) in Little Five Points recently, and there was barely breathing room in the venue. This band puts on a high energy show, replete with lights, smoke, and leaps into the crowd, reminiscent of eighties band Fishbone. Not only are they very talented musicians, but the 54 shatters many myths surrounding rock bands.

The 54 (http://www.myspace.com/the54) is comprised of Enye Willingham on lead vocals and guitar, Mercury Jackson, bass and vocals; Walter Chastang, lead guitar and vocals; and Mike Jones on drums. Pardon the second cliché, but this band is young, gifted, and black, quite rare in rock this hard. They are charismatic, entertaining, and serious about what they do. Rumor has it that when they’re not “head banging,” these young men attend Morehouse College.

The 54 does something else that few rocks bands do: They bring together people of different backgrounds and races. The crowd in the 5 Spot was fairly equally divided between black and white. The opening band, Parachute Musical (http://www.myspace.com/parachutemusical), is all white and hails from Nashville. While Parachute Musical’s sound is a bit “soft” to pair with The 54, the crowd seemed to appreciate them, especially when they covered a well known song. Watching these two bands and their fans in one venue harkens a vision of utopia, a view of the world as it should be. The crowd’s true excitement, however, became visible as the smoke began to rise, ushering The 54 to the stage.

The bulk of the crowd immediately surged forward. The MC earlier warned that if attendees had never been to a show for The 54, “newbies” should step away from the stage. That warning became clear once the music began. Several people near the front began jumping up and down, and suddenly, the crowd simultaneously raised their hands and passed a fan through the crowd, above their heads. In short order, the band members began being passed over the crowd as well. While this activity may not seem unusual to some, seeing an all black band do this certainly seems a novelty, as does Enye, the lead singer, performing in bare feet. The 54 is definitely not the average rock band.

Interestingly enough, no information can be found about the band, yet they managed to pack a room the size of 5 Spot, which is not a small room. Perhaps The 54 has discovered and perfected the art of “word-of-mouth” promotions. Maybe the band’s presence on a college campus have created the draw, again, by word of mouth, but it is certainly interesting that a simple Google search produces nothing more than the band’s MySpace and Facebook pages, yet they draw crowds in excess of 100. Pretty impressive for a band that has no presence. The band does not appear to have a regular play schedule, so to catch a show, stay peeled to the band’s MySpace. Next up for them is the Insomnia in Villa Rica, GA, on November 6. The band almost comes across as a “secret society;” however, should word reach a larger audience, there is little doubt that these guys will capture them. They have the look, the sound, and the following, all of which can make them a real force in the indie music market. Make no mistake: The 54’s music is not for the “faint at heart.” It is loud, grinding rock music. But, for what they do, The 54 is best bet. - Atlanta Live Music Examiner - Shirley Kennedy


Discography

Dominate - EP released 2009

Photos

Bio

The 54 is possibly the least likely export of Morehouse College which has produced the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., Spike Lee, and Samuel L. Jackson, or are they? When the three longest standing members (Mercury, Walter, and Enye) met each other on campus, the climate around the Atlanta University Center appeared unwelcoming with T-Pain and Soulja Boy ruling the airwaves and campus party scene. The only public outlet they found to experiment with their acoustic sound was at an on-campus Open-Mic spoken word/poetry night which was held every Thursday at Jazzman's Cafe. Their unique approach to contemporary sounds inspired enough curiosity in audiences to have moderate success writing, self-producing, and releasing a 10 song EP entitled "10 Ways to Slay a Giant" under the band name Emerje.

With the acquisition of the fourth member, drummer Michael Jones, and brand new electric guitars to replace the old dusty acoustics, they set their sites on further developing an edgier sound that displayed what was becoming increasingly absent from the Rock scene: honesty, rawness, and showmanship merged with hints of what they liked most about hip-hop and R&B. Other influences would not be spared, including a little reggae (Tiny Little Cups), jazz (She's Sexy or their cover of Feeling Good), as well as blues. One thing that remained clear however was that in spite of the varying influences, the sound achieved was no fusion project. It was inarguably rock music.

At this point, only one thing was missing: a name. They experimented with several ideas: Chucks and Forces, StereoTip, Better than Sects... Nothing was striking a chord, until it came: The 54. While the reason for choosing this name (or number) is still unknown to many, no one can deny that with it came a new attitude, confidence, and a deeply rooted desire to transform the Atlanta music scene into a living, breathing, snarling beast that devours all other popular notions of contemporary music with animalistic killer instincts. One of their undeniable strengths is their ability to merge different sounds with an explosiveness that inspires listeners to respond with the same uncontrollable, unapologetic impulsiveness. With lyrical content to expose the pre-historic definitions of fun, music, celebration, and honest human expression, The 54 shows signs of becoming the relatable rock band by which every other band claiming to be "of the people" must measure themselves. Having developed a cult-like following in Atlanta, the band has their eyes set on national and international ambitions. The 54 is soon to let the world know what they've been missing.