Shout it out loud: The KISS Army is invading the John Paul Jones Arena on Friday, with former Van Halen frontman David Lee Roth serving as the jump-off act.
Thousands are expected to attend a fire-breathing, blood-spitting, rocket-shooting show with levitating drums and pyrotechnics as part of the band KISS’ 18-month swansong End of the Road World Tour.
The band formed in 1973, hit the big time in 1975 and remains popular among audiences reaching puberty, applying for Social Security and every age between.
The fans often wear the same makeup and costumes as their favorite band members.
Many of those joining the invading horde are local musicians.
“A couple of years ago, when I took my son to his first KISS concert, I had a friend paint our faces,” said Preston Wallech, a bass guitarist with Ken Farmer and the Authenticators and member of the Central Virginia Blues Society. “We’re going to try the makeup again this year. We’ve watched a lot of videos online about how to do it, and we’ll give it a shot.”
Wallech, 46, will join his son Tyler, 19, in what has become a family tradition.
“I didn’t see them until ‘09, and this will be my sixth show and Tyler’s fourth,” he said. “It’s a great show. Some people will rag on them, saying they’re not great musicians, but what they play is great and the show is amazing.”
Wallech got his first KISS record in high school.
“I heard an album and was like, ‘this is great!’ I got my first paycheck from the grocery store and ran down to the record store and bought their “Love Gun” album,” he recalled.
Dee and Claudio Zarpelon will be there, too. The couple, whose support of local bands and musicians is legendary in their attendance, filming and promoting of gigs of all genres, will paint up with 14 of their friends.
Claudio Zarpelon even created a large silicone tongue in honor of KISS bassist Gene Simmons, whose own masticatory manipulation muscle is of rock and roll renown.
“I made it from scratch — it will look more real once I put in the fake blood,” Zarpelon said. “Of course, I had to beat Gene’s tongue, so it is huge!”
Zarpelon, who grew up in Brazil, has been a fan for decades.
“I grew up with lots of heavy metal music and I had friends who used to dress like KISS,” he recalled. “I didn’t have money to see them in Brazil, and now having them here in our backyard is a treat.”
Joining the Zarpelons in a KISS celebration will be Sally Rose, a women’s self-defense trainer, bassist and lead singer for Shagwuf and the eponymous Sally Rose Band.
“Family and music mean everything to me, and Dee and Claudio embody those two things with every fiber of their beings,” Rose said. “They invited a group of us to go see KISS with them. It’s a pretty wicked chance to see some legends that are still at it, shredding and wailing. Even if it’s not your genre or style, you have to respect the hell out of that.”
Rose said KISS represents a musician’s dream to create something that will last for generations.
“We can only dream we’ll still be strutting that hard at that age,” she said. “And to go with found family like Dee and Claudio, the two biggest ragers and lovers in town, well that’s as rock n roll as it gets.”
Concert traffic is expected to be heavy and arena officials recommend that anyone not attending avoid Emmet Street between University Avenue and Barracks Road between 5 and 8 p.m.
KISS and Roth will rock and roll all night starting at 7:30 p.m. and the arena doors open to concert-goers at 6:30 p.m. Officials advise anyone picking up tickets at the will-call window to get there at 6 p.m. As of Thursday evening, tickets to the show were still available.
Those who have not pre-purchased parking spaces for the concert may park in the arena’s south lot or east lot. Those spaces open for parking at 5:30 p.m. and will cost $20, cash only.
Concert-goers may be dropped off along the arena side of Massie Road between Emmet Street and Copeley Road. Vehicles picking up after the concert need to arrive by 9 p.m. as traffic restrictions will be in force to assist with outbound traffic.