July 06, 2011
In the photos: KISS fans Nicole Vander Zanden, left, and Chantel Brooker donned their face paint and stuck out their tongues at Sarnia Bayfest 2011. The 18-year-old girls made the trip up to see KISS.

Hunter Snyder, 7, spreads his bat wings to show off his Gene Simmons costume at Sarnia Bayfest 2011. The boy from Attica, New York, has been to five KISS shows.

By TYLER KULA, The Observer

Brian Maxwell's bedroom in Collingwood, Ont. is a thousand dollar shrine to the rock band KISS.

"Everybody thinks I'm crazy," said the 16-year-old, who was decked out in Gene Simmons-esque 'Demon' makeup Wednesday.

Maxwell was among the first in line to see the iconic rockers take the stage opening night at Sarnia's Bayfest music festival.

"They're not just a band, they're superheroes," said Maxwell, shortly after buying another $195 worth of KISS swag — a shirt, sweater, signed photo, signed drumsticks, poster and a bandana to add to his collection.

"I think there's maybe about 200 KISS logos in my room," he said.

Many of the more than 15,000-member KISS Army that poured into Centennial Park sported makeup and other regalia in homage to the band.

Some arrived in the complete KISS costume, complete with six-inch platform shoes.

"For us, it's a family thing," said Tom Snyder, who came to Sarnia from Attica, New York to see the show with his sons Hunter, 7, and Zak, 20.

"This is what we do and we just love it," he said.

Hunter, decked out as frontman Gene Simmons, said he loves the songs, the fireworks, the flames and everything about the band's stage show.

He's already been to five KISS concerts in his young life.

"I don't think there's any(thing) better, with my kids, you know," said Tom, who's been a fan since the early '70s.

"I've been to one concert by myself and it's just not the same."

The band — Simmons, lead vocalist Paul Stanley, lead guitarist Tommy Thayer and drummer Eric Singer — were making their second Bayfest performance after rocking a sold-out show in 2009.

"I just like their drums and I like Gene's guitar, the bass," said Snyder.

Arriving at the show from Niagara Falls was Gordon Taylor, with two sons, daughter, and a family friend. Taylor is a long-time fan who said he's seen shows in Atlanta, Detroit, Toronto, Kitchener, and Oshawa.

The family has a love affair with KISS, said Alexandra Taylor, 15.

"It started off with (my dad), then it wore off on us," she said.

There was no shortage of fans eager to show off their devotion.

Adam Taylor, 17, his brother Gavin, 19, and Michael Easson, 18, earned passes to meet and greet with the band backstage, courtesy of The Observer, after delivering a performance of KISS' Modern Day Delilah.

"It is the best day of my life right now," said Gavin, in a full 'Spaceman' costume.

Easson, who was attending his first KISS show, said he's come to love the group from New York, thanks to his friends.

"They got me introduced to the band and now I'm hooked."