KISS @ Sarnia Bayfest

Sarnia Bayfest 2011
Sarnia, Ontario
July 6, 2011
Photos: Mike Forbes
Rebel Reviewer Dot Com
After having seen Kiss about 8 or 9 times from umpteen angles, from Detroit to Toronto, from the farthest reaches of the Skydome to 3rd row at Bayfest, I can honestly say I still haven’t seen em enough. Any chance I get, I’ll go cuz I know every time, no matter where, when or what shape the guys are in, they’re gonna put on a first class show woven into a very familiar and kick ass soundtrack. Thanks to one of my oldest and dearest Kiss Army buddies on the planet, I found myself with an Unlicensed VIP ticket which puts you right in front of Gene for the night. Photographically, we tag teamed this show and got some real good gems for you all to enjoy.

Every time I saw them, I tried to take in the whole show. Every little thing going on at all times is pretty hard to do but on the opening night of Sarnia Bayfest 2011, I found myself 10 feet from Gene all night long and it was honestly very hard to pay attention to anything else. Gene worked that crowd like I’ve never really noticed before. I know he always works the crowd but he seemed over the top with fan interaction this night. Normally when I’d go to see Kiss, I’d watch Ace. As sloppy as he could be or as tight and precise, it didn’t matter, Ace was just Ace. No bullshit. He looked cool as fuck and he was an ultimate poser. But this night, I didn’t just see and hear Gene in action, I studied him.

I got to the venue as the first band left the stage. I made my way through the sparse crowd, quite gingerly I might add, as there was so much room in between imaginary rows of Kiss fans leading right up to the 3rd row. Not without pissing off a few people I might add. Why is it that people stand there with full empty rows in front of them and then get pissed when someone weasels in there and steps up to take it? If you’re in a crowd waiting for your favourite band and there are empty rows in front of you in a general admission area, fuckin step up and take it. Don’t bitch at ME cuz I did what you should have done a long time ago.

We did that at the SARS festival, headlined by Rush, AC/DC and the Stones. Me and a buddy walked on the edges of everyone’s blankets straight to the front. It got far too congested and we ended up parking our asses about 30 yards from the stage. We were sandwiched in between people who were waiting since the day before and when I told them I got there half hour ago they almost shit. Well there I was standing in front of a couple big pissed off guys and one real sasquatch of a motherfucker who had a look on his face like he hadn’t shit in a month pressing his elbow into my back for half the show. They told me they’d been there since 3 in the afternoon and I told em I got there 10 minutes ago. Sorry guys… I’m on a mission from God and NOBODY’S gonna fuck with it.

Was it just me or was Gene PLAYING his bass more than usual? I kept hearing killer fills and runs that I never noticed before. Normally while playing tunes like “Shock Me”, Gene throws in some cool little runs here and there but did I not hear far more than what he usually does? Was Gene actually challenging himself musically a bit there? Definitely not during the bass “solo” which I’ve always thought should showcase some kind of 4 string talent, but if I didn’t hear more that night, though I like to believe I did, it could have been blamed on the cookie.

Yes the cookie. Look to the cookie for a source of artificial joy. Look to the cookie for a guaranteed great night sleep. And look to the cookie to enhance any live concert experience. Yes friends, with the right amount of THC, the world’s colour pallet and mixing board unfolds to present sights n sounds one never knew existed. The cookie. Get em in ya before Stephen Harper (Canada’s Prime Minister and head Asshole) takes em away for good.

I completely missed the opening act but caught Inambush, a great little band from Brantford with a crunchy load of hard rock to dump on ya. Saw them at the 515 Concert Club in Cambridge a few months back and I was totally impressed with their skill and tightness. They had a buncha catchy hard rock tunes and were a pleasant surprise.

The Envy hit the stage and as the sun set, the ambiance rose proportionately so. The Iowan band had the crowd in the palm of their hands despite the giant Kiss logo looming in the background. Being one of Simmons’s pet projects, and a seemingly successful one at that, they seemed to have taken some cues from the demon in the arena of confidence and stage presence. They had some really cool tunes and I noticed the cookies tickling at my brain, enhancing the soundtrack just slightly enough to spread a smile across my face and keep my foot tapping and head nodding to the beat.

