On Wednesday night, I added another memory to my personal growing list of unforgettable life moments, when I traveled to Pittsburgh to see Sixx:AM for the first time in 8 years.
From the moment I purchased my VIP “Meet and Greet” ticket months ago, the anticipation had been building. The wait became almost impossible to look past.
When the calendar rolled over to Wednesday, the anticipation was so thick, you would need a power tool to cut through it.
The trip to Pittsburgh was like any other road trip – different types of music listened to while air drumming and singing the entire way. Don’t forget to throw in aggressive GPS’ing, which is me aggressively suggesting directions as the GPS application pumps out turns at a slower-than-usual pace.
Two things here: I’m the worst because of the singing/air drumming. Also, I refuse to listen to a band on the radio or Spotify the day of a show. A weird thing I’ve developed but I just go with it.
Back to the task at hand.
Shortly after arriving in Pittsburgh, we head to the venue. Stage AE is a fairly new venue, which opened in December 2010. This place holds 2,400 indoors and 5,500 outdoors. Yeah, this place has two stages. What a fantastic idea.
If there is one thing Pittsburgh does right, it is the district around Heinz Field/PNC Park. Within walking distance, you have Heinz Field, Stage AE, PNC Park, and a handful of bars/restaurants. If only some other places could take this hint. I’m throwing shade in your general direction, Buffalo.
When the doors were opened for the VIP, we all filed in at a decent pace to get a good spot for sound check. As expected, many people flocked to the left of the stage to get a good pre-show look at former Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx.
Sixx:AM took the stage to a raucous ovation from a group of 40-50 people. Lead singer James Michael took the lead, alerting us how sick the band was. “We’ve got the meet and greet coming up, and we can’t wait to share all our germs with you guys,” Michael said to a hearty laugh from the band and crowd.
Sixx AM ran through “Relief” and “Prayers for the Damned” off of their new album “Prayers for the Damned: Vol. 1” and an overwhelming electricity filled the almost empty venue. It was very easy to tell, this was going to be a special show.
Minutes after James Michael, DJ Ashba and Nikki Sixx ran through a quick question-and-answer session with fans in attendance, the wait began to actually meet the three masterminds behind this fantastic project.
For those unaware of what a Sixx AM is or how we got to talking about it, let’s take a step back to 2007. Nikki Sixx released “The Heroin Diaries” highlighting his struggles with a deadly heroin addiction. Sixx called on friends DJ Ashba and James Michael to create a corresponding soundtrack to go with the book. What happened next would put the wheels in motion for the band we have today.
In September 2007, Sixx’s book debuted at #7 on NYT’s Best Sellers list. Weeks prior, the band released “The Heroin Diaries Soundtrack”. Little did they know, their first single “Life is Beautiful” would rocket up the charts, with fans endlessly requesting it on radio.
Sixx:AM went from the band that wasn’t to an opening act for Mötley Crüe on Crüefest in 2008.
Two years later, Sixx:AM’s second album, “This Is Gonna Hurt” was released. Another successful album with singles that pushed fans to want more of the band. As time passed, the noise grew louder but with other commitments, the band was nothing really more than a fun side project.
It was 2012 before we would see the group back together on stage, which took place at the Revolver Golden Gods Awards. This marked Sixx:AM’s first live performance in 4 years. The band then went back to work on their other jobs.
A third album, entitled “Modern Vintage”, dropped in October 2014. This led to our first real Sixx:AM tour, a 16-date cross-country engagement.
The band then went back to their day jobs. Michael is a well-known song writer and producer, Ashba was the lead guitarist for Guns N’ Roses and Sixx was the bassist in Mötley Crüe.
For the fourth time, the band continued Sixx:AM as a side project, writing and recording a new album from different parts of the world.
When their latest album, “Prayers For The Damned Vol. 1” was announced, fans began to clamor for another tour.
The three decided now was the time to commit fully to the band, which was more feasible now that Ashba quit Guns N’ Roses shortly before their reunion, “I have reached a point in my life where where I feel its time to dedicate myself to my band Sixx:AM,” Ashba said last July, and Sixx just recently finished putting the final touches on Mötley Crüe’s final tour.
