2 ways to celebrate arena gods Kiss this summer

When Alice Cooper’s producer, Bob Ezrin, came on board for Kiss’s 1976 album, “Destroyer,” the bad-boy image grew and so did the fan base.

With their super hero makeup, platform boots, and heavy rock riffs, Kiss became the stuff of legends and Billings drummer Bart Barkac took it all in, despite his parents’ scorn. The critics dismissed them and parents didn’t understand them, but for millions of rock ‘n roll fans who came of age in the ’70s and ’80s — Kiss became their arena gods.

Barkac said one rumor was that Kiss’s flamboyant bass player, Gene Simmons, killed chickens with his giant boots. Kiss became off-limits to Barkac.

“I was sneaking the stuff,” Barkac said. “My mom found all my Kiss posters under my bed and she took them and hung up a Muppets poster.”

Barkac is making up for all that now. In what he calls his “Kiss dungeon” in his Heights basement, Barkac has two Kiss pinball games, three pairs of Kiss platform boots, more than 200 posters, 30-some albums, dolls, puzzles, lunch boxes, and enough T-shirts to outfit his neighborhood. He’s seen Kiss in concert in six different states and been back-stage at a couple of shows. He will be back stage at a meet and greet with Kiss before the Bozeman concert on July 16 at Brick Breeden Fieldhouse.

“There is just something magical about it – the makeup, the music. I was 8 when I got into them,” Barkac said.

Megan Evans, a sales person in the box office at Brick Breeden, said on Monday there were 500 seats left in the 8,000-seat arena. The $55 tickets, which were the cheapest level, are sold out, but there are tickets left for $85 and $125. VIP packages are $1,250.

“What I hear a lot is that people are wondering if this is the last time they’ll get to see them,” Evans said.

The Freedom to Rock tour is not being billed as a farewell Kiss tour, but the two remaining original members, Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, are 66 and 64, respectively, and fans are nervous.

Barkac plans to have a poster from his pinball game signed when he goes back stage. He’ll also take in a Kiss show in Minot this summer and in November, Barkac is taking a Kiss cruise.

In the meantime, Barkac and four musician friends are performing in a Kiss cover band, Strangeways, named for a lesser-known Kiss song, “Strange Ways,” off the 1974 “Hotter Than Hell” album, the second studio album by Kiss. The album came out two years before “Destroyer” album, which has many of the band’s biggest hits, including “Beth,” “God of Thunder,” “Shout it out Loud” and “I Want to Rock ‘n roll all Night.”

On Saturday, Strangeways will play two hours of Kiss music at the Pub Station. Barkac hopes they can match the excitement at their show last December when 300 people showed up at the Pub to celebrate Kiss.

Strangeways, which includes Brian Specht on guitar, Kevin Ball on guitar, John Fairlee on vocals, and Chas Colbrese on bass, wear specially designed latex masks that they can change up the signature red and black makeup on to depict different Kiss eras.

“Music and Kiss have always been important to me,” Barkac said. “It’s a way of life. They have so many fans around the world who are so dedicated.”

Some may only know the rock band Kiss by the gushy introduction in 2014 when they were admitted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello said Kiss fit the criteria for the Hall of Fame because of three things — “impact, influence and awesomeness.”