Monday, May 30, 2011

KISS The Band And Brand Rocks Raley Field

The Sacramento Bee / by Tony Bizjak

KISS - the thunder rock band with the black-and-white Kabuki faces, 8-inch heels and a style once described as German Panzer - came to town for a benefit concert Sunday night and offered a tongue-in-cheek mea culpa.

They may be to blame for the need to replace the dilapidated Power Balance Pavilion concert venue and Sacramento Kings home court.

"We've played there many times," Paul Stanley said of the arena once called Arco. He grinned. "We're probably one of the reasons that it needs renovating."

KISS, known for end-of-the-world pyrotechnics, toned it down a bit for its Sunday concert at Raley Field in West Sacramento, a special rock-and-dinner affair.

"We have families and tables and glass," bassist Gene Simmons said, sitting with bandmates backstage beyond left field. "We don't want people to have heart attacks and fall on their dinner."

The band lent its efforts to an event called "Walk 'N Rock for Kids." Sponsored by Hope Productions Foundation, a local nonprofit, the morning fundraiser walk and evening concert raised money for service groups helping children.

That amounts to a heavy-duty score for local nonprofits. Thirty-eight years after its launch, the group has become as much rock brand as it is rock band.

KISS still records albums and does tours for rabid fans. But Sunday offered evidence of a broad business approach that keeps the KISS name in lights.

At the entrance to Raley Field, roped off like rock stars, sat four Mini Cooper Countryman cars painted black and white, matching the band members' faces. The cars are up for auction on eBay as part of a UNICEF benefit for children in post-earthquake Japan.

Simultaneously, the group is selling tickets for a KISS Kruise to the Bahamas, which includes two concerts. KISS plush dolls are due out soon, adding to an estimated 3,000 KISS items on the market over the years.

In what may be the ultimate attempt to keep the KISS brand alive in perpetuity, marketers are rereleasing the KISS Kasket, a black coffin made of 20-gauge steel. That's right, it's heavy metal.

It's part of the promotional machine Simmons calls Planet KISS. "That's trademarked," Simmons noted.

It's also why Stanley and Simmons, the group's tenured old-timers, say the band may not disappear even after they are too old to safely negotiate the stage in high heels and 30-plus pounds of costume.

"KISS is an idea that should rightfully be bigger than any one of us," Simmons said. He calls it Kisstianity. "To think that something can't exist without you, that you are indispensable, is delusional to the extreme."

But Stanley has no plans to go off quietly in a KISS Kasket. There's more work to be done, he said. That in mind, he leaned forward in his chair.

"I was just thinking," he said. "I am willing to go to Arco Arena with a bucket of plaster and try to fix all the cracks that we put in."