Six60, Western Springs, 22 February 2020: Concert Review

Six60 and a steady stream of support acts battled poor weather to bring a chill, summer-vibe concert to Western Springs last night, where an otherwise-acceptable show seemed soured by an increasingly dislocated crowd energy.

It seems every festival or large show held at Western Springs refines the layout of each subsequent gig and how the event staff approach the crowd. Last night transitioned from labyrinthian stalls and a market-festival setup into a streamlined funnel toward the stage, which simplified access around the venue at the cost of making everything almost too accessible.

Six60, photo by Ivan Karczewski

While that sounds contradictory, it’s a strange-yet-crucial component of a well-managed festival; bars, toilets, food, and water all need to be accessible to the audience, but the presentation and location of these facilities need to suitably match the behaviour of the crowd.

If bars are designed for instant, easy access, you remove the irritating-but-necessary few minutes’ wait which allows even a fraction of sobriety to sink in. If there are toilets next to the stage and a 15-minute walk away, you can tell which ones will be overflowing in the next half hour.

Much of this is reliant on external factors – the crowd, their engagement with the bands, the weather – and unfortunately these elements weren’t in the favour of last night’s concert. Beneath a dreary and threatening sky, the afternoon began with a series of brief supporting acts as the audience trickled in and filled the impressive stretch of seating reaching to the peak of Western Springs.

There were some notable standouts in the support group. in particular, Church & AP – who I had seen previously at The Tuning Fork and perceived as underwhelming – were magnificent on a larger stage, both their sound and performance magnified by the superior sound system and freedom of space. Their set felt longer than anticipated, which is by no means a negative, and instilled an early sense of promise in the crowd.

The following act, Paige, was earnestly entertaining, if a little subdued in energy through her set, and shortly followed by Mitch James, who performed a largely acoustic set balancing an early James Blunt-meets-David Gray lyrical delivery with a closing mashup of Hit Me Baby One More Time and a slew of guilty-pleasure ‘90s pop covers.

Wax Mustang, photo by Ivan Karczewski

Wax Mustang took to the stage for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it set of about 10 minutes, which despite the stunted timing felt wildly enjoyable and liberating in watching the performer roll out lyrics completely uninhibited. Now two hours in, and with two acts remaining – Ocean Alley and Six60 – the crowd had reached a tipping point between comfortably intoxicated and we-need-a-medic disaster.

Ocean Alley, photo by Ivan Karczewski

Which is a shame, because I love Ocean Alley, who opened with the flawless and dreamy Daydreaming, but it’s difficult to fully engross yourself in the atmosphere of an endless-summer soundtrack while two audience members are convulsing and arguing with a swarm of police less than a few feet away. Just as it was a strain to fall in love with the ethereal, Pink Floyd-psychedelia of Infinity or the soul-aching Partner In Crime against a backdrop of mounting physical tension within the crowd.

Closing out with Tombstone, the skies were finally clear as the dark of the evening set in, providing a beautiful visual of the venue with a packed crowd illuminating the entire embankment of Western Springs Stadium. Unfortunately, at this point, it felt like a facade, a sort of glossy veneer wiped over the intimately observed failings of the afternoon.

Six60, photo by Ivan Karczewski

Could You Be Loved and Sweet Caroline accompanied a 6:60 countdown, as the crowd screamed in anticipation for the headlining group to emerge on stage and beams of light washed over the venue, before Six60 dove into the opening Never Enough. It was largely enjoyable, with the crowd clearly excited to be a part of the event, but felt tainted, the remaining set relative to the title of the opening track.

Please Don’t Go, Vibes, and Special followed, with each number inspiring more energy in the crowd for better or worse, and entertaining the swell of field attendees as well as it could. As the set moved into So High and Rolling Stone, however, the flaw in the concert shone; that with the perfect conditions, this could have been a delightful opportunity to enjoy a long stretch of summer afternoon and relax to some mildly guilty-pleasure music.

With the wrong conditions, it quickly transcends into something mediocre; a muted energy for the majority of the day, and frustration that the illusion of the afternoon is broken. Unfortunately, this leads to performances which seem underwhelming, and a general atmosphere in the crowd, and venue, which feels dangerously uncomfortable and tragically the opposite of everything it was destined to be.

~Oxford Lamoureaux

Click any image to see a gallery from Ivan Karczewski:


Soraya with Wax Mustang

Ocean Alley