KISS Army has spent 13 years recreating the sound and look of their favorite band and take their performances very seriously. From left, Yio Darcangelis, Steve Clark, Bryan Angel and Doug Grey make up KISS Army.

Musical mimics

KISS Army faithfully covers
the original band’s hits, while
Buddhist Priest puts on a more
tongue-in-cheek show

Tribute rock bands, you gotta love 'em. They're made up of diehard fans who are basically in it for the love of the music that rocked their respective worlds. And, more often than not, their passion translates into a faithful recreation on stage and in sound. If it sounds and looks close to the real thing, an audience can be easily swayed.

Mock rock

Featuring KISS Army with Buddhist Priest

Where: Pipeline Cafe, 805 Pohukaina St.

When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Tickets: $22 and $45, 18 and over

Call: 591-2211 or go online at www.ticketmaster.com

Note: KISS Army will make a personal appearance from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at Hawaii's Natural High, 339 Saratoga Road, in Waikiki

And if you can make a living off of someone else's musical mojo, hey, follow your bliss.

But with this Saturday's bill featuring KISS Army and Buddhist Priest at Pipeline Cafe, you couldn't ask for two bands who approach the tribute from two diametrically different sides. One has been a serious ongoing project for 13 years, while the other is basically four guys with enough musical chops to send up their beloved heavy metal with authority -- and mischievous glee, complete with fey British accents.

STEVE CLARK IN Louisville, Ky., and friends Dan Takamune and Greg Lau here, are kindred spirits in "rawk 'n' roll." Clark emphasized in his phone interview that while the original KISS is the hottest band in the world, KISS Army, by contrast, is the "Coolest Band in the World." Sitting in on a Sunday rehearsal at Takamune's small but packed guitar shop, Buddhist Priest could be billed the "Most Overlooked and Unappreciated Band in the Annals of Heavy Metal History."

In their imaginations, at least.

As part of the ongoing "Spirit of '70 KISS Tour," Clark admits that he and singer-guitarist Bryan Angel pretty much stumbled into putting together KISS Army. "But we all were fans of the band," he said, "and even though the lineup has changed through the years, from day one, in our commitment to quality, we're always shaping and perfecting (the total package.)

"It'd be tough to find four people in our age group to pull off the performance aspect of what KISS does, let alone try to cop the band's persona and music style, which is just as complicated as the visual. All we try to do is beat people with the brutal truth of what this band stood up for in their early years, and the impression they've left on rock 'n' roll.

"It's a craft," Clark said, "and we're fans of each member we portray." (Clark plays the cat-faced drummer Peter Criss, Angel does starman Paul Stanley, with the rest of the band rounded out by Yio Darcangelis as the demonic Gene Simmons and Doug Grey in the flash guitar Ace Frehley role.)

KISS' trademark makeup and costumes is enough to put the tribute band over the audience. "We used to have an extensive pyro show," but has toned it down in clubs since the Great White fire disaster. "Taking that approach makes us that much more effective as a group. It proves that you don't need the bells and whistles, because, in fact, we ARE the bells and whistles. The icing doesn't add a thing if the cake isn't worth a damn."

Honolulu parody metal band Buddhist Priest will give their tribute to rock Saturday. From right, Greg "Nigel Bullocks" Lau, Robbie "Cyd Fyshezz" Watland, Darah "Burgher Kinge" York and Dan "K.K. Danning" Takamune.

ACCORDING TO Clark, KISS Army does 200-plus shows a year, most at casinos, theme parks and corporate festivals on the mainland, and has done gigs in Japan and South Korea.

Buddhist Priest does the occasional one-off gig, mostly at Wave Waikiki, and all the guys have day jobs. The group includes Takamune, Lau, singer-guitarist Darah York and drummer Robbie Watland.

Opening for visiting mainland tribute bands is nothing new for the local headbangers. They've already done it for the Atomic Punks (Van Halen) and the Hollywood All-Stars (a cast of sundry musicians from former classic rock bands).

"We'll be doing Sammy and Friends next," joked York about sharing a bill with the local Rat Pack tribute outfit.

While York, resplendent in his studded black leather coat as frontman Burgher Kinge ("like Meat Loaf, only metal!"), is a formidable combination of adenoidal singer and stand-up comic, he and Watland (aka Cyd Fyshezz) are along for the ride that Takamune and Lau first envisioned at a well-known and notorious Keeaumoku Street hostess establishment.

While Buddhist Priest namechecks and does the songs of heroes like the Scorpions, Def Leppard and Judas Priest (hence the clever moniker), there's more than a bit of Spinal Tap in them.

Speaking as Burgher Kinge, and with a Nigel Tufnel lilt in his voice, York relates that "I didn't know there was a movie called 'This Is Spinal Tap' until six months ago, when Greg bought me a copy of it from Kmart for $2.99. Seeing it, I felt that the cameras could've been following us as well."

It's a sore point to Burgher Kinge that everyone, hands down, in heavy metal has stolen their material. "All they've done is change the words a bit, added a little bit of guitar riffing, and say it was their own!"

The "history" of Buddhist Priest is a sad, if common, one. Formed originally in 1979 in Shurfrick, England, they signed a devil's pact -- ah, record deal -- with Lucifer Records a year later, and have had to support themselves by being constantly on the road. The band has been doing it for so long now that, as Burgher Kinge flatly stated, "we used to do it for the groupies, now it's for the drink tickets." And with supportive and patient wives and girlfriends in tow to help lug their gear and do their wardrobe, groupies are kept at bay via the royal stink eye.

"And when we rehearse, we drink as well," added Nigel Bullocks (that's Lau. Takamune is K.K. Danning, "famous for the F chord").

WHILE BUDDHIST PRIEST does a loving send-up of heavy metal with a fan's enthusiasm, KISS Army has had to go through the proper business