Sixx:AM announced a 20-date US tour, which was followed by the release of the aforementioned album. The band will then spend the summer overseas before coming home in the Fall to open for Five Finger Death Punch and Shinedown.
Now that you are educated and up-to-date, class is dismissed. Back to Pittsburgh we go.
The large group of meet-and-greet VIP’ers were ushered upstairs to wait for the three members to arrive. Through sheer luck, I found myself stationed at the head of the line.
I have always struggled when meeting musicians that I idolize because usually I have used their melodies and words to get myself through a rough patch. So, when James, DJ and Nikki walked through the door, you can imagine how shot my nerves were.
Being the gentleman I am, I threw caution to the wind (while risking an acquistion of the bubonic plague) and shook their hands.
I’m not sure I could smile any bigger.
I was then given a brief inquisition on my tattoos. DJ was very enamored with my Sixx:AM tattoo on my wrist, Nikki made a point to tell me he loved not only my Sixx:AM tattoo but my Dr. Feelgood tattoo (*fans self*) and James..well, that’s a different story.
*points to Red Sox tattoo* “Hey man, what’s up with these socks you have here?”, Michael questioned.
“Cmon man, they’re red socks for the Red Sox!”, I responded.
Michael’s quickly shot back. “Ahhh oh man, I get it now!”
Now that the meet-and-greet was officially in the books, it was time to mentally prepare for the show.
The opening acts were surprisingly fantastic. Ooh! Another weird thing of mine. Unless I know the opening act, I won’t learn about the band until I hear them live. If you put on a fantastic show, I am a fan.
So, local Pittsburgh group Unparalleled Height and NYC-based Cilver certainly have themselves a new fan.
As the stage was being torn down and set back up for the final time, you could hear an audible buzz start to grow inside Stage AE.
The stage lights go down, the crowd lets out a thunderous cheer. Out comes Sixx:AM. Without hesitation, DJ Ashba’s guitar started us off with “This Is Gonna Hurt”, and we were off.
What transpired really is something any music fan dreams of when attending a concert. The band was on their game and the fans returned serve. By far the loudest fans I have ever attended a club show with.
Sixx:AM went on to tear through their 17 song set list with relative ease. James, DJ and Nikki all kept the crowd very engaged by running around the stage as if it were a track. All three band members also ended up in the crowd at different times, much to the delight of the attendees.
I walked out of Stage AE a very, very happy music fan. I often feel like I get my money’s worth with a show. I felt like I owed more money after this show.
After the show, fans congregated around the back fence in hopes the band would come out and play a small acoustic set (termed a “Hit and Run” by the group). Due to the aforementioned illnesses, the band skipped this but DJ Ashba did join the faithful waiting the band out.
With a beer in hand, Ashba shook hands and thanked fans through a 4 to 5 inch gap the gate. “Someone open the gate for these fans!”, a slightly drunk Ashba yelled to security. After being reminded that the gate was there to protect the buses and equipment, Ashba’s tune quickly changed.
One of the fans asked Ashba about his wife, to which he responded, “She’s good! Actually, let’s give her a call and ask for ourselves.”
For the record, she was doing well and was very happy to have a group of 30+ say hello to her.
Musicians do not owe anything to their fans. They are doing their job, but it is so refreshing to have musicians like Ashba who will come out and humbly thank anyone who will hear it. This comes from someone who played with Guns N’ Roses, we know he doesn’t need to be starting near the bottom again.
The level of dedication in this band really hooks everyone who pays attention. The trio of Ashba, Michael and Sixx took the time throughout the show to thank us for remaining persistent through Sixx:AM’s infant days to help them grow to where they are now. These guys want to create a group that successfully stands apart from anything else they have done in the past.
As I’ve followed this band from its creation almost 10 years ago, it is clear that Sixx:AM is well on their way to leaving a lasting imprint in the world of music.