September 10, 2010
Young or old, KISS is ready for DTE crowd

Christina Fuoco-Karasinski / Flint Journal

KISS drummer Eric Singer has seen a distinct change in his band's fan base since 2008. What was once a party crowd has slowly given way to families.

"It's pretty much become an all-ages show," said Singer, via telephone from an Atlanta hotel. 'There are so many younger kids and teenagers who come to the shows more and more. You really see a difference. We saw it starting in '08 but really started to notice a big difference over the last year or so."

Singer is unsure about the reasons behind the change. Even KISS' manager, "Doc" McGhee, has investigated the matter by walking around shows and asking people what they like about the act, which also includes guitarist Tommy Thayer, lead vocalist/bassist Gene Simmons and lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist Paul Stanley.

"Our manager, Doc McGhee, walks around and talks to people before the show just to get a feel for what people think and what they like," said Singer, who's been in KISS from 1991 to 1996, 2001 to 2002 and 2004 to present. "He'll ask them, 'What can we do to improve the show? What do you like about the show? What don't you like about the show?' He asks those questions.

"A lot of kids say they discovered the band through YouTube, Rock Band, Guitar Hero, that stuff. ... They’ve also heard about it through an aunt or uncle, or their parents. They used to see their parents old records laying around. They investigate, put them on and listen."

KISS is encouraging families to see its pyro-heavy show by offering free tickets for children ages 14 and younger with the purchase of an adult (21 and older) lawn ticket. Tickets must be purchased day of show.

"On outdoor shows (like DTE Energy Music Theatre), whenever it's a Live Nation show with lawn seating, if somebody buys a lawn ticket, if you have a kid that's 14 or younger, you can get four kids 14 and younger for free on one ticket," Singer said. "It's very good. It's to sit on the lawn but at least you can get in the venue. We did that as a way to try to help people who are financially more strapped or want to be able to bring a family and it's just too expensive to go to a show. But a family that has three or four kids and they want to go to a show, they go, 'Hey, we'd like to take our kids but we can't afford to buy six tickets.' They can buy a couple lawn tickets and they can take their kids for nothing as long as they're 14 and younger. We're just trying to find different ways to do the right thing, if you will."

"Doing the right thing" also applies to supporting the military. KISS, who released its latest album "Sonic Boom" in 2009, is giving $1 per ticket to the Wounded Warrior Project, whose mission is to honor and empower injured troops.

"That's something that's important to us," Singer said. "We don't go out of our way to get caught up with standing on a soapbox and looking for accolades. It's just something we do because it's important to us.

"It's not a political thing for us. The bottom line is we have a volunteer army. Most of them are 18-, 19-, 20-year-old young people - practically kids. They go over there voluntarily. A lot of times they come back and they just need to get their life back. That Wounded Warriors Project helps them with physical or mental therapy. I think it's important to know that these people have sacrificed voluntarily for you and I to have an opinion one way or another on anything we want."

This KISS tour, dubbed "The Hottest Show on Earth Tour," wraps up in early October, after which the band is going to take a break. Singer said he's sure another album will be in KISS' future. In the meantime, KISS is thrilled about returning to Detroit, which is located in an area of the country where the band goes over well.

"The Midwest - or if you want to call it the Heartland - has always been great in general for rock 'n' roll," Singer said. "I grew up in Cleveland. I know what it's like. Detroit and Cleveland are very similar. They're literally just around the bend from each other on the lake. They're so close in proximity. Everyone I've met from Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, those parts of the country, they have a certain kind of work ethic and a certain appreciation for music and rock 'n' roll.

"Growing up, I remember it being such a music town. That whole region is always into music and really supportive of bands. It's in the water or in the blood. There's just something about it. Detroit's always had a special place for KISS. Besides the first album, all three of 'KISS Alive' albums were recorded in a combination of three cities - Detroit, Cleveland and Indianapolis. There's something about that connection."