“We have a classic origin story of being a bunch of mates that met at uni and formed a band out of a love of performing live music. We cut our teeth on the stage playing thousands of gigs and it grew organically from there. When New Zealand went into lockdown last March, we knew it would be a long time until we could play live again and that was really scary. I don’t know anything else.
“Now though, we’re performing to stadiums full of people [including the 15,000-capacity TSB Bowl of Brooklands in New Plymouth]. Our geography has to have helped; we’re on a tiny island with a small population but also we worked hard not to politicise this whole COVID thing. We were fortunate to have some great leadership, and that everyone came together, suffered together and did what we had to do to get to this point.
“There are so many variables when you’re trying to put on a show right now. You need a lot of contingency plans. There was so much uncertainty, we didn’t know the gigs were definitely going ahead until the week of the show.
“We’re under no illusions a COVID case could pop up out of nowhere and put us back into lockdown. There are scares every day which meant that we had to be more strategic and make concessions here and there with the planning. We had alternate dates booked just in case and we were worried about ticket sales, but you need to back yourself. It felt so important to have a go because live music is our life. We knew that we were taking a risk, but we wanted to do it for the music and we wanted to instil some hope.
“We were definitely very excited to be back on stage but in the back of our heads we knew that we could all be back in lockdown tomorrow. It’s not exactly all normal here. We can’t travel, obviously, and people have to scan QR codes at these gigs just in case there’s an outbreak again. There’s a whole campaign in New Zealand, make summer unstoppable. We spoke to the government about getting visuals made up reminding people to scan in for track and trace. Once the music starts though, it’s hard for you not to forget what’s going on. There was no apprehension from the crowds, just this feeling of real excitement that they were together, embracing strangers and creating memories again.
“It was hard for us not to think about the fact that for most of the audience, these would be the first shows they’d been to in over a year but we worked hard to alleviate ourselves of any pressure. You want to do a good job and you want people to enjoy themselves – but if that’s what you’re thinking about, you inevitably don’t achieve those things. So we just focused on having fun together onstage.
“Being on those stages, it was amazing. It felt natural. We felt at home. After overcoming all this crap, there was definitely a sense of love, relief and togetherness in the crowd. There was a lot of hope. It took a couple of songs for that first gig to feel normal for me because not only is it the first show out of a pandemic, but you’re also trying to challenge yourself from what you did last tour. It’s not good enough just to be back.
“With these shows, we wanted to show people what was possible post-COVID. Things don’t have to be smaller or more difficult. COVID or not, we like to keep pushing our own boundaries. And regardless of whether you’ve seen us before, we’re always challenging ourselves to see what we can do differently. We just want to give people the best experience, the most amount of joy and the most amount of love. All our decisions around the show were just about trying to achieve that.
“We’re really proud of what we’ve put together. We’re lucky to have such a great crew and we’re grateful that we’ve been allowed to do it. I love that we can create an environment where people can forget for a little bit.
“After we played that very first gig, I felt pure elation. Playing these shows, there’s been a lot of relief and joy that we get to get to do what we love in front of masses of people again. I feel proud but, at the same time, it’s weird that we’re perhaps the only ones in the world doing it like this right now. We’re nervous about holding that mantle and we hate the fact that our friends overseas aren’t able to do it.
“It’s crazy that right now we’re the biggest touring band in the world. There’s this understated Kiwi humility, where I don’t like hearing those things – but at the same time, we’ve worked hard to achieve that. I’m heartbroken about what’s happening overseas but maybe these gigs will just give other musicians a little bit of hope until it’s their turn.
“Maybe these gigs will give other musicians a little bit of hope”
“I think over the past year, we’ve all learnt that there will never be replacement for live music. Live shows are so important for musicians, because not only is it how we earn money but they’re so vital for our mental health. It’s the same for music fans as well, you need gigs for your own well-being.
“We don’t have much hope for our borders opening this year so international gigs aren’t likely anytime soon but we’re touring throughout February in New Zealand and this weekend we’re playing the Sky Stadium in Wellington to 30,000 people, which is going to be amazing.
“We’re releasing some new music really soon and we might be playing [New Zealand’s largest sports stadium] Eden Park in April, which is an iconic venue and the home of [Rugby team] the All Blacks. No band has ever played there, so it’s exciting that not only are we the first, but it’ll be a local band. That’ll be to 50,000 people, so hopefully we can pull that off. There’s a lot to look forward to, regardless of all the shit.”
– As told to Ali Shutler
– Six60 play Wellington’s Sky Stadium on February 13 and Hamilton’s 6000-capacity Claudelands Oval on February 27