Sunday, May 8, 2011
When it was announced that KISS would be playing the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo this year, I knew I had to go. Not because it’s fantastic seeing KISS or anything but because that band is so goddamned ridiculous that combining their gaudy live show with the atmosphere of yuppies and shitkickers at the rodeo was sure to yield entertaining results. When we first arrived I was excited to partake in one of my favorite rodeo pastimes (I bartend at a booth during the cook-off and these are often the only way to make the experience bearable beyond chugging whiskey): the mullet count. Sadly and shockingly, there was a severe lack of white trash aesthetic on the grounds. I expected wispy moustaches, loads of “Hot in the Shade” tour shirts with the sleeves ripped off, dressed up by a ratty denim vest littered with W.A.S.P. and Dokken patches whose wearers would be two fisting cans of Red Dog, the party-ends of their tragicomic coif’s flowing majestically in the gentle breeze. Honestly, I can’t remember when I’ve been to the rodeo and haven’t seen a vast array of ape drapes. Instead, it was aging rocker dads with their (mostly) male progeny in tow eager to experience “the hottest band in the world” together in a completely absurd setting. Who really would’ve expected to watch bull riding, barrel races and 6 year olds in full hockey gear strapped to mutton as a lead-in to two geriatric rock stars and their hired goons in face paint singing about their cocks? The crowd was really apathetic leading up to the lights going down. Everyone was downing $6 beers and liquor but no one seemed excited about the band. It was just like they were staying to watch KISS as a time killer before hitting the carnival. KISS has a ravenous fan base (how else can you explain their endurance or the fact that Chaim Witz has had a reality show running for over 5 fucking years) and they’re often loud and rowdy but once the lights finally dimmed there was only a dull roar of applause from the over 72,000 in attendance. The jumbotrons, hung high above the revolving stage, lit up with the visages of the “four ugliest Jewish women in the world” as they were loaded into their golf carts (Eric Singer and Paul Stanley had to share one) before being shuttled out to the stage. Manager Doc McGee mugged for the cameras as he shook every member’s hand before a roadie made the traditional proclamation, “YOU WANTED THE BEST? YOU GOT THE BEST: THE HOTTEST BAND IN THE WORLD…KISSSSSSSS!” Explosions ensued around the stage and people were jazzed but I sat puzzled as to why I didn’t hear the intro to “Detroit Rock City” instead of something off the group’s 2009 album, Sonic Boom (I had to look that one up as I’m sure anyone else who’s not a KISS die-hard did). When the group walked out I was fucking certain Paul Stanley was wearing a spanx. His hairy bitch tits juggled beneath his super tight leather vest as he swaggered around the stage with his guitar between his legs when the cameras focused on him. Gene Simmons did his usual tongue wagging, strutting with the menacing glare that is his “Demon” persona, but it felt odd considering that these are tactics they use to engage and excite the crowd. Unfortunately, the majority of the crowd was 2,000 fucking feet away. There was a small contingent of fans who had seating on the grounds (still 1,999 thousand feet away from the stage), roped off with lawn chairs in tow. The funniest thing about this wasn’t imagining how much these people paid for their “privileged” seats but when an over-eager couple knocked others out of the way and ended up eating shit, face down in the dirt. Plus, if you can’t see the jumbotrons then you can’t see the band unless you’ve invested in C.I.A. grade binoculars or can crane you’re neck to a position only comparable to being in the front row at a laser Floyd show. Once the band segued into “Shout It Out Loud,” people started getting on their feet and my companions pointed out a guy one section over with seething, bulging neck veins freaking out like it was the second coming of Jeebus. This was the spectacle I had expected to see. Drunken fools slavishly lapping up whatever auI have to admit I enjoyed “Deuce” but once that was over Paul started in with the crowd fellating and it has never seemed more comical. With his strained, howling shriek that is somewhere between Dr. Rockso and that cuntrag from the Darkness and William Shatner he’d shout gems like, “HEEEEW-STUNNNN! YOU GOT SOME FINE LOOKUN’ WUMUN HEYARE! WE KNOW WHERE WE’RE AYAT. WHEN WE GET OFF THE PLAYANE!” Once again, another dull roar from the crowd. Stanley would further go on to embarrass himself (and insult his fans if you think about it) by asking if they remembered “THEEEYAS ONE!” before humming the choruses of their lamentable disco hit “I Was Made for Loving You” and “Lick it Up” amongst other tunes. Of course, “Calling Dr. Love” popped up on the set list (hey, they’ve got a contract with Dr. Pepper and that new cherry flavor ain’t selling itself), not-Peter Criss sang “Beth” to some boos from the KISS Army and for the latter part of their set Simmons and Stanley seemed to be engaging in a mugging contest for the roving cameras with Stanley’s flirtatious kisses and guitar pick spitting (into a crowd of no one) ultimately winning out. This all culminated in the height of absurdity when Stanley paraded two military veterans onto the stage, announcing they would be donating money from the show to the Wounded Warrior project and then demanding that the crowd, well, I’ll write it in Starchild speak: “PUT YO-AH RIGHT HAYAND OVAH YO-AH HART. AND REPEEEEEAT AFTA ME!” before launching into the Pledge of Allegiance. I shit you not, this happened. The crowd went fucking insane for this cheap stunt (has KISS ever delved into politics with heart and passion?) and leapt to their feet to join in, almost drowning out Stanley. I can’t remember a crowd at the HLSR this excited since the year they dropped Lee “I’m Proud to be an American” Greenwood down from the rafters every night. I’m not ragging on the crowd for being patriotic but from other concertgoers I spoke to (who traveled from out of the country) they felt that the band was pandering to the rodeo crowd and I have to agree. Still, it was the most excitement I would see from the crowd before they closed out with “Rock and Roll All Nite,” and the aging rockers would gloriously relive their senior year party at the Moon Tower. Yes, this wasn’t a typical KISS show. There was little fire-breathing, Gene didn’t spit blood and Fake Ace’s guitar didn’t spew smoke from its pick-ups when they eventually played “Detroit Rock City,” but it sure proved to be an amusing clusterfuck of rock ‘n’ roll excess in the worst possible way. Some bands just need to die and with this latest stunt KISS has moved ahead of the Rolling Stones to top that list.