But who am I kidding? I was there to see Kiss, and more than that, to see the dark heart of what Kiss is all about beating right in my face throughout the whole show. Mr. Simmons, in all his demon-ness, laid it right out in front of me and whether he was actually playing for ME that night or not, remains a bit of a mystery but I’d swear on my kids lives, that Simmons spotted me n my camera during the opening song, “Modern Day Delilah”, and made a point to keep coming back and posing for me and every camera around me.

They ripped through a small serving of Kiss hors d’ouvres, “Cold Gin” and a kick as version of “Let Me Go Rock n Roll” before pulling out one of the big guns, “Firehouse” for Simmons’s fire breathing show stopper. Well fucked if I didn’t have 18 pairs of hands and at least a dozen heads in the way while I tried to capture what always proved to be the hardest shot of the night and failed miserably again. I’ve only ever caught that shot to my satisfaction once from centre ice at the Air Canada Centre back in 2000. The rest have all been NFG, heads n hands in the way and/or blurred beyond recognition. This night was no different.

So I spoke with a few buddies who were at the show and none of them seemed to think Paul was off his game at all. I sure did. Was it the cookies though? I dunno. He definitely wasn’t jumping around like usual, but that’s probably because of the hip replacement. Fuck that makes him sound old. You know if you’re talking heart attacks or hip replacement the dude’s gotta be old! He seemed heavily medicated or something though. Normally he’s yappin away like a cheerleader yet making perfect sense but there were a few times that night that he was beakin off and I couldn’t figure out what the fuck he was talking about… or to who. I also heard quite a few sour notes and I’m pretty damn sure Tommy wasn’t the one dishin em out. To the first timer, or the uninformed, Paulie was top notch and that’s all that really mattered. Like last Bayfest Kiss played, Stanley honed in the town’s name and must have said it 42 times in a sing songy way as if people just like to say Sarnia… only with a think New Yok accent, Sarnia sounds like SAAAWWWNEEAAAAAAAA…. SAAAAAWWWNEEEAAAAAAA… I expected him to pick up a few beer bottles, stick them on his fingers and start slowly clinking them together…. Sawneeeaaaa come out and play!!!

I received a text just before Kiss came on. “Get a good shot of Paul’s ass for me.” My buddy Faye was sitting up on the hill with her son all painted up like Gene. It was his first big concert. So I did. Hope nobody noticed me tracking Stanley’s ass for half a tune, but if they did I’d just tell em I’m gay and that would make most of em shut up n go away. That is one thing you can always count on though. No matter how on or off the ball Mr. Stanley is he’s still a great lookin chiselled dude at 60(ish)!!

Halfway through the show I noticed the moon rising up on stage left. I thought how cool it would be to get some great shots of Simmons spittin blood all over the front of the stage with the moon looming in the background. Well it didn’t happen for the blood shots but I did get some moon pics only it’s kinda hard to expose it all properly without going straight to PhotoShop to make it happen. Well that makes me wanna get creative now!!

One of the cutest things I’ve ever seen at a show and it made me think immediately of my little guy was this dude carrying his kid, 5 years old, on his shoulders right up front to see Gene up close n personal. Ty, a 5 year old kid at his first concert had the devil horns held high with Gene playing just for him had everyone around us watching with huge smiles on our faces. Gene was pointing right at him, stickin his tongue out at him and the little guy was rockin out and lovin it all the way. Shit like this is what puts Gene head n shoulders above a lotta guys out there. I’ve seen Ace totally shit on little kids when it came to getting an autograph but Gene, no fuckin way. He may fuck your mom, your wife and your sister but he aint gonna ever fuck your kid out of an autograph or an opportunity to make a new fan for life.

Despite the load of shit Kiss tried dumping on it’s Bayfest fans in the Sarnia Observer, claiming: “It’s going to be just as much, if not more, this time”, this was a pretty straight up, bare bones show as far as Kiss is concerned. There were no strings and floating stage high up in the middle for “God of Thunder”. There was no drum riser, with sparkling pinwheels n kitty cats at the end of “Black Diamond”. There was no dual scissor lift for the show’s end “Rock n Roll All Nite”. In fact there were no real mechanical devices that distract from what’s really going on and that’s the straight up 3 chord rock n roll that Kiss perfected back in the 70’s. Sarnia got a huge dose of it and from the reaction of the crowd, they loved every second of it…. again.

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