SK6ERS Hit No. 996

Jeff Kehl

The room comes alive in a brilliant explosion of lights, music, and the sounds of the crowd filling every inch of the Rex Theater. For three straight hours, the room vibrates, adrenaline pumping, cymbals crashing, crowd cheering. What group would warrant such energy on a lowly Tuesday night? One that CBS Radio would call "The best live band you've never seen," and that the Minneapolis Star Tribune would go on to describe as "wordy and witty, soulful and well aware of the power of a pop hook." It's none other than Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers as they headline their 996th show.

After years of playing gigs all over the United States and around the world, Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers are nearing their next landmark, their 1000th show. The closer they got to this landmark, the more the group realized just how monumental it was. In the end, they decided to celebrate by naming their latest set of shows the Road to 1000 and kicked off the final five with a concert in our own Pittsburgh.

Stephen Kellogg, himself is no stranger to the music scene for the last couple decades. Originally a cover song performer, Kellogg used to play at a steakhouse in Connecticut. Slowly building a portfolio of his own songs, he released four solo albums before finally teaming up to form the Sixers, a choice which quickly has gained him a chance in the spotlight.

A relatively new group, only just coming together back in March of 2003, Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers have already started blazing a path through the music world. Their first landmark was being signed by Universal Records only a year after coming together. A year later, in 2005, the band would switch hands to Everfine Records, a branch of Atlantic Records. Today the group performs under the Vanguard record label, yet another big name in the music world.

Having released a few albums previously, Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers hit it big with their 2007 album, Glassjaw Boxer. The album was named one of the best five of 2007 by USA Today which said, "Few things are more gratifying than hearing everything fall into place for a promising band. That's just what happens with Glassjaw Boxer." Now, they've hit it big again with their latest album which dropped in 2009, The Bear. The album was later labeled as "Best of 2009" by No Depression, a roots music publication, and JamBase, a site dedicated to fans of live music. Their hit single from the album, "Shady Esperanto & the Young Hearts," went on to break the Billboard Top 20 for adult album alternative (AAA).

The legacy that the SK6ERS, as the diehard fans call them, have started building isn't just attributed to their discography either. The group has made many trips overseas, each returning rave reviews. In spring of 2009, they went on tour to soldiers all over Europe and even put on a 4th of July show for the American Embassy in Israel. These tours earned them the title of the "2009 Entertainers of the Year" by Armed Forces Entertainment. Even with this title, when asked about all the honors they've received, the group said, "We wanted to give back in the way we know how, which is playing music. It was just an honor to get to say hello to those folks."

But don't count them done just yet! Back in 2006 the group decided to embrace their inner philanthropist by beginning what they've called the Rellogg Foundation, dedicated the money from donations and auctioned off merchandise to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital, the Make-a-Wish Foundation, and several others. Not only do they donate, but the SK6ERS are well known for their annual concerts at St. Jude Children's Hospitals all over the country. The SK6ERS said that in doing so, they've "had the privilege of performing for some of the loveliest audiences in our half decade of performance."

Composed of Stephen Kellogg, Kit Carlson, Brian Factor, and Sam Getz (or Skunk, The Goose, Boots, and Steamer as they are lovingly known) the SK6ERS have made it a personal goal to make their music as meaningful as they can, pouring their souls into each and every one of their songs. "Almost every song we've written has some kind of story behind it. With The Bear, a lot of those were personal experiences by me or someone else in the band," Kellogg said.

I was lucky enough to get the chance to talk to Stephen Kellogg the day before he and the band kicked off the Road to 1000 down at Rex Theater. In talking to him, I found out a little bit more about he and the Sixers and what they have gone through these last few years.

"It's been a ride," Kellogg says, "We never really knew where the future was going to take us." The group, constantly on the road, has gone from small shows to the big time unbelievably quickly, thanks in no small part to their loyal fan base. A husband and and a father of two, Kellogg admitted that being on the road all the time can be a strain, but he loves the life he's living and all of the experiences he's had.

When asked what the 1000th show meant to him, Stephen chuckled, saying, "When we first thought about it, it didn't seem like a big deal, just another concert. But the closer we got to the date, the more we realized just how big of a landmark this was for us and for all the fans that have followed us to this point." Wanting to kick off their 1000th show with a bang, the group decided to perform in New York City, which Kellogg blamed on one of the group's favorite shows from back in their early days of touring the Northeast.

It is easy to say that the SK6ERS have a wholly unique sound on the Indie scene. An energetic and soulful vibe with a resounding hint of the '70s, '80s, and '90s, their music easily captivates and moves everyone who listens to it. The group's inspiration varies, according to Kellogg: "Well, we never really just sit down and try to write songs. There's always something that moves us to write. Like, there was a concert we were playing once... and they asked us to play two full sets, and that's just not something we really do. But, since it was in our contract, we went back out, only we had used most of our material in the first set, so we just started playing. We ended up coming up with the chorus for one of the songs on our new album [The Bear], 'Shady Esperanto & the Young Hearts,' right there. When we got back to the bus that night, I started scrambling to remember everything we had sung and write it down before I forgot!"

Count what you just read as a rare sighting of the origins of an SK6ERS song. The group is notorious for holding out on where exactly the stories for their songs came from. In one of his interviews, Kellogg admitted with a smile, "If I explained the entire story to you, it wouldn't be as fun to dive in and figure it out for yourself. I'm sorry, but I just can't take apart every aspect of the music without taking something out of the soul of it... you'll have to experience it yourself and find meaning there."

With a wealth of experience behind them and a future they find happily unwritten, the SK6ERS can't wait to continue touring and putting on show after show for the fan base they love. In fact, it can easily be said that, in a modern music world of auto-tuning and remixes, this is one group that you must see in person. "We're not up there projecting a personality we can't believe in. I think it's important to go with the feel of each moment and take chances. If that means we get out of sync or sing out of key once in a while, so be it. The crags are cool because they're interesting."

If you like what you've heard so far and want to find out more about the SK6ERS, check them out all over the internet. They have active Twitter, MySpace, and Facebook accounts as well as a presence on iTunes. If you want to see some of the videos the SK6ERS have put together and get a feel for the kind of energy I've been talking about, look no further than YouTube. You can also check out the band, show dates, and more at their site,