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Lucky Five To Reunite for the Holidays

When Marques Nash lifts his sleeve to reveal the tattoo on his right forearm, it depicts a megaphone boldly broadcasting waves of sound.

Above the megaphone is the title of Lucky Five’s album, La Resistance. Released in 2010, the eight-song studio collection crackled with the electric intensity of the quintet’s live shows. Propelled by Shago Elizondo’s and Jonny Fung’s dynamic caroming guitars and Nash’s soulful impassioned vocals, La Resistance fused funk, soul and jazz into a swinging pop-rock package.

Lucky Five shows were a communal experience that went beyond mere performance, I tell Elizondo and Nash. I know because I was at one 10 years ago. It was a house party in east Charlotte that felt more like a family gathering with the band members as the youngest members of the clan. I remember that one of the Lucky Five was too young to drink.

“That was me,” Elizondo, now 27, says laughing. Playing parties and clubs, the band built upon the virtuosic playing and welcoming vibe of their sets, going from strength to strength. They landed high-profile gigs at Time Warner Blues BBQ and Speed Street, and played a South by Southwest showcase in Austin in 2012.

Lucky Five at an old show before they disbanded (from left): Adrian Crutchfield, Jonny Fung, Jesse Williams, Marques Nash, Andy Morimoto and Shago Elizondo. (Photo by Arvind Bhandari)

Just as they were building momentum, the band came to an end with little fanfare. Band members moved away to raise families and get on with their lives. Nash, Elizondo and drummer Jesse Williams tried to keep the flame alive with a combo called Electric Cartel, but the passion had dimmed and the moment had passed. Plans to reunite never did come to fruition — until now. On Dec. 26, the original lineup of Nash, Elizondo, Williams, Fung and bassist Andy Morimoto will play a reunion show at the Evening Muse.

That’s why Elizondo and Nash have agreed to talk about Lucky Five and the band’s special connection to its dedicated fan base. We’re at Sugar Creek Brewing, where Nash, now 31 years old, is on the management team. He shares his enthusiasm for working the other side of the music business; booking artists and acts he once shared stages with for the brewery. That’s when talk turns to Lucky Five’s debut — and so far only — album.

“That album is my heartbeat,” says Nash, who got his tattoo right after the release of La Resistance. He explains the importance of the megaphone as a symbol for communication. “I felt I had a lot of things to say and people couldn’t hear me. I felt that if I played louder and spoke louder — if I made enough noise — then people would have to listen.”

Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, Nash started singing in church at age 10. In time, as his church songs grew edgier, rougher and louder, Nash realized that he just wanted to play rock ‘n’ roll.

Elizondo started playing guitar at 13, progressing from classic rock to progressive metal, before slowing it down to take in blues, jazz and soul. When he was 15, Elizondo met Nash, now 18, who had just moved to Charlotte. The pair sat down to play a John Mayer song, and they knew then and there that they clicked.

Elizondo credits Guitar Center for bringing other band members into the fold. It was there that he met Williams, Morimoto and Fung. By 2008, the five-piece unit was complete, occasionally augmented by saxophonist Adrian Crutchfield. Two years later, Lucky Five started recording their album. “It took us a long time to do it,” Elizondo says.

“We were recording that album for a year-and-a-half to two years.”

The long time span was due to the band’s perfectionism, but also because Lucky Five got a lucky break. Elizondo had a friend, Jeremiah Small, who interned at Gat3 Studios in Charlotte. Studio owner Glenn Tabor liked the band and let them record after hours for a fraction of the normal rate. “We would go in there until 5 a.m. and just bang out tunes and get everything perfect,” Elizondo remembers.

In the meantime, the band’s manger Jim Jervis booked the band for an official South by Southwest showcase. Lucky Five stayed in downtown Austin for free and scored a keyboard endorsement at a gear expo, but Nash’s favorite memories stem from the drive to and from Austin.

“You really get to know your bandmates trapped in a van for 21 hours,” Nash says laughing. “You get to know their smells, their habits and their driving patterns.”

With so much going for them, it seems perplexing that Lucky Five called it quits in 2012.

“Life just happened,” Nash explains. Morimoto went to college in Chicago to study political science, Elizondo says.

Then Fung moved to New York so his wife could attend college, and began a producing career in the city. For the past three years, Elizondo has been a working musician, frequently touring with national acts. Nash is now the father of two daughters, 6-year-old Demi and 8-month-old Miles. Nash is approaching his one-year anniversary at Sugar Creek, a time he describes as one of the happiest years of his life.

Shago Elizondo (left) and Marques Nash hang out at Sugar Creek Brewing Co. (Photo by Pat Moran)

“My priorities changed after Demi was born,” Nash remembers. “I wanted to be there for every step, every breath, everything she did.” Music continued to be important to him, Nash continues, but he’s glad he decided to focus on his family.

But this year, the stars have finally aligned. All the (former) boys of Lucky Five will be back in town at Christmastime. Prior to the reunion gig, Nash and Elizondo revisited the old material and were surprised by how little had changed.

“We put the first song on and we were like, ‘Oh shit, this is not nearly as hard as we thought it was going to be,’” Elizondo says.

The material still seems fresh, Nash adds. He also feels that the eight-year-old songs’ messages of hope remain strong. Nash always wanted people to realize that they’re not alone.

“I felt alone a lot. I dealt with a lot of things growing up. I battled addiction and depression. [The songs were] a way that I could connect with people without having to tell my super long-ass story,” he explains.

Above all, the reunion show will be a celebration, Nash says.

“I love any time that the original boys are together,” he continues. “They’re my family.”

Nash maintains that the biggest thrill will be hanging out with those four friends. “We were always friends first and bandmates second, which is why we were so successful for so long. We never had big blow outs or fall outs, because we loved to hang out together.”

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