02/08/2017

KISS to headline 2017 Endymion Extravaganza

/ The Advocate

KISS will finally consummate its relationship with the superkrewe Endymion during the 2017 Mardi Gras season.

The band will headline the post-parade Endymion Extravaganza in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Feb. 25, sharing the bill with rapper FloRida and disco-era favorites KC and the Sunshine Band.

Additionally, members of KISS are slated to ride in Endymion for the final few blocks of the parade route. The plan is for them to board a float near the Joy Theater on Canal Street, then wave and toss throws the rest of the way to the Superdome.

Endymion founder Ed Muniz, the krewe's captain for its entire 51-year history, announced the entertainment roster Wednesday at Mardi Gras World.

The members of KISS were supposed to serve as the 1979 Endymion parade's grand marshals. But a police strike that year canceled most Carnival parades in Orleans Parish. Endymion rolled in Kenner, but bassist Gene Simmons and his bandmates opted not to ride.

Muniz took Simmons out to dinner in Metairie anyway. At one point, the rock star put his girlfriend at the time, Cher, on the phone with Muniz.

The four members of KISS were depicted on a float in the 2016 Endymion parade, which commemorated the krewe’s 50th anniversary.

KISS joins a long list of celebrity entertainers associated with Endymion. In 1976, rocker Alice Cooper, then at the height of his popularity, rode as the parade’s grand marshal.

“That was a big deal,” Muniz recalled earlier this year. “That was the first time Endymion went super.”

In 2015, country superstar Luke Bryan rode aboard Endymion's grand marshal float for the entire route, a span of more than six hours. He then rallied for a midnight performance at the Extravaganza, which, with its ice chests and tables piled high with food and drink, is akin to a mass tailgate party in formal attire.

The 2016 Extravaganza headliners, Pitbull and Steven Tyler, did not participate in the parade itself, although Tyler did make a brief appearance at Endymion’s pre-parade Samedi Gras celebration on the Orleans Avenue neutral ground near City Park Avenue.

The 2017 Samedi Gras event will kick off at noon Feb. 25 and feature local cover bands the Topcats, Groovy 7 and the Bucktown Allstars. 

With more than 3,000 members, Endymion stages the largest parade in Carnival. It will roll at 4:15 p.m. Feb. 25 on its traditional Mid-City route. The 2017 theme is "The Constellations." Individual floats will depict celestial bodies.

Muniz, who made a fortune in the radio business before getting into Jefferson Parish politics, still keeps abreast of popular music. For the Extravaganza, he books acts to appeal to the krewe's diverse membership.

"That's what I learned when I was operating radio stations — you don't go for just one demographic," Muniz said Wednesday. "I would think FloRida is a different demographic than KISS. FloRida is younger."

Overall, "the membership seems happy" with this year's selections, he said. Most of the 20,000 tickets for the Extravaganza already have been sold. The only way to buy one now, Muniz said, is from a member of the krewe.

Headlining acts at the Extravaganza are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars. They are invited to ride in the parade but are not contractually required to do so.

"We book them to perform," Muniz said. "We invite them to ride. If they don't ride, we don't get upset about it."

Some performers opt to skip the parade because they don't want to wear themselves out by spending hours on a float leading up to show time. Others would rather spend the early evening rehearsing or doing sound checks at the Superdome. 

But the members of KISS have tentatively agreed to climb aboard a float when the parade reaches the Joy.

"In a perfect world, that's what is going to happen," Muniz said. "It all seems to work out. I think God loves Mardi Gras."

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