KIX – MASS, Wally’s Pub, Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, August 28th, 2016

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Brian Forsythe, KIX’s guitarist, had told me that their sound check was at 4:30 p.m., and I was hoping to get there early and maybe we could grab lunch and catch up. Brian and I have been friends since 1985 when I thumbed down to Boston in the pouring rain to see them play on the Midnight Dynamite tour. I forgot that it was August, A Sunday, and I live in Maine…traffic was ridiculous getting out of the state that afternoon. As I maintained a ten mile an hour crawl, just to stop again for 2 minutes, repeat hundreds of times, and watched the clock tick away the minutes, I wished that I had left an hour earlier.

I finally arrived, miraculously ten minutes before sound-check, and as I entered Wally’s for the first time, I found it is a pretty cool club with a large enough stage and friendly staff. Birthday cake in hand, I made my way to the soundboard and stashed the surprise. It was Steve Whitman’s, KIX’s singer, 60th birthday. I grabbed a barstool and waited for the band to arrive. I caught up with Jimmy Chalfant, KIX’s drummer, chatted with him a bit, then caught Ronnie Younkins, KIX’s guitarist, and Mark Schenker, KIX ‘s bassist. About 20 minutes later, Brian came in and the sound check began. They did the sound check sans Steve, and I snapped a couple photos as they worked the gremlins out of the mix.

A few hours later the show began, MASS opened the show. I remember seeing these guys back in the 80s opening for someone, yet for whom and where escapes me now. They were quite good, then and now. They seem to know quite a few members in the audience and put on a great show despite the cramped quarters, as opening acts are typically set up in front of the headlining act’s equipment. Mass played a solid set and left the stage with great applause.

With no barricade between the audience and the band, it started getting tight at the foot of the stage. I had the birthday cake, in its plastic protective cover, on the floor by my feet, and asked my fellow KIX fans to try and not step on it. They, like the band, were awesome, and as we waited together we had some great conversations.

After a short break, the lights were lowered and KIX took the stage. Now I may be bias but I must say that these guys are one of the most underrated bands out there today. The musicianship and live stage show is amazing, and they have always been one of my favorite acts to see. Front-man Steve Whitman is like a stand up comedian playing with the crowd, and he always seems like he is having a blast on the stage, at times even cracking up his bandmates, most of whom have been members of KIX since the start in 1977. One would think that after nearly four decades you’d have heard it all, but Steve keeps coming up with stuff that is full of wit and has you smiling from the first song until the end of the show.

The band opened the show with “Wheels in Motion,” the first track off their new album, Rock Your Face Off, and that set the mood for the rest of the show. It was pedal to the metal, straight ahead, no holds barred, rock n roll fun. Brian Forsythe and Ronnie Younkins are a great duo, much like Richards and Wood, or Perry and Whitford, or (Adrian) Smith and (Dave) Murray. Jimmy Chalfant keeping everything in perfect time and locked up with the newest member, Mark Schenker (2003). The band did not miss a step and had their fans in the palm of their hands.

Somewhere in the middle of the show, when Steve mentioned it was his birthday, I raised the cake, and handed it to him, He looked at it and said, “I’m gonna fuck this cake after the show.” A song or two later, Mark grabbed the microphone and the band brought out a cupcake with a lit candle, Steve blew it out and announced, “I’m also gonna fuck that cupcake after the show.”

The show ended with Steve armed with a giant red hammer, looking like it was pulled from a Bugs Bunny cartoon, and two giant bags of balloons. Steve slammed the hammer down, breaking the bag to let all the balloons descend on the crowd.
The hammer is relatively new but the balloons have been a part of the show for as long as I can remember, as is the last song “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.”

KIX were gracious enough to hang out after the show, chat, and sign things for fans.

I couldn’t count how many times I have seen this band, but after every show I can’t wait to see them again. I will be catching their sets on the Monsters of Rock Cruise in a few weeks as a matter of fact. If you haven’t seen these guys live, get out there and do it. They are amazing.

MASS setlist:

Turn it all Around – Nine Tonight – Over You – It’s You – Crying Alone – Reach For The Sky – Leaving You – Seven Days – Looking Good – Pedal to the Metal – Sea of Black – Love Reign On Me

KIX’s setlist:

Wheels in Motion – Sex – Ring Around Rosie – Rock Your Face Off – Midnight Dynamite – The Itch – Cold Shower – Girl Money – Red Lite, Green Lite, TNT – Don’t Close Your Eyes – She Dropped me the Bomb – Love Me With Your Top Down – Cold Blood – Blow My Fuse

Encore: Yeah, Yeah, Yeah

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