Kissers, The (November 2007)

Date of Performance: September 16, 2007
Venue: Willy Street Fair, Williamson Street, Madison, WI, US

Their passel is touted as Irish Rock. Going in, I wasn't sure if this would be closer to Dolores O'Riordan, Mostly Autumn, or U2. Whatever it drew on, I was dedicated on checking them out; mainly because the genre sounded cool.

I sat out of Pupy Costello & His Big City Honky Tonk. The band might have been good, but the name was a real turnoff. In its stead, I went to Monty's Blue Plate for dinner. And nope, I didn't get the Poo-Poo Platter.

Honestly, I would have gone home earlier if not for The Kissers. I saw them several years back and wanted to see them again. As I learned, they frequently play around the area.

When I saw them last, I had not stayed for the duration due to the establishment's smoky atmosphere. So my recollection was shaky. I did make a mental note to try them out when an unpolluted occasion cropped up.

We were informed that their next concert was at the Crystal Corner Bar, which is a neighborhood hangout that's known to offer some of the best music in town. At least that's an improvement over Kevin Malone's hopeful gig at Pam Beesly's wedding. Still, it's a smoky bar and it's indoors. The festival, however, has plenty of untainted air.

Not being a smoker myself, I thought what better time to then see them outside. Actually, I think I got the idea from a poster a week back when giving my order at Burrito Drive. If you haven't already tried this gourmet fast-food, they are a quick, delicious option on Brearly Street.

Anyhow, having no preconceived notions, what I got met my expectations. While The Kissers were more contemporary than the Progressive Rock and Fusion I traditionally support, their accessibility was equal to their shared locale.

If I have you baffled, they are natives to this city. One could also infer that they headlined the festival due to their heritage. In other words, they were the ideal band to round out this family affair.

Since they were the caboose in the weekend's line-up, the coordinators were bleary-eyed with all the nostalgia. At this point, a new MC took over and she asked the question, "Are you guys ready?" She extended her inquest with, "Know what you're playing?" Immediately thereafter, their first piece was in progress.

The song was a unique blend between The Beach Boys and R.E.M. Even though I like these two influences, I was relatively bored by their output. However, the following expiation was slightly better. In that one, the lyrics were delivered as a frisky limerick, and the ending was superb. In this, their female lead, Kari Bethke, hit a very high note.

It seemed that their bassist, Ken Fitzimmons, was also a lead singer. Throughout the next song, he exclaimed, "I've been kicked in the head." I wasn't sure if this was serious or an inside joke. It didn't seem to hold them up much as they continued to tickle their instruments. The piece that emerged initiated a square dance among the townsfolk.

The subsequent ditty featured riveting two-part harmonies that hearkened back to The Hooters. Moving ahead, the litany that followed gained a lot of steam. Just when the carbonation from their brew seemed flat, it seemed the sound engineer finally got his head in the game.

With more sonorous levels of percussion and a mellifluous violin being pumped out of the speakers, it seemed their issues were fixed. Having less bass in the mix reminded me of Dirk Diggler's absurd request inside the studio of Boogie Nights. Unlike that ridiculous behavior, the alterations with the equalizer resulted in significant improvements.

I guess it took four songs to get their act going strong. The instrumental start in their fifth selection was awesome, sentimental and sweet.

Too bad they didn't inaugurate their show on this one. You could say they went from drab to wow; much like the Bubblicious brand of gum. Initially, it's uninterestingly-rigid. Eventually, it's malleable and pleasantly-sticky.

As time would tell, this momentum didn't hold up into the later innings. They started to go off the rails when the guitarist started singing about Black and Tans and the I.R.A.

Afterwards, we hit traffic in a slow-moving ballad that had its tires squealing in the muddy sludge of Country-Western. As if Bethke were a lazy Faith Hill, she lackadaisically-serenaded us with this tune.

Around this time, my eyes left the stage and I noticed an elderly lady in a purple shawl doing some kind of crazy interpretive dance. I found that display to be substantially more exotic and fecund.

The next song had the memorable line, "Whiskey here I come!" It seems that boozing it up with friends is a common thread with them and/or their fans. Considering law enforcements problems with college parties and binge drinking on campus, this may not be the most appropriate place for this hymn.

If that's ludicrous, the next cut tops the cake. It had something to do with washing sheep in the front lawn and getting shot down. This is kind of like Eric Heatherly's "Countin' Flowers On the Wall."

As for appearances, the group wore red and green colored shirts as if it were December. With the people and the season, black and orange would have been more appropriate. Considering their apparent Irish ancestry; green, white, and orange would have been complementary as well. Nonetheless, they had some level of color coordination in their dress so there will be no need to issue them another demerit in this department. Then again, Don Imus might not be as forgiving.

As an addendum to these critiques, the bassist sang better on the lower ranges, but spent the majority of his time pretending to be a tenor. I didn't really hear enough of the others to place them.

As if it were karaoke night, their banjo player took over the singing. To some degree, they were having fun at our expense. Plus, this was mostly social background music for smokers and drinkers. Although I have to admit that the violin added a great dimension.

In any case, I had enough. I left while the getting was good; while there was still light. I had decided to go home and walk dogs, and by this I don't mean Pupy.

By the way, the band utilizes a mandolin and a banjo. At times these less contemporary instruments were interchanged with a guitar by a single multi-skilled chap named Waylan Nate Palan. It's interesting to note that Mike Cammilleri exclusively played an accordion. In addition, Sean Michael Dargan and Joe Bernstein were respectively in charge of guitar and drums.

And let's not forget; there was that violin, which was recurrently donned by Bethke.

As it turns out, this classical instrument was omnipotent throughout the day and was consistently represented with divine execution. Truthfully, the violinist really factored in here.

Also, a person in attendance mentioned that, "Fitzimmons doesn't have his stand-up bass." Then it occurred to me that they had made this shift since I had last seen them.

I could blather on about the band. They had both low and high points, but on the whole, they were okay.

Earlier in the day I was treated to Little Blue Crunchy Things. An interesting piece of trivia -- Fitzimmons was the bassist to that band, too. Unfortunately, The Kissers were not as fine as that inexplicable earful of candy. To be fair, Little Blue Crunchy Things is the cream of the crop and a cut above most touring bands. Likewise, The Kissers performance was thoroughly respectable. So there is no need to contrast one against the other. Nevertheless, if you're going to be snubbed in a comparison, it might as well be something that overlaps your repertoire.

Before signing off, I must point out that the only similarity to Progressive Rock and Fusion was the fact that the guitarist had hair like Roine Stolt.

Added: November 24th 2007
Reviewer: Joshua "Prawg Dawg" Turner
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