March 17th, 2011
Houston Rodeo: Sealed with a KISS
I’ve written about my abusive relationship with Tuesdays in previous articles, so when I saw KISS was coming to the Houston Rodeo AND the performance was on a Tuesday night, I knew I had to pull the trigger.
It’s just logic, folks:
Bull ridin’ + Mutton bustin’ + funnel cakin’ + drink partakin’ + KISS performin’ = a Tuesday winner.
Before KISS I hadn’t been to the rodeo in a few years. And before that, my last rodeo viewing was in the Astrodome. Each time we went as kids, I was most pumped about the carnival – the “midway” – more than anything else. My poor parents shelled out dollar after dollar so we could go play the “You’re Kidding Yourself” game (i.e. the Throw the Ring on the Coke Bottle game) or the game where you win a goldfish, which always began weaving its own noose by the time we reached 610.
But of the rodeos of yore music is what I remember most now. I remember seeing Anne Murray when I was 10 and being non-plussed that her name didn’t start with a “Debbie” and end with a “Gibson”. (Note: Don’t even get me started on how much I love “Danny’s Song” now. That comes on in the car, and it’s showtime.)
I remember seeing Ronnie Milsap and Alabama and anticipating Snoozeville Parent Music but actually not being in hell. I mean, “Smokey Mountain Rain”? “Dixieland Delight”? Yes and Yes. Oh, how I miss country songs by artists who don’t wear Affliction and have frosted tips…
And Chicago. The last rodeo concert I remember seeing was Chicago. I know it was the last one because I remember being in that self-conscious everyone-is-looking-at-me stage and being slightly embarrassed listening to Chicago croon away love songs while standing next to my dad.
Cut to Tuesday.
Walking into Reliant I was giddy. I love events where the crowd is a little bit of everything, and this didn’t disappoint. Adults and kids in full KISS make-up, bedazzled cowboy boots that probably cost more than my car, un-ironic mullets, Wranglers and sequined leggings, tired parents wishing for the end of Spring Break, kids with face paint and faces full of cotton candy. I was in heaven.
Cocktail in hand, we watched the rodeo events unfold. I was mesmerized by the very cowboy names and I LOVED the faces they made atop their bronco or bull as they braced for the opening of the gate. They were all young and fresh-faced and from places that sounded beautiful and where you can actually see the stars at night. I talked about how they reminded me of characters from Annie Proulx’s Close Range: Wyoming Stories, and thought about how their job is to learn and practice and study riding bulls that could stomp their life out like a birthday candle. I make PowerPoint slides in a cube.
The anticipation of KISS was in the air, but the barrel racing and mutton bustin’ were easily two of my favorite events. Those barrel racing ladies are forces to be reckoned with. And mutton bustin’? Must. Take. Knee. Killed. By. Cuteness. Small youngsters riding small sheep whilst wearing small cowboy outfits = SUCCESS.
As the rodeo events finished up, I was in love with everyone and everything and contemplating a pair of boots to wear like a good Texan. Surely it couldn’t get better.
And then they rolled out the stage. And then the lights went down on a packed, buzzing Reliant stadium. And then the big screens showed the members of KISS walking out back stage. And then 4 golf carts brought KISS out to the stage. And I realized: Yes, yes, it could get even better.
Now, listen. I am not a KISS aficionado. Frankly, I knew 3 songs going into the night. And by “know” I mean I could recognize on a good day. So when they started out and I didn’t recognize the song, I began to worry. Luckily no one else seemed to really know it (which I now know was “Modern Day Delilah”), so all was okay. Besides, I was too busy trying to take it all in…the iconic make-up I had inspected so closely on KISS posters on my cousin’s wall growing up…the platform shoes that Paul Stanley adeptly paraded around in like they were Nikes…Gene’s tongue (and the eventual slobber) that was strangely exhilarating.
Paul is an incredible frontman, and spoke about how much KISS loves Houston and what “fine people” we are (and how beautiful our women are – awww yeah). And each time he addressed the audience, he was almost singing/shrieking/performing in the most adrenaline-fueling way. Just his VOICE made me want to stand up and fist pump the air and get out a can of Aqua Net and spray it on my hair and then put black leather pants and spray my hair again (How quickly I go from soon-to-be-barrel-racer to groupie?). This feeling was only exacerbated by the pyrotechnics, amazing guitar solos, and Paul’s tonguing and spitting guitar picks. The only time I broke out of my groupie reverie was when I’d catch a glimpse of the poor little girl lying on her parent’s lap in front of me, cupping her ears, surely wondering what the hell is wrong with her parents.
Paul introduced each song with a quip that would tie into the song – e.g. something to the effect of “It’s going to get so hot in here, we’re gonna call the firehouse…”. I laughed when during one introduction Paul told the audience not to worry if we didn’t know the song, we’d know the chorus. And he was right.
The person I was with knew a lot about KISS and had been filling me in on the history, the fights, the Ace and Peter history, the MTV revealing sans make-up, etc. It was like watching a Behind the Music live, so by the time Eric Singer sang “Beth” I was thinking about whether it feels weird for him to be singing Peter Criss’s originally penned and performed ballad. Oh, but don’t get me wrong. I thought about that for two seconds, then went back to yelling, “Beth, I hear you calling…” at the top of my lungs, along with all the other women in the audience.
Near the end of the show Paul spoke about our brave men and women overseas and brought out two servicemen to the stage. KISS and the entire stadium recited the pledge of allegiance. It was actually a very cool, pride-provoking moment. The honoring of the soldiers turned into Paul explaining how once we bring home our service men and women from overseas, we’d celebrate by – how else – rock and rolling all night and partying every day.
The night ended like every Tuesday night should: Paul Stanley swinging a guitar and breaking it on stage, an entire stadium woooooooo’ing, and two hoarse voices recounting the fantastic night over cheeseburgers.