KISS Army rains down on Iowa State Fair Grandstand
Fans waited and waited and waited.
And, after a rain delay lasting roughly an hour Friday night, they wanted and got the best: A full-on dose of theatrical classic rock act KISS at the Iowa State Fair Grandstand.
“We’re not going to let a little rain stop a party, are we?” singer and guitarist Paul Stanley asked the crowd of a reported 8,648 onlookers after the opening numbers of the set.
Stanley, 64, Bassist Gene Simmons, 66, and the rest of the group mauled through a set of classic KISS hits during Friday night’s performance, including A-list songs such as “Shout It Out Loud,” “Detroit Rock City” and “Love Gun.” The group performed for more than 90 minutes in the rain after waiting out the worst of the evening storm.
KISS faithful, known as the KISS Army, shined bright in the Grandstand and on the fairgrounds before, during and after the performance.
For some, like Tammer Bartmess, 40, of Ogden, it was a chance for a mother to take her daughter to a first show. Bartmess dressed her daughter, Evony, 6, in classic KISS face paint.
Why is KISS Evony’s favorite band? Because they rock ‘n’ roll all night, she said.
“She loves KISS,” Tammer Bartmess said. “She wanted the front row. She wanted to go on stage. She’s very upset that she doesn’t get to go on stage.”
For others, like Kevin Gogerty, 45, of Des Moines, it provided a chance to see a favorite band yet again.
Gogerty said he’s seen KISS more than 10 times in concert. He even fronts a local KISS tribute group, Psycho Circus, in his spare time. He said his group has played the fair in the past.
“They put on a kick-ass show,” Gogerty said. “It’s all about the theatrics.”
Not even the rain delay could dampen the spirits of some KISS fans, like Sepncer Knupp, 45, of Indianola. Knupp said he'd wait, if that's what it takes, to see KISS for the 17th time.
"I'd wait all night for 'em," Knupp said.
A freedom to rock
Before and during Friday’s performance, KISS took time to praise America’s veterans. This run of dates from the band is titled the “Freedom To Rock” tour and features the opportunity for veterans to apply for free or discounted tickets to a show.
“Those brave men and women volunteer to protect us,” Stanley told the Grandstand audience. “To protect freedom … to protect liberty. We have to do more for them.”
Along with providing special ticket opportunities, KISS honors a ‘roadie for a day’ at each tour stop — the band teams with Hiring Our Heroes to choose one military member as a honorary ‘roadie’ each show, Des Moines’ roadie being Navy veteran James Martin. KISS also brought army veteran Dustin Patrick on stage. A self-described KISS fan, Patrick received a remodeled house in Altoona through the Military Warrior Support Foundation.
Since starting in 2009, the foundation has provided more than 700 homes for veterans. Patrick, 38, served from 2005 to 2012, including overseas in both Iraq and Afghanistan. When bringing him on stage, Stanley told the Grandstand crowd Patrick earned the Purple Heart during his service.
The KISS show provided an opportunity for the foundation to officially present the home to Patrick.
“(This is) awesome,” Patrick said. “It’s like a dream. It doesn’t feel real, ya know?”
Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds both made an appearance before the show to meet the veterans, but due to the weather delay, were not able to meet KISS alongside Patrick as originally planned.
Rock ‘n’ rolling into the night
The set features everything a fan would want from a KISS concert: explosions and pyrotechnics during nearly every song, a drum riser lifting drummer Eric Singer up and down, a mouthful of blood running from Simmons’ mouth and constant interaction with the crowd from Stanley.
It was a performance as theatrical as one would expect from a band more than four decades into a career that’s made a permanent stamp on pop culture for its live appearances as much as its music. For some, a KISS show is just as much about the lights, sparks and costumes as it is the music. And, rain delay aside, both the classic tunes and in-your-face dramatics were in full swing.
Songs that rounded out the setlist (which featured an instrumental performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” in the encore) included “War Machine,” “God of Thunder,” “Psycho Circus,” “Flaming Youth,” “Beth” and “Lick It Up.”
Stanley noted it was the band’s eighth time playing in Des Moines. He told the crowd the first time they appeared in Des Moines was in 1977. The last time was in 2014 alongside Def Leppard at Wells Fargo Arena.
“Just in case you didn’t know … we have no people playing underneath this stage” Stanley said before the band played “Flaming Youth.”
“We have no one singing off stage,” he continued. “We have no pre-recorded music. We are a rock ‘n’ roll band and that’s what you deserve.”
As the midnight hour neared, KISS appropriately closed with iconic rock ‘n’ roll super-hit “Rock And Roll All Nite” as both the stage and fair fireworks lit up the wet night sky.