Monday, December 5, 2011

REVIEW:Stephen Kellogg w/ Jon McLaughlin at The Duck Room (Blueberry Hill) St. Louis, MO - 11/29/11

SK6ers & Jon McLaughlin at The Duck Room (Blueberry Hill) St. Louis, MO - 11/29/11

Words and pictures by Bradley Darby

For the past 9 years, Stephen Kellogg has been touring the country with his blend of country-glazed alt rock... usually as Stephen Kellogg & the Sixers, where he wreks havoc on cities with 3 of his friends in tow, and sometimes just flying solo. One thing remains the same though, no matter which form of Kellogg you are seeing.... the energy of the crowd and that the band exudes is contagious and you will be left wanting more of his mostly wholesome songs about life, love and family.

As we entered the venue, singer/songwriter/pianist Jon McLaughlin was already two songs into his set. I wasn’t at familiar with McLaughlin, but had heard the name from opening slots with O.A.R. and Kelly Clarkson, as well as having songs featured on Scrubs and in a few movies.

McLaughlin’s backing band was that of a typical four piece pop rock band consisting of drummer, guitarist and a bassist. They did a fine job backing up McLaughlin as he crooned into a mic and smacked the keys on his piano at center stage. The hour long set focused heavily on his newest album Forever if Ever and also featured some entertaining banter from McLaughlin. For a song called “These Crazy Times” they even brought out Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers to share the stage. McLaughlin then excused the rest of his band and played a piano-vocal only song called “I’ll Follow You.” He shared a story about sitting in his house in Indianapolis working on the new album when he received a text message from a random number that ended up being country superstar Blake Shelton, who wanted McLaughlin to come to California to meet Xenia Martinez, a finalist from NBCs The Voice. Together the two ended up recording a song “Maybe Its Over” that appears on McLaughlins new album. He ended the night with a catchy tune called “Industry.” Though his songs sound as though they are targeted for adult contemporary radio play, they were performed quite well live and by the end of the set I was already wanting more Jon McLaughlin.

Just after 9PM, Stephen Kellogg & the Sixers took the stage and started things off with “4th of July”, a great semi-biographical song from Glassjaw Boxer. The crowd always reacts well to a SK6ers show and tonight was no exception as the crowd sang along to each song and politely quited down for slower songs, as well as Kelloggs between tune banter. Kellogg announced that he had been thinking about this show all day, and that he was happy to return to the Duck Room though he had enjoyed the last few shows downtown at Old Rock House.... Ditto Mr. Kellogg. We were told a story about how the first time they ever played in St. Louis, it just so happened the Cardinals were in the 2004 World Series, and the attendance for the show was apparently quite low. That night they were selling thong underwear for the females, and as Kellogg put it “for anyone who put them to good use, we now sell SK6ers onesies.” They then went into “Sweet Sophia”, a song Kellogg wrote about the birth of his daughter.

Now its no surprise to anyone familiar with Kelloggs music that a lot of his songs deal with family and love.... I mean, he “fell in love at the age of 16 with the absolute love of his life” (as he explains in “Satisfied Man”) He took a moment to tell the story of legendary comic Jack Benny and how Benny arranged to have a single red rose delivered to his wife after his passing, and how he had actually arranged for a red rose to be delivered every day until her passing nine years later. Kellogg then played one of his earlier songs, “Diamond”, a song written to the absolute love of his life. Kellogg and the Sixers know how to rock the crowd as well and this was prominently displayed with a shredding guitar outro to “Mabeline” from 2009’s The Bear.

It was now time for band intros.... typically a Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers introduction consists of some form of medley where one by one the guys will go through decades, or TV theme songs, or whatever category is thrown out by Kellogg as he introduces them.... but tonights intros were a little different. Kellogg went around and introduced each member of the band as which character from the TV show Friends they would be. He first introduced the opener, and guest on keys for the song, Jon McLaughlin as Monica. Bassist/keyboardist Goose Karlson was introduced as Chandler Bing, while drummer Boots Factor was introduced as Ross who “was excellent in the Pallbearer.” Rounding out the cast, guitarist Sam “Steamer” Getz played the part of Joey leaving Stephen Kellogg as Phoebe. Rachel was also present, but I missed the name of the additional member.

Kellogg then thanked the crowd for giving them a job, and said they would be right back. Then band then unhooked their instruments and came out to the middle of the crowd and stood on chairs, a move they claim to have gotten from Taylor Swift. Then not 5 ft from me they played an unplugged version of “Shady Esparanto and the Young Hearts” also from The Bear. As the band took the stage again, they kicked it up by going into “Start the Day Early” from their self titled album and then did a pretty solid cover of Prince’s “Lets Go Crazy” while drummer Boots factor was dressed as a purple banana. (Note: on Halloween this year they actually played Purple Rain in its entirety) To finish off the set was an extended version of “Milwaukee” complete with a piano break by Kit Karlson.

To start the encore, Kellogg told us about a sexy note he had once gotten in St. Louis and that he was clearly just buying time while they band was tuning, because they “we try to keep it real, thats what this is all about.” It was then into “Gravity”, the lead single from their newest album Gift Horse, followed by “Big Easy” which was started with Steamer teaching the crowd how to do the Big Easy dance.... a dance that involved wheels on the bus like hand motions. Kellogg then told us again how much he loves writing about his family, and then announced that his next song was previously known as “People that work at Hollister can eat my ass” but really it was “See You Later, See You Soon” from the self titled album. Kellogg then motioned for each member to leave the stage one by one until it was only Boots on the drums. After exiting the stage, not two minutes had passed as the door opened and again out came the guys for a 5 part harmony toast to send us on our way, that I believe was called “Let The Music Fill Your Cup.”

When you have had the chance to watch a band grow over a span of six of their first nine years together, and they still continue to amaze you time after time, that can say a lot. Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers are one of those bands that just never stop trying to improve what they do. Every time, be it a 30 minute set opening for O.A.R. at The Pageant or headlining a sold out show at Old Rock House, these guys seem to have a lot of fun and the crowd always goes right along with them. Next year will mark the 10 year anniversary of Kellogg’s journey with the Sixers and I suggest you check him out when he comes through your city.

  1. 4th of July (Glassjaw Boxer)
  2. Blue Jean (Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers)
  3. Watch You Grow (Gift Horse)
  4. Sweet Sophia (Glassjaw Boxer)
  5. Diamond (Bulletproof Heart)
  6. Maebeline (The Bear)
  7. The Bear (The Bear)
  8. Roots and Wings (Gift Horse)
  9. My Favorite Place (Gift Horse)
  10. Shady Esperanto and the Young Hearts (The Bear)
  11. Start the Day Early (Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers)
  12. Let's Go Crazy (Prince cover)
  13. Milwaukee (Glassjaw Boxer)
  14. E: Gravity (Gift Horse)
  15. E: Big Easy (Glassjaw Boxer)
  16. E: See You Later, See You Soon (Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers)
  17. E: Let The Music Fill Your Cup