By Marco Buscaglia As most corps gear up for auditions or opening camps, programming staffs are furiously putting the final touches on their corps' 2004 show. And while some have already announced what they'll be playing, I have a suggestion for those groups still struggling to provide the perfect venue for their members to showcase their talents. Sure, I'm probably not the first person to come up with this concept, but let's just pretend I am. And since a show this brilliant is sure to be an immediate success, I'm offering it to anyone with enough moxie to even attempt it free of charge, although a "Presented by Marco Buscaglia" during the on-field introductions would be nice. Here goes: KISS. That's right, KISS, the rock band. The guys with the makeup. What's the matter, not highbrow enough for you, Mr. Fancy Pants? Hey, these guys played with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra! Take your Bernsteins, Holsingers and Coplands and let them play in the corner. Bring on Simmons and Stanley! This is a show for the big boys. You can toy around with the show title all you want. Maybe "KISS Alive XXIV," "Denver Rock City," "The Phenomenon of KISS," "KISS Cycle" or "Our Favorite KISS." Hey, how about "An Aging Burn-Out's Dream: Undiscovered KISS?" Whatever works. The uniforms There's a lot to work with here, so be careful. Fight the urge to put the entire corps in KISS Army regalia. You'll end up with something looking like the crowd at an Oakland Raiders game. Keep the horn and drum lines in their standard uniforms. Instead, save the KISS garb for the guard and pit. Still, white face paint and black whiskers -- a la drummer Peter Criss -- would be a nice touch for the snares. Break the guard up into four components with uniforms representative of the four original members. You don't have to be exact here -- just put the guard groups in something that is symbolic of each KISS member. You'll have the Gene Simmons group, dressed as "The Demon," the Paul Stanley group, dressed as "The Star Child," the aforementioned Peter Criss group, dressed as "The Cat," and the Ace Frehley group, dressed as "The Spaceman." Forget about Eric "The Fox" Carr, Vinnie "The Warrior" Vincent and the 46 other guys who have filled in for the band during times of personal crisis or creative stifling -- everyone else has. Now to the pit. Their uniforms should contrast the main ensemble while still flattering the look of the guard. So, how about jeans and T-shirts? You want your pit members to emulate your hard-core KISS fans. Picture a typical KISS crowd from 1978 or so. Lots of denim, some flannel, unkempt hair, acne. Be creative. This show is so encompassing that you can also dress the volunteer staff, or at least those volunteers who put the guard and pit equipment on the field.
Put them in Cher wigs. Simmons dated her for a while, so there's a nice tie-in. You can have blond Cher, "Cherokee People" Cher, Diva Cher and plenty of others. After all, Cher changes her look about as often as the Phantom Regiment changes uniforms, so you have lots of options. The show There are a couple of ways to go here, but I suggest sticking with the 1970s KISS, although you can offer an occasional hint of "Heaven's on Fire," "Psycho Circus" or some other piece of claptrap the band released after the Carter Administration. Open with some sort of fanfare of "Rock and Roll All Nite" to get the crowd going, then finish off the opener with "Calling Dr. Love." Next, slow things down a bit with "Beth" as a ballad. "Beth" will be the emotional centerpiece of your show. It's simple, sweet and can serve as a nice anthem for those members who have to leave their high-school sweethearts back home. Think about it -- "Just a few more hours, and I'll be right home with you. Oh Beth, I hear you callin', oh Beth, what can I do?"
Perfect. To choreograph "Beth," emulate 75 percent of the ballads that have occurred on a football field since 1986. For this show, take a female member out of the pit -- remember, clad in jeans and a T-shirt -- and have her run around with a male member of the Peter Criss guard group. As the trumpet soloist re-enters to finish the song, the loving couple must part. First, a hug, then one of those "pull hands away until fingertips touch" moves and off she runs to her marimbas while he returns to his rifle. Together in spirit, but oh, so alone. Next, stir things up with a medley of "Christine Sixteen," "Love Gun" and "I Was Made for Lovin You." Throw a drum feature in their somewhere.
Then prepare for the big finish with "Shout It Out Loud" before closing with a reprise of "Rock and Roll All Nite" just to show the judges you mean business. Leave a silent measure or two in there right before the payoff so those Vanguard chanters can yell, "What, I can't hear you?!?!" like Paul Stanley did on "KISS Alive" all those years ago. General effect You're doing this show to score big numbers in GE, so spare no expense. Consider the following effects: Pyrotechnics -- lots of them. Use it sparingly after each song and save the big stuff for the end. C'mon, corps directors already voted in amplification, right? Surely fireballs reaching toward the heavens can't be too far away. Tongues -- lots of them. This is a tough one, but the Simmons tongue is synonymous with the band. Tongue flags? Tongue streamers? I'm not sure. But figure out a way to work them in. Maybe just a giant tongue at the back of the field will do. Hey, the corps could enter the field by walking on the tongue – sort of a red carpet for your members. Blood -- lots of it. Figure out a way for it to spill out of the bells of horns or from the bottom of drums. This is the money shot for Simmons and the boys, so save it for the closer. Plus, you don't want your corps marching around in that stuff during the show. Save that for the next corps. The merchandise Whatever you decide, clear it with KISS, Inc., first. When it comes to enforcing copyrights, these guys come after grade school kids that draw KISS logos on their folders. Anyway, if you get permission, here are some ideas:
  • KISS/your corps tour shirts, preferably in black, complete with a listing of each stop of the summer tour on the back
  • KISS dolls wearing the uniform of your corps
  • Fake tongues that fans can wave during your performance
  • Face paint
  • Fake blood to throw in the air at the end of the show -- just not at people wearing fur. After all, KISS isn't about political statements, man, it's about rockin' and partyin.'

    Follow these plans and your corps will enjoy a season of screaming fans, climbing scores and excessive alumni donations. Or it will fold. But not everything's kosher in the land of KISS. If you do embark down this path, there are a couple of things to avoid:
    Don't invite Gene Simmons to a stop on tour to serve as a creative consultant. He seems fairly unstable -- funny, but unstable. Plus, you're putting your female members at risk. How, you ask? Read his autobiography. You can ask Paul Stanley to serve as a consultant, as long as he promises to keep his shirt on.
    Don't put four members dressed as the band on a stage somewhere on the 35-yard line. Never mind that too many marching bands do things like this -- you may be condemning the faux four to a life of misery. Anyone who plays Ace Frehley in a drum corps show is either doomed to life under a black cloud or will never be able to capture the glory that once was. Show some mercy. Aging out isn't worth the weight The ABCs of drum corps fans
    Marco Buscaglia marched in the Cavaliers from 1984-1989 and the Cavalier Cadets from 1978-1983. He currently is an editor with Tribune Media Services in Chicago. Although he hasn't listened to a KISS album since 1979, he does regret missing the band's Chicago stop during at least one of its 17 farewell tours over the last decade. Marco can be reached via e-mail at