i wanted to start this off as a review of the final KISS tour and what it’s like to be in the pit for that band for 2 songs. maybe 2 songs don’t sound like much, but from the word “go” it was sensory overload. booms, explosions of fire, laser lights, more smoke than a cheech and chong convention and then, KISS. how the hell did i get into the pit for KISS?
and then how do i explain it when i’m still mentally processing it myself, days later.
well, maybe like this.
it was 1977 and our family had just moved from austin, tx to orlando, florida. mailtland, to be specific. one day i decided to write the words from the song “beth” on the top of my desk. to my surprise and amazement, i nailed it word for word. loved that song.
but even in the 6th grade, it came as no surprise when i was then held after class the next few days to clean off desktops. i will neither confirm nor deny the rumors that the lyrics made it back onto 1 desktop on the last day of school.
oh, i realize that at 1976 and destroyer, i was coming in late to the game for KISS, but let’s face it, if im writing the lyrics to “beth” on my desk im into the slower stuff and going slow, well that wasn’t what they’re known for, now is it? besides, it was 6th grade. good as time as any to meet the band.
since that time the band really has never slowed down. while the last studio release was monster in 2012, they didn’t stop. between merchandising, touring and the like, KISS has been a part of my life and memories ever since that fateful day in the 6th grade.
my brother is and will forever be a KISS fanatic. so if i wasn’t paying attention to the band closely, he was. i learned early on what the collectibles were for the band and when a good drunken ebay night came along, i was a buyer. i was in for anything from a dollar bill to the (4) MEGO dolls still in the boxes. hell, i even have a KISS pinball machine. had to drive to nashville, TN to pick up at the grand ol opry, but i got it.
while i still have the pinball machine but my brother wound up with the rest. he said he would. 🙂
it really wasn’t until “music from the the elder” took the world by “what the hell are they doing” storm that i really stopped to listen again. hard luck woman, i was made for loving you, and oddly enough “then she kissed me” were all i really picked up on in the between years. im bad, i know.
but “music from the elder”? if anything was to ever raise eyebrows, it was the thought of a rock and roll band putting on a medieval tolkien type movie. especially after that phantom of the opera thing.
the music – well nothing like they ever did before is an understatement. they worked to fit the music into the theme, and it reflected that. a world with no heroes, dark light, mr blackwell – all ones i went back to a lot just to listen because it did capture that feeling so well. that strange mystical feeling, ya know? i loved it.
but it sure wasn’t the KISS people were used to. so, bring in creatures of the night brings and then we are full blown hit after his kiss 80s marathon.
best memory of this era is in clinton, ok when the Jehovah witnesses were making the rounds. i put on a halloween full gorilla outfit, put “heavens on fire” up LOUD and crawled onto the 1st floor roof of our 2 story house. here i started dancing my ass off as they sat below trying to get my attention. they didn’t.
we got skipped for a few years after that.
once again, this is the 80s and the hits are flowing and videos flying. who wants to be lonely, tears are falling, uh all night to crazy crazy nights, i’ll fight hell to hold you, to the ballad (and you know i love ballads) reason to live. these are just 2 releases, and they pretty much defined the 80s for party rock and roll.
sidebar – watching my nephew say “ain’t nobody going to change me” while watching a KISS video on MTV – classic KISS memory.
1987, Texas JAM, paul stanley comes out on stage to play strutter with poison. yea; i was there. CUP FIGHTS!!!! nothing to do with KISS but if you’ve been to a texas jam, you are laughing at that right now.
after college, i would up in dallas. kiss, of course still around all about the show. now being in dallas, you have more opportunities to go see them. so, july 5th, 1996, i had an incredible date to the concert and we had a blast rockin out to 23 songs.
looking back, this was just KISS on tour, not really in support of a recent release. last one was 1992 revenge and carnival of souls is still a year out. another example i suppose of KISS always working.
one road trip was to oklahoma city to see kiss with my kiss fanatical brother and his 2 kids with ted nugent. pretty sure that was a “fairwell” tour – so can’t miss that, huh? april 4th, 2000. one hell of a show. 23 songs again.
the theme of kiss on the road w/o supporting a release would fill the gap until this last tour. mock the band or not for “how many farewell tours they do”? don’t care. gonna go when i can. come on people.
its now 2023 and KISS is on their End of the Road tour. i used to always feel like i knew how hard this band worked to put on a show. yea, they got energy. but when you’re just a few feet from them; it gets different.
jam mag called the tuesday before the show to ask if i could cover KISS if approvals go through. uh…YEA! then you wait. and wait. you try not to think about it but that only makes it worse. then you find out you’re approved and will be photographing the band you pretty much provided several songs for the soundtrack of my own life.
if you’ve read this far, you can pick out your own songs too, huh?
now i’ve shot big shows but this is, if i’ve not mentioned it enough, KISS. “don’t screw up” occupied as much of my time as genuine excitement at the opportunity. between those times, you sit and wonder how you got in this position to photograph such an icon.
taking no chances, head that way at 3. get there at 4. eat bbq. (regret that after the opener, amber wild). sit in the parking lot til will call opens at 6:30 and then you’re inside dickies. the staff at dickies is every bit as excellent as the venue itself, btw. amazing place to see a show.
finally, you hear led zepplin. this is when you know the curtain is about to drop and your timer begins. video screens lit up, band coming in, paul kicking the camera – we’re a go.
after the curtain drops and is taken away, you just go crazy shooting anything you can. there’s paul! there’s gene! but the booms, fire and explosions, laser lights, smoke and the pure energy – its sensory overload. use this camera, take a few, use the other camera, take more. get gene’s tongue! paul is doing the guitar pic thing! a lot of usual shots and poses but i was off to the side a bit.
center stage in the pit looked a bit like a photographer’s refugee camp. given my size i stay out of those and try to find another way to tell that story. pics are there, you can see for yourself. but i got 48 shots i was happy with. i’ve gone full shows and not gotten that. so all my anxiety and “don’t screw this up” i did before hand was just me being nervous.
i mean, KISS, right?
you meet some really cool photographers in the pit as well. you got some war stories to tell at the next show. but it’s going to be hard not to talk to them again and NOT bring up last friday night. we only got 2 songs of the 23 that night, but we got an experience many would love to have.
when i got done processing the pictures around 3am, i had to admit i got sad. it was like the end of a ride in so many ways. the rollercoaster coming back to the start so to speak. that’s what took me back to dommerich elementary school to that fateful day.
somehow or another i went from writing lyrics on school desks in the 6th grade to taking pics of the band what, 46 years later as they wind up their career. not sure how i got this fortunate, but i am so thankful i did. big shout out to jam mag for trusting me with the assignment. they will be running the review of the show soon.
so instead of a review, you got this. i don’t know what “this” is to be exact. its my own brain dump. i know we all have that inside of us fo this band or you’d not still be reading. for me, i just had to talk about the band some. how far back can you take KISS? what are some of your biggest KISS moments? which song is your “beth”?
catch the show. love ’em or hate ’em, there will never be another KISS.