DESTROYED SARNIA!
July 31, 2009
By Karen Fader McBride

For 11 years now, Sarnia Ontario has played host to an ever-growing music festival known as Rogers Bayfest. Split over two weekends, they celebrated last year as their 10th anniversary by shaking up the city with hit acts like Bon Jovi and Motley Crue. With two legendary bands headlining last year, the biggest question for the current 11th year ended up being how on earth the Bayfest organizers would top such a show. The answer to that question... KISS!

Being able to cover this year's event was something special to me as I grew up in Sarnia. Bayfest began long after I moved away, yet none of my return trips ever coincided with the festival. Finally my timing was spot-on and I managed to take in the most incredible show of my life to date.

This was definitely one for the history books as far as the small city of Sarnia is concerned. Fans of KISS, known as the KISS Army, invaded the town early in the day, even though gates would not open until 6pm. As I made my way to the show grounds I spied more and more fans dressed up as KISS members and some of them were very creative costume wise. It is amazing what one can do with old hockey gear and a few boxes of tinfoil. Once inside the backstage area, I immediately spotted actual members of the band KISS as they walked around socializing with crew and media folk. Tommy Thayer and Paul Stanley were nearby signing some KISS memorabilia for fans as Gene Simmons chatted with some locals.

It was a good half hour before a large black curtain emblazed with the name KISS dropped from the top of the stage to hide the last of preparations. The crowd was indeed anxious but finally the curtain fell and standing before the crowd were the three guitarists of KISS; Gene, Tommy and Paul riding what looked to be a spaceship down from the top of the stage, jets of smoke billowed from beneath the machine as it finally landed center stage. The three of them hopped off and ripped into the first track of the evening, Deuce. Fans were screaming and camera flashes were so constant it was as if there was a steady strobe-light coming from the massive crowd. Paul Stanley addressed the audience; "How you doing people, did you come tonight to get some rock and roll? Well you came to the right place!" The response was expectedly deafening as the band tore into their song, Strutter. Concussion and pyrotechnic effects were fired off throughout the 2 hour long set, confetti cannons fired during Rock and Roll All Nite with such force and consistency that it seemed to snow throughout the park during the bands show. Fireworks were set off atop the stage, reaching far into the sky, lighting up not only Bayfest but many city blocks as well.

Guitarist Tommy put on some amazing solos, of which one had his guitar firing off pyrotechnic like a screaming dragon. At one point Gene rose above the stage to the top of the light; not long afterwards Paul rode a zip-line out to the soundboard stage, flying over and above the crowd. He played there for most of Love Gun, giving those fans further back in the crowd a show all their own before making his way back to the stage. On drums Eric Singer ran through a barrage of solos for the huge crowd; as only The Cat can. Gene took a moment to show everyone he can breathe fire as well, holding up a torch and spewing a steady stream of flame metres into the air. Paul, aka Starchild, addressed the crowd at one point telling everyone that "Big cities could learn a lesson from Sarnia". A good point considering the population of Sarnia is under 100 000.

The show never wound down, it was hyped and crazy until the last song, Detroit Rock City, and then the crowd roared for a good ten minutes; so caught up in the energy of the show they were still singing KISS songs. Slowly the masses filed out of the park, although it would take a good hour or more to get out of the parking area alone.