Iconic Canadian band returns to Courtenay

Sid Williams Theatre hosts 54-40 Unplugged

54-40 has a lot to celebrate over the past year. The iconic band — known in some circles as the Godfathers of Canadian grunge — was twice inducted into the Canadian Music Industry Hall of Fame last spring, at the Independent Music Awards (INDIES), and at the Canadian Music and Broadcast Industry Awards. Then in January, the group added another album — Keep On Walking — to a musical resume that spans 38 years.

“It’s been a long time in the making,” said bass player Brad Merritt, noting the band worked on the new album intermittently over the past five years.

54-40, which headlined Vancouver Island MusicFest two years ago, returns to Courtenay Wednesday for an unplugged concert at the Sid Williams Theatre.

“It’ll be a lot of fun,” Merritt said of the March 14 show. “We’re going to play 10 songs off La Difference: A History Unplugged…some kind of deep album tracks, and then play at least two songs off the new record.”

Merritt, a Victoria resident, co-founded 54-40 along with high school buddy Neil Osborne, the band’s singer and guitarist. Its first gig came on New Year’s Eve 1980 at the Smilin’ Buddha Cabaret, the former Vancouver nightspot where Jimi Hendrix used to play. The band later acquired the sign, then donated it to the Museum of Vancouver.

“We built a big case for it, toured with it, and used it on a record,” Merritt said. “It’s on permanent display at the Vancouver Museum.”

Along with Osborne and Merritt, 54-40 consists of drummer Matt Johnson — who came along a few years after the band’s inception and is therefore an “honorary original member,” Merritt said — and guitarist Dave Genn, who replaced Phil Comparelli. Each member is a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist.

Over the years, the band has performed extensively throughout North America and Europe, and produced a string of hits: Baby Ran, I Go Blind, One Day in Your Life, Nice to Luv Ya, One Gun, Ocean Pearl and She La, among others.

In some respects, Merritt said recording and performing music has become even more fun.

“It was fun when we first started,” he said. “You’re working a day job. You play your show, and it’s exciting. (But) It’s a bit of a grind.

Once 54-40 reached “mature band status,” Merritt and company had the luxury of saying yes or no to a gig, and could make a record on their own time.

“I think you can make a better record now,” he said. “You realize this isn’t going to go on forever. You appreciate it more.”

The band has fond memories of a previous performance at the Sid, but their favourite venue is Vancouver’s Commodore Ballroom, where they have played nearly 60 times.

“We play the Commodore every October,” Merritt said. “We have the record for the most performances.”

Check sidwilliamstheatre.com for ticket information about 54-40 Unplugged.

Just Posted

A cuddle and a coffee: Six Island towns named among Canada’s most cozy

Sidney, Campbell River, Courtenay, Parksville, Tofino and Ucluelet crack Expedia’s top 40

Comox Valley Santa’s Workshop in need of bicycles for youngsters, gifts for teens

Santa’s Workshop, at 464 Puntledge Road (formerly the Red Cross building), is… Continue reading

New Coast Guard radar boosts marine traffic monitoring off B.C. coast

Six radar installations set up for Georgia Strait to Queen Charlotte Strait to Prince Rupert

Liquor store robbery suspect arrested

The Comox Valley RCMP have identified the suspect in relation to the… Continue reading

Everybody Deserves A Smile back for its 15th year

Local students leading the charge of spreading Christmas cheer to the Valley’s most vulnerable

Winter weather hits parts of Canada

As some parts of the country brace for cold, parts of B.C. remain warmer than 10 C

Canada’s health system commendable overall but barriers to care remain: UN

The United Nations says Canada’s health care system is “commendable” overall but vulnerable groups still face barriers to quality care.

Mid Island Farmers Institute discusses fleece at November meeting

Are you a lover of wool and local fibre? Interested in raising… Continue reading

Comox Valley Nature invites the public to learn about nature photography

Comox Valley Nature is hosting a public lecture on photography. Join Terry… Continue reading

Unique technology gives children with special needs more independent play

UVic’s CanAssist refined seven prototypes aided by $1.5M government contribution

Kelly Ellard’s boyfriend has statutory release revoked

Darwin Duane Dorozan had several parole infractions that found him ‘unmanageable’

Electoral reform ballot returns so far show higher Courtenay-Comox engagement

Area leads province in percentage of ballots turned in

Doctor’s note shouldn’t be required to prove you’re sick: poll

70% of Canadians oppose allowing employers to make you get a sick note

Port Alberni convenience store robbed

Police still searching for suspect

Most Read