Tragedy haunts Six60: ‘It will never escape us’

Returning to Dunedin for their documentary premiere at the Regent Theatre are Six60 band members ...
Returning to Dunedin for their documentary premiere at the Regent Theatre are Six60 band members (from left) Matiu Walters, Eli Paewai, Ji Fraser, Chris Mac and Marlon Gerbes with director Julia Parnell. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
A balcony collapse that left a young woman at one of their Dunedin concerts paralysed is something the members of New Zealand band Six60 will live with forever.

The band has a documentary coming out this week as well as a new single, and its second album, Six60 (2) (or the Colours album), has spent 298 weeks in a row in New Zealand’s top 40, breaking a record held by Pink Floyd’s 1973 album Dark Side of the Moon.

It is four years since an informal concert in Castle St, Dunedin - where the band was born while some members were flatting together at 660 Castle St - led to a balcony collapsing, leaving a student paralysed.

Bass guitarist Chris Mac said it was devastating for the band.

"We did what we thought was enough, and it wasn’t, and we know that now.

"There was the tragedy that had occurred, and then there was the barrage of anger and hatred towards us having something to do with such an awful event."

The band had been in touch with Bailey Unahi, the woman crushed by the falling balcony, Mac said.

"We didn’t want to do her the disservice of pretending nothing happened," he said.

"When we see her from time to time, she is always gracious.

"It will never escape us."

Being in the spotlight was difficult at times, Mac said.

"A lot of the time, when you’re in the public eye, the humanity gets lost and you look like an entity.

"The truth is we’re five human beings, and of course we’re filled with empathy and regret about it [the balcony collapse]."

Drummer Eli Paewai said band members did not speak publicly at the time because they were processing the event and trying to figure out what went wrong.

The impact of the collapse and the band’s other struggles are featured in the documentary, Six60: Till The Lights Go Out.

Mac said he was intrigued to see how people would react to the film.

The band watched it together, laughing and reacting emotionally at different parts.

"But I think the message that comes through is one of tenacity, never giving up ... anyone who does anything in life has to jump hurdles and climb different peaks.

"A lot of people think it’s been a bed of roses going up and it’s not always like that."

Six60 would not visit Dunedin in its upcoming summer tour, because it had played in Dunedin twice in the last two years, and was now going to "show Christchurch a bit of love", Paewai said.

However, Dunedin was always close to their hearts.

"Go Highlanders."

The crowd favourites last night scored a hat-trick, winning Highest Selling Artist for the third consecutive year at the Aotearoa Music Awards.

Six60: Till The Lights Go Out will screen at the Regent Theatre in Dunedin on Thursday, and will be released in theatres on November 26.

On Saturday, the band flew from Auckland to Dunedin on an Air New Zealand flight premiering the film.

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