By: Ashley Berry
This past Sunday at Bootleg Theatre in Silverlake, Six60 gave the crowd their money’s worth and then some. Formed in 2006, the New Zealand-based band is comprised of five members: guitarist and lead vocalist Matiu Walters, lead guitarist Ji Fraser, bass guitarist Chris Mac, Marlon Gerbes on the synthesizer, and drummer Eli Paewai. With multiple Platinum singles and a debut album that went Gold within the first week of its release, Six60 is definitely on the rise.
I didn’t see the band members take to the stage, but as soon as I felt the audience stirring, I looked up to see Walters, Fraser, and Mac swarming slowly around the stage as they built up a synergy amongst the five of them. The crowd immediately pulled in closer and it became instantly clear that this band was magnetic. As the tension between the drums and guitar built, a vibration permeated the room and the high was an instantaneous rush.
There is no question that the member of Six60 love to perform. They vibed with the crowd immediately and their ease on stage made it seem as though they were playing for a room full of friends. While they would occasionally egg the crowd on, the audience certainly needed no encouragement as they fell under the spell of the heavy bass resonating through the room, creating waves of orgasmic energy. Six60’s sound falls somewhere between a pop-infused funk rock reminiscent of something one might hear from the likes of Maroon 5 and the reggae-inspired jazz fusion of 311, with elements of metal and electronica that create a layered ecstasy trip that sends the listener soaring through the cosmos, alternating between full speed rushes and gentle, coasting rides.
The band opened the show with “Only to Be”, a song that gives the listener the feeling of being at the helm of a boat, with the wind in your face as you cruise across open waters. Its expansive and optimistic quality lifted up the crowd immediately. Next on the set list was “Rise Up”, a song that starts out with a soft and slow build on the keyboard, accompanied by Walters’ vocals, only to take a decidedly more aggressive turn as the drums and guitar break it down into an almost metal-style jam. Walters continued to soothe the crowd with his smooth and soulful voice until the song bridged into an all out instrumental battle with gnarly explosions of drums and guitar. The fact that the band was having an awesome time was evident and they played to the crowd and each other with an almost cheeky attitude and an undeniable charisma.
Next up, “Money” started out with a speedy guitar rhythm as Mac took center stage to give the audience a dramatic and suspenseful drum sequence that built the song into a frenzy. As the band unleashed its energy, each member had his own style of expression, but Walters and Mac were definitely the showiest. The group is clearly dynamic and varied, and the interactions between them are brotherly and playful. At one point in the song, Walters jumped, leap-frog style, onto Mac’s back. Mac continued to drum furiously as Walters rocked out on stage, exclaimed to the audience that Six60 “didn’t come here to fuck around”, and beckoned the crowd to come closer and join the band in the full throttle experience.
The band allowed the crowd to have a moment of calm with “Lost”, a somber ballad that features melodic piano, cinematic guitar sequences not unlike those one might hear from Explosions in the Sky, and Walters’ smooth, raspy crooning. After they brought the song to a close, Walters told the audience that this was Six60’s first tour of the U.S., but despite their relatively new status, they already held the crowd in their palms.
Walters continued to engage the audience with a back and forth as he sang notes and had the audience echo back. At one point in the interaction, Walters held a note for a little too long in a charmingly forgivable display of showboating and Fraser put him in his place by splashing him with water just before they launched into the eighth song of the set, “In the Clear”, a piece that maintains the tender tones of a Jason Mraz or Jack Johnson song at the outset, but brings in metal-inspired guitar and percussion fairly quickly. Six60 was not going to end the night on a solemn note and made sure to infuse the room with a pulsating energy and force. Before the end of the song, the band stopped abruptly and suspended the energy in the room just long enough for Walters to step off of the stage and into the crowd. The music resumed and he sang and danced from within the crowd and it was obvious that it is exactly this kind of intimacy that makes Six60 a force to be reckoned with. While they are unquestionably compelling on stage, they do not carry themselves with an air of distance as so many artists do. They allow you to feel as though they are your friends, your chums, your mates, if you will. They are the kind of guys who will do whatever it takes to make sure you are having the time of your life right along with them.
They finished the night with “Don’t Forget Your Roots”, a wistful and bittersweet song that you might rock along to as you watch the scenery go by on a road trip. The happy-go-lucky, come-what-may vibe carried right on into the final song of the night, “Forever”, which opens up with a simple and playful guitar sequence. The synthesizer builds the sound up into an explosion of drums just before the song cools down again, like a forceful wave building across the ocean only to ultimately release itself in a gentle, frothy swirl. Towards the end of the song, Walters paused to ask L.A. to make some noise and the crowd cheered joyfully before the song came rushing back in. When the song ended, Walters thanked the audience graciously and Six60 left the stage. Even though they played a generous set and it was time for them to call it a night, the crowd couldn’t be blamed for begging for just one more song. After all, who would really want to come down from such a euphoric high?