Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Kissers (last show); June 7, 2008; High Noon Saloon

Ah, there are so many things we take for granted, but perhaps none that are taken more for granted than the Kissers. A Madison institution for over a decade, I’ve taken them for granted at every turn. First it was the “every Damn Monday” shows at O’Cayz Corral. It was hard to find a Monday that seemed like a good time to stay out late (don’t laugh, that was a long time ago when I had more sense). I just kept thinking I would catch the band, who were really just a Pogues cover band at the time, the next week. Then O’Cayz burned down and there weren’t any more damn Monday nights. Then I took their random gigs around town for granted, there always seemed to be a new band I wanted to see, and I ended up not seeing them as much as I would like. Then they moved to Boston and that was the end of that. Then they moved back, but still I hadn’t been to a Kissers show since their CD release two years ago. That CD featured original tunes and significant contributions from two members who had never even played a Monday at O’Cayz.

Now those two, guitarist/vocalist Nate Palan and the Jimmy Hendrix of the violin Kari Bethke, are moving to New York where I hear Kari has gotten a sweet new job. Wisely, the Kissers decided to call this “a farewell for now” show, it just couldn’t be the same without them, but you hate to say never. Nate’s contributions have increased over the years, his vocals, banjo and original songs (not to mention his hair) have become an intrinsic part of the identity of the band. It is hard to imagine that the Kissers even existed before the lovely and ridiculously talented Bethke joined the band. Every time I see them I am totally amazed by her skill.

For this special farewell show seven former members were in attendance (only two former Kissers were missing), and after the first set and a half they spent the rest of the night on stage. While the first half of the show was dedicated to their most recent record The Good Fight and new songs, the second half turned into a thirteen person sing-along free-for-all that sounded surprisingly good. Many of them had never played together, and many hadn’t played much at all since they left the band. While some like Lorenzo’s Music sax man Bryan Elliot, who plays penny whistle with the Kissers, are in other bands, I have no idea what bassist Kaitlyn has been up to. Still, she was belting out the words to “South Australia” like she’d never left.

With a keg of Capital Amber on stage and rounds of shots appearing like clockwork, it was amazing the band was able to stay on their feet for the whole night (though I did notice Kari had shed her super cool, but very high heels for the last set). From 9:30 till well after two (nearly five hours!) the band relived past and present glories and for the most part the audience was right there with them. It wasn’t until the third set that the near capacity crowd started to thin, unable to keep up with the band. I’ll miss the Kissers, but I’m already taking it for granted that they will be back, at least every St Patrick’s Day.

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