Music News

Fake Kissing: A Tribute to the Long History of Kiss Tribute Bands

With the average ticket to see Kiss costing more than $50, there's definitely a chance your broke ass can't afford to witness the long-in-the-tooth cartoon rockers breathe fire and spit blood all over the stage when their 35th anniversary tour stops at Arena in Glendale. And who wants to see Gene Simmons (né Chaim Witz) and Paul Stanley (né Stanley Eisen) don the spandex and bat wings without original drummer Peter Criss and guitarist Ace Frehley anyway?

That's why God gave rock 'n' roll tribute bands to us. And no band has been honored as much by tribute bands as the "heavy metal Beatles" (Gene's words; not ours). Throw a rock on any given Saturday night and you'll probably hit a foursome of Kiss idolators shouting it out loud at a suburban bar. Here are some notable moments in Kiss tribute history:

Strutter (Jake's in Bloomington, Indiana, 1992): With "the hottest band in the world" well out of makeup and well into their creatively barren period of cheesy hair-metal hits, Strutter usefully fills a niche for college students too young to have witnessed Gene, Paul, Ace, and Peter in their double-platinum-selling heyday. With the Great White fire tragedy in Rhode Island still more than 10 years away, Strutter goes pyro-crazy in the tiny venue.

Kings of the Nighttime World (outdoor music festival in Mason, Michigan, 1997): Before this trio launches into "Shock Me," Frehley's signature song, "Paul" apologizes to the crowd for the conspicuously absent "Ace," telling the assembled that the guitarist was currently detained by the local constabulary awaiting bail after being busted the night before for DUI in the rural Michigan community. "Paul" does his best filling in on the featured guitar solo while a bored-looking "Gene" stands to the side of stage, smoking a cigarette.

Love Gun (a sports bar in Addison, Illinois, 2002): Well past the bedtime of the pre-adolescent boy skateboarding around the half-empty parking lot in this suburban Chicago town, a patron asks, perhaps rhetorically, "Who is that kid and what's he doing up so late in a bar parking lot?" To which a woman hanging around the Love Gun tour bus answers: "Oh, that's Gene's kid." The decision to pay $5 to see Love Gun suddenly bears a previously unfelt sense of gravity.

Aces High (or was it Ace's High? Detroit Rock City-area music clubs, late 1990s/early 2000s): The most discerning subspecies of the American rock fan — the Detroiter — is consistently wowed by this ingenious conceit: a Kiss tribute band comprising four guys playing Ace, each outfitted in a different costume worn by the Spaceman during the band's 1970s glory days.

Mini Kiss (Dos Gringos in Scottsdale, 2008): It's simply one of the more-fitting ideas to come out of a post-9/11 society hell-bent on self-destruction: four "little people" dressed as the heroes of hard rock. Unfortunately, the pint-size Knights In Satan's Service fail to measure up to Kiss' towering musical achievements, using too many pre-recorded backing tracks during their show. But on just another drunken Saturday night in Old Town Scottsdale, Mini Kiss is forgiven.

Priss (now appearing throughout Southern California): Following in the tradition of Hell's Belles (AC/DC), Judith Priest (Judas Priest), The Iron Maidens (Iron Maiden), Cheap Chicks (Cheap Trick), Slay Whore (Slayer), Malice Cooper (Alice Cooper) and Lez Zeppelin (Led Zeppelin), this all-female tribute to the gods of thunder has the look and musical chops to keep Kiss fans rocking 'n' rolling all night and partying everyday well after Gene and Paul finally unmask themselves for the last time.

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Jay Bennett
Contact: Jay Bennett