Stuck waiting in traffic at a border crossing into the U.S. for a gig, 54•40 bassist Brad Merritt said the band continues to look forward.
“You have to look through the rear view mirror now and then though to figure out where you have been,” he said.
And the view that day was a growing lineup of cars waiting behind, excitedly inching forward with their every movement — an analogy that could be drawn for 54•40’s fans. Merritt said after 30 years of being together they have kept a loyal fanbase, while winning over new ones. He noticed a few years ago there is a whole new generation now listening to their music.
“If you are in your early 40s and discovered us fairly early or maybe in your formative years then you maybe get married and have a couple of kids and are still playing the music on the stereo, the kids grow up listening to that and they are now at the show. It has happened several times where I looked out in the crowd and noticed that and that is great. I fully expect that in Penticton,” said Merritt.
The Okanagan is no stranger to Merritt, who has vacationed here for years with his family and performed with the band on a regular basis in the area. B.C. forever will be home for 54•40. The alternative rock band has come a long way since their very first gig on New Year’s Eve 1981 at the Smilin’ Buddha Cabaret. That venue’s name was the title of their sixth album, which went platinum.
“My personal goal when we started was to open up for the Subhumans at the Commodore Ballroom and that was as far as I could see and I could die happy,” said Merritt.
That concert bill was never created, but the Commodore became a comfort zone for 54•40. It was here they opened for bands touring through, eventually lining up their own shows, and almost every year since 1986 they have performed at least once at the renowned Vancouver music venue.
Merritt estimates in their 30 years they have performed live some 2,000 times, pushing them to become better musicians, singers and develop an attitude to not take anything for granted.
“We are at the point where most people are quite familiar with our songs and they are happy to see us and we are happy to be there. You get this energy flowing at live shows so it is a very positive experience. The hard part of what we do is all the stuff other than the playing, you know like trying to get across the border,” chuckled Merritt.
The band has an unbelievable catalogue of hit songs including Baby Ran, She La, One Gun, Ocean Pearl, I Go Blind, One Day In Your Life and Nice to Luv You.
Last year they released the album Lost In The City and Merritt said they are working on new songs they hope to release next year. Led by chief songwriter Neil Osborne, 54•40 has carved out a legacy of gold and platinum albums and an outstanding reputation for their live performances with a genuine sound that isn’t out of a “musical laboratory,” said Merritt.
The guitarist said expect to hear a bulk of their hits when they play Peachfest on Friday at Okanagan Lake Park at 9:40 p.m. He added that even after playing so many shows they haven’t become robots on stage, in fact, it is the live shows that they draw inspiration and strength from.
“When you have done this as long as we have and you get to a certain age, you realize this doesn’t last forever. As long as this has lasted, at some point it is going to end. I think that adds a sense of appreciation. This is a wonderful thing we have and we got into it with that sort of spirit.”