Don’t forget to check out the photos from the show here!
If there’s one thing Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers are good at, it’s making music most people can relate to. From relationships, to children and family, to falling in and out of love, these songs are about real life connections.
For those unaware, this Western Massachusetts based band, also commonly referred to as the SK6ERS, are currently out on what they are cleverly calling the HI-ATE-US tour. Yes, a funny play on words for what appears to be an undefined break coming for the band. Make no mistake though, they are playing with as much passion and fire as you would expect.
This tour stop took place at the Park West in Chicago, IL. A venue known for hosting a multitude of artists over the years, it has somewhat of an interesting seating arrangement. Fans have the opportunity to stand next to a lower than normal stage or they can sit at more intimate tables scattered around the back half of the venue. Personally, I feel this was a perfect environment for those that wanted to dance and those who preferred to relax and enjoy some amazing music.
Miggs started off the night with a 30-minute set that consisted mostly of songs from their new album, 15th & Hope. They did a fantastic job of getting the crowd warmed up by playing great songs and singing excellent harmonies. Singer Don Miggs played acoustic guitar for most of the night, while guitarist John Luzzi also pulled double-duty on keyboards. Michael Lombardo, bass, and Walker Adams, drums, kept an even groove throughout the night.
The band’s apparent happiness while playing on stage came through loud and clear and they were well received. Before the end of the set, Don put his guitar aside and they covered The Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction.” Not only did he interact with most everyone in the front row, the song ended with him jumping off an amp. The show wasn’t over though. All band members walked off the front of the stage and stood in the middle of the crowd to sing one final song, “Summer Takes the Fall.” The most interesting part of this was watching Michael play a melodica (keyboard wind instrument) by which he would blow air through a mouthpiece while playing the small keyboard. During the song though, everyone around the band enjoyed this up close and personal interaction.
While waiting for the set change, the floor was a little more packed than when the night started off. There were a wide range of fans, all of whom were eagerly waiting for the SK6ERS to take the stage. For those that couldn’t be there, the show was broadcast over the internet via LapLive. Hopefully many people outside of the venue were able to witness Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers bring the house down.
The band came out to Bob Seger’s “We’ve Got Tonight” and fans cheered enthusiastically. Anyone in attendance would agree with one thing, fans of the SK6ERS know their lyrics. From the opening notes of “Flower in Rain,” to the last song, “In Front of the World,” you could always hear people singing, and not just during the choruses either.
Early on in the night, Stephen welcomed everyone to the band’s 1,255th concert. Their almost 2-1/2 hour set included a variety of songs from their many releases, including their newest Gift Horse (2011). While almost every song appeared to be a fan favorite, some stood out a little more than others.
“Roots and Wings” was one of many songs that had fans clapping along. “Start the Day Early” started off with a mini drum solo and kept your feet and body moving. “Such a Way,” the first of a few love songs that night showed the softer side of their music. Then there was “The Bear.” One of the more rocking SK6ERS songs that not only had Stephen playing harmonica, but Goose on TUBA! I’ve never seen so many people cheer for this underrated instrument.
Then there was “Big Easy,” which included hand motions that practically everyone knew. It was also during this song that Stephen mentioned the hiatus and was met with boo’s from the crowd. He then encouraged everyone to participate in the “Big Easy” dance so that they didn’t regret it later. Boots’ help on vocals during this song also had many fans cheering loudly. Lastly, “Gravity” and “4th of July” had some of the loudest singing during the night.
With five guys in the band, their combined talent goes far beyond just singing and playing one instrument as most of them played a variety throughout the set or lent a hand with backing vocals. Sam, who reminded me a lot of a young Emilio Estevez, played both pedal steel and many different electric and acoustic guitars. His talent screamed with every note he played on stage, especially during solos you may not have expected for “Father’s Day,” “1993,” and “Gravity”. It was also during this last song that Chip broke a bass string. Stephen called attention to it and added, “Not since Nikki Sixx have we seen that kind of rockin’.” He then asked if they even had more bass strings. Obviously not something that happens on a regular basis.
Stephen did most of the talking, story telling and joking around with the fans during the night, but he also had his fair share of acoustic guitar changes not to mention the times he played harmonica.
While Chip was the main bass player for most of the night, there were a couple songs where he also played guitar. He even helped sing during “My Favorite Place,” sharing a mic up front with Stephen and Sam. From time to time, Goose even stopped playing piano to either fill in on bass or guitar. At the end of “1993” he played a few notes on a bright red keytar! His true talent, piano, was pretty obvious all night but really stood out on “Oh Adeline,” a song written for one of Stephen’s daughters.
While Boots sat behind the drum kit playing and providing backing vocals for most of the night, the crowd was definitely excited when he came to the front of the stage to play both the mandolin and banjo.
Towards the end of the night, Stephen mentioned his greatest honor at each show was being able to introduce the Sixers. He told a short story about how each of them came to be in the band including their nicknames: “Chips” Johnson, “Steamer” Getz, “Goose” Karlson and lastly, the one who had been there with him the longest, “Boots” Factor. Stephen also mentioned that 100% of all specific SK6ERS memorabilia purchased at their shows will be donated to St. Jude Children’s Hospital.
The most entertaining part of the night had to be during their cover song medley that Stephen referred to as a “song sandwich.” Once again, the crowd was more than willing to sing along. Sam, Chip and Goose played guitar, bass and piano, while Stephen, on acoustic guitar and Boots, on mandolin, shared a mic. They traded off singing on portions of “Up On Cripple Creek,” “Fat Bottom Girls,” and “Piano Man.” It wasn’t until Stephen and Boots started singing, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” that everyone took a minute to stop and realize what they were seeing. Two grown men on stage having a blast! They finished out the medley with “Rock and Roll All Nite,” “Let’s Go Crazy,” and “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.” Not a truer statement could have been made.
Towards the end of the night, I’m not sure if Stephen was conscious of his facial expressions. As he interacted closely with his fellow band mates, his bright contagious smile lit up the stage. On the other hand, he had a longing in his eyes that he wanted to keep playing and playing. This was most evident because everyone was treated to 3 encores. Five songs in total and most ended with a musical bang. They started off with “Shady Esperanto and the Young Hearts,” which lead into a version of “Milwaukee” with an ending more rockin’ than one might have expected. When they left the stage, it was barely a minute before the band came back out for a second encore.
It seemed like they had only planned to play a cover of Old Crow Medicine Show’s “Wagon Wheel,” but after the song ended Stephen admitted they just didn’t want to go. I didn’t blame him. With such an active participating crowd clearly having a great time all night, coupled with the countdown to the end of their tour, I’d imagine the thought of it all coming to an end soon started to become more and more of a reality with each passing show.
They continued with “Mabeline” and ended with the fun loving crowd fave “See You Later, See You Soon.” When the band left the stage this time, I really thought the night was over. Not a chance. The SK6ERS came out for one more song, ending the night with a beautiful version of “In Front of the World.” Stephen mentioned he wrote the song for his brother, but admitted, it could just as well have been written about the band. Once again on a shared mic, Boots, also playing mandolin, and Goose joined Stephen on vocals. This calming, peaceful sounding song, with a message that makes you think, was a great way to end the set.
With close to 10 years worth of song writing and touring experiences to pull from, it was pretty clear all night that the SK6ERS knew a thing or two about entertaining a crowd. The heart and soul of the SK6ERS music is passion which you can hear winding throughout each verse and chorus. Writing from the heart about your feelings, triumphs and convictions help to create a special connection to those listening. People tend to latch onto songs for various reasons, but based on the crowd all night, Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers have clearly made a big impact.