Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers | 11.29.11

Kellogg was hilarious in his on-stage banter, at one point acknowledging that there was a hole in his pants in a quite conspicuous area and teasing an audience member for staring.



I have to admit – I did not show up at the Jon McLaughlin/Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers concert in the best of moods. I had lost my keys that day, and almost ended up missing the show. Showing up harried and annoyed was probably not the perfect way to go to a show, but I went anyway, figuring the day could only get better from there.  Plus, I knew everyone performing was talented and it would be a good show – so how could the day not get better?

It did get better.  The next several hours, from the time Jon McLaughlin took the stage till Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers left it, was a mix of rock, folk, and country, all mixed together with humor, fun, and heart.  There seemed to be a lot of audience members there, after polling those near the stage, for either band – but not both. Neither artist suffered for it, though – both performances were strong and involved enough interaction with the fans that it was clear that they’d won over each other’s fans.

Jon McLaughlin played first, and he was, apart from being talented, also charming and gracious, filled with both songs and stories.  One story he told involved being up late one night when his cell phone vibrated with a text from Blake Shelton of The Voice (and a well-known musician in his own right). McLaughlin told us of his fretting about the smiley face he attached to his reply to Shelton’s text, and how he wondered if he’d ever hear from the man again. Shelton did reply, though, and McLaughlin ended up flying to L.A. to record the song “Maybe It’s Over” with contestant (and fan) Xenia Martinez. McLaughlin explained that he had been scheduled to fly to L.A. anyway and that he hadn’t gone specifically for that, “but I would have!”

He played a somewhat short set – but those songs were strong, coming from both released albums and a new one he threw in for us.  He did perform “Maybe It’s Over” but my personal favorite was “Industry” – the song he chose to close the set with.  Most of the members of The Sixers took the stage with him for a song (drummer Boots Factor was notably absent), though I tend to like McLaughlin the most when it’s just him and a piano.  All too soon, he left the stage, but I couldn’t be too disappointed because I knew what was coming next.

Sure enough, Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers, came back out on stage, spiffed up in some cases. Kellogg himself had changed into a suit, complete with vest, and looked quite ready to leave the venue and go somewhere that there was not about to be an hour and a half of gritty, fun rock music.  The band immediately launched into “4th of July” and played it with more fervor than is present in the album version, and looked like they were having the time of their lives. This is not a band that gives the impression of being tired or bored with their jobs. You could see it on their faces – specifically when keyboardist (and tuba player) Goose Carlson would grin at Kellogg and you could read it there that they think they have the coolest job in the world.

They’re good at their jobs, too. The set was high-energy without being overly messy.  The musicianship was tight but avoided sounding formulaic.  Kellogg was hilarious in his on-stage banter, at one point acknowledging that there was a hole in his pants in a quite conspicuous area and teasing an audience member for staring.  He also introduced the band by explaining who they would be on the show Friends, and claimed he would be Phoebe, mostly because Phoebe and Joey were all that were left by that point and he refused to be Joey – instead giving that dubious honor to guitar player Sam Getz.

As much fun as they were obviously having on stage, the show was no doubt about the music. They set list was varied – pulling from every album they’ve done.  They took to the floor (well, to milk crates on the floor) for an acoustic rendition of “Shady Esperanto and the Young Hearts” where Kellogg claimed that he was going to prove wrong the person who had once told him he couldn’t teach people to clap correctly. We got to hear a beautiful rendition of “Diamond,” a song written for Kellogg’s wife, as well as the band sending us off with “See You Later, See You Soon.”  We can only hope that the words are true, and that everyone involved in the show come back soon. The show was intense but fun and I wouldn’t hesitate in the slightest to see either Jon or Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers again – and attempt to get everyone I know to go to the show as well. | Teresa Montgomery


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