Monday, April 04, 2016

KISS Unplug for the LA KISS Faithful

I've been a season ticket holder for the LA KISS since the team was founded three years ago, and finally I feel all the suffering with the mediocre team really paid off.  Being a fan of a losing team is nothing new to me - my family were season ticket holders for the football Cardinals when the team was in St. Louis. Plus, I grew up Catholic. So I'm good at suffering. 

In the first season, LA KISS season ticket holders were promised a full KISS concert, and the band delivered. But it took them a long time to figure out a date that worked with the arena and the band's touring schedule, and it ended up being a date when I had to travel for work. The team only won three games that year, but there was a lot of entertainment value, with tribute bands playing pre-game concerts and halftime, BMX stunt bike shows, dancers, and pyro. They had dancing girls in cages suspended from the ceiling. You could call it "the greatest show on turf" without even talking about the game. In the second season, there were management changes and a lack of effort. The owners rarely attended the games (but to be fair, they were on tour most of the season). There was no KISS concert, much less extracurricular entertainment at the games, very little schwag, but the team improved in the second half of the season and made the games competitive. They ended with a record of 4-14.  

In the offseason, management made a lot of moves under new CEO Joe Windham, including hiring a new coach, Omarr Smith, and acquiring many players from last year's champion San Jose Sabercats after that team went out of business (Arena Football is a shaky business).  And they announced some schwag items and the thing we were all hoping for - another KISS concert just for the season ticket holders.  And this time it would be unplugged, sans makeup and pyro! 

I had to skip the last day of the Association of Writing Programs conference to catch this show, but it was really no contest for me.  I had already had two days of the conference to be highbrow and then needed to indulge my lowbrow side.  We arrived at the Honda Center in Anaheim around 12:15pm and there were only about 30 people in line. The first two people in line had arrived at 8:50am.  The first 500 people would be able to watch the concert from the field. We had fun chatting with other fans in line until we were let into the arena around 1:45pm. We headed straight for the field and were able to get a second row centered standing position. The pair who had arrived at 8:50am were against the barrier right in front of us, and I was quite happy because the gal was much shorter than me so I would have a clear view. 

The band took the stage around 3:00pm and they were all wearing sunglasses except for Tommy. Gene and Paul were in jackets and jeans. They kicked off the acoustic show with "Coming Home" and continued with "Calling Dr. Love" and everyone sang along.  It was certainly surreal to be so close to the band, and in such an intimate setting.  Although we were on the football field in a big arena, there were only 500 of us, so it felt like a club show. The fans who came later were sitting in the stands. Paul hyped up what a great season it was going to be and thanked us all for being fans.  




As usual, Paul did the talking, and Gene was stoic.  Tommy sat for more than half the show and Paul made a big deal when he finally stood up. He also pointed out to the crowd that Tommy was single. When a fan complimented Gene's bass, Paul said, "He'll be glad to sell it to you." And Gene nodded that he would.  "How much for that pink pocket square, Gene?" Paul asked.  "One million dollars," Gene deadpanned.  Sure enough, I saw a sales kiosk for Gene's basses when I walked around the arena concourse later that day.  




Paul explained the origins of "Goin' Blind" while musing that they almost were 93 years old like the character in the song (Simmons is 66, Stanley is 64). "Plaster Caster" was a highlight for me, as I have always loved that song.  



The band sounded great, and it was fun to just enjoy the songs without all the theatrics.  We tried in vain to catch one of the many picks they threw. Thankfully a front row fan who caught a bunch gave us one after the show. 

Toward the end of the set, they attempted to cover "Take It Easy" by the Eagles in honor of Glenn Frey but they stumbled through it. Paul admitted they probably should have made sure they knew the words.  It was still fun to watch and a sweet tribute.  Drummer Eric Singer got a chance to sing on the final song "Beth." 



The show was a little over an hour, and I felt like I was in a dream.  I had only been this close to the band during signing events. My KISS fandom began at age 5 when I carried a KISS lunchbox to kindergarten, so this was really an incredible experience. 

The band came back and played two songs at halftime for all the fans in attendance: "Shout It Out Loud" and "Rock and Roll All Night." And the team really did look good and actually won the game!  We picked up our season ticket holder schwag - orange "LA KISS Corps" backpacks, designed by Paul, and the bags included lanyards and pins for each of the seasons we had been season ticket holders. Just like the bobbleheads they gave out the first year, the pins will be collectible, and that's what us KISS fans dig. 

It's a shame that only 6800 people attended the game, even with the KISS performance at halftime which should have been a great incentive. Hopefully it will be a good season and more people will come if they keep winning. I already feel like I got my money's worth.  And lord knows I've given KISS enough cash over the years to buy Gene a lot of pocket squares and probably a few basses! 



Check out all my photos from the concert

Visit the LA KISS website


Setlist

  1. Coming Home
  2. Calling Dr. Love
  3. Hard Luck Woman
  4. C'mon and Love Me
  5. Love 'em and Leave 'em
  6. Mainline
  7. Christine Sixteen
  8. Goin' Blind
  9. Do You Love Me
  10. Nothin' to Lose
  11. Love Her All I Can
  12. Plaster Caster
  13. Got to Choose
  14. Take It Easy
  15. Beth

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