Like a bloated blimp on the horizon, the Band Soon to Be Formerly Known as KISS wafts its way back over the Plains states, extracting with the force of gravity Midwesterners' hard-earned dough from their pockets -- because once wasn't enough.
The dirigible imaginably emblazoned with the faces of four characters out of a DC Comics spin-off (the demon, starchild, jungle cat and spaceman) will make another pit stop in Houston on Tuesday, August 22, at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, and bid us all adieu one more time.
KISS's last performance here, on April 1, was supposed to be its grand finale, its one last good-bye to this city, one of many fortunate cities to have a fan base large and supportive enough to say au revoir properly.
Because that's what it boils down to, right? Does your city have what it takes to see KISS play again?
Houston's "rock station" KLOL and Pace/SFX, the 800-pound gorilla of booking agencies, say yes -- though each seems to be stepping over the other to take credit for bringing the band back. Here's one version of how things went down: Once KLOL DJ Outlaw Dave got word that KISS was adding dates to its farewell tour, he went to SFX and asked about the possibilities of once again getting KISS in Houston. SFX, according to sources familiar with the proceedings, said ehh. Outlaw Dave said well, okay, if I get 10,000 signatures, one John Hancock for every seat in Cynthia Woods, then will you guys bring KISS back? SFX: Ehh, sure. (The other version posits that SFX approached KLOL and asked the radio station if it could gauge demand for another KISShow.) Thus began Outlaw Dave's petition drive.
A lot of KLOL listeners, apparently, were miffed that they didn't get to see the band the first time around on its last time around. KLOL, as the only station in town inclined to play KISS every other waxing crescent moon, felt that by helping bring the band back it was earning some public service points -- and getting major promo pomp in the meantime. Listeners were encouraged to go to KLOL's Web site and fill out the electronic petition, which, like some sort of marketing device, also included questions about age and gender and which read: "We have set up a petition drive and our goal is to find 10,000 KISS fans that would like to see them return for a Final Farewell show. We feel confident that if we can reach our goal, we will be able to convince KISS to return sometime this summer!"
Serendipitously, as if Mary Poppins herself were pulling all the strings, the petition was posted on June 17, the day KISS's official Web site, www.kissonline.com, announced a second visit to Houston.
McGee Entertainment, the talent agency that works with KISS, believes the explanation for the coinky-dink is simple. "[KLOL and SFX] just didn't want to see what happened in Duluth," says a McGee staffer who works directly with KISS, referring to a KISS performance up that-a-ways that was canceled and relocated to neighboring Minneapolis. For a time, Duluth was also posted on the band's on-line tour itinerary. Since the show was never finalized, it was moved. Bada-bing, bada-boom. Shit happens. KLOL and SFX were just being cautious. The Houston show was officially announced Friday, June 30.
What this looks like is a radio publicity stunt that, unlike the KISS balloon, never got off the ground. Coming back to Houston, according to McGee folk and the band's manager, was a no-brainer. The band's previous show here sold out and went off perfectly. KISS math indicates that for every fan who attended the "last" show there were two at home lip-synching to "Deuce." Whatever the attendance for this second show, it's still a decent-enough crowd for Gene, Paul, Peter and Ace to gouge. KLOL may have ensured that KISS fans didn't get their hopes up too high, but the station certainly can't keep a straight face while making this claim on its Web site: "We all know [KISS] wouldn't be coming back without the tremendous support that the Houston area fans have shown KISS throughout the years and," this is the kicker, "during the Bring Back KISS petition drive on KLOL which brought in over 10,000 KISS fan signatures."
On the what-are-they-thinking front, KISS is bringing openers Skid Row this time around. These '80s has-beens replace '70s has-been Ted Nugent, who has been banned from the venue. Let us count the reasons: During the April Fool's Day show, the Nuge celebrated his namesake day by strutting around in Indian headdress, wearing a rebel flag and talking about his song "Stranglehold," which he said was so sexy that "even them fags be eatin' pussy tonight." Curiously enough, of all the activist groups to pressure Cynthia Woods into shutting out the Nuge for good -- and many groups had probable cause -- a Mexican-American organization, LULAC, was the one that did. The group was infuriated by some remarks Teddy Bear made about immigrants from south of the border. And not that it's any sort of high ground, but Skid Row is a step up the evolutionary chain from jackass Nugent. The hair-metal outfit is now even Sebastian Bach-free, trudging on without the former lead singer who once wore a T-shirt that read, "AIDS kills fags dead" (a spoof on the Raid advertisement). He hasn't been seen with the band since its critical and commercial demise in the mid-'90s. What Amplified is trying to say here with all this is buy your $300 tickets early and show up late.
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Former Houston homies Broken Note Records has finally gotten comfortable with its L.A. digs. The record company, under whose canopy slip-hoppers I-45 made their name, somehow talked porn star Ron Jeremy into appearing on the cover of a forthcoming Broken Note band's album. Hopefully the Jeremy on the front of Xtra Fat Caps, by Nonstop Bombers, will not be the chubby, ssssss-oh-ewwww-yeah, baby Jeremy of the smut screen but the fully clothed Jeremy of the grocery store. When insiders told Broken Note that porn stars sell records, they should've been more specific: Female porn stars sell records.
Apparently the guy with almost as many recordings to his name as Elvis just can't stop releasing records, even from the great beyond; next month Rhino Records issues The Very Best of Lightninà Hopkins, another installation in its 20-plus-long genre series Blues Masters: The Essential Blues Collection. Why it has taken Rhino so long to get around to celebrating Hopkins is anyone's guess. Yet here the label is, giving us Hopkins's "Very" best, or at least what we couldn't find on the 900 other albums belonging to the Third Ward's pride and joy.
Though he's taking over as HSPVA's new director of jazz studies, Warren Sneed (class of '78) says he will continue gigging, just not as much. "I'm not gonna quit playing, that's for sure," says Sneed. On Saturday, July 15, Sneed performs with Q (Sneed on sax, Joe LoCascio on piano, Bill Miller on bass and Tim Solook on drums) at Cezanne, 4100 Montrose. For more information, call (713)522-9621.
Some noteworthy gigs around town: Twiggy, Houston's answer to Foghat, plays a CD release party Saturday, July 15, at Rudyard's, 2010 Waugh. For more information, call (713)521-0521. And Houstonian-by-way-of-Chicago singer-songwriter Mark Zeus plays the Old Quarter Acoustic Cafe in Galveston, 413 20th Street. For more information, call (409)762-9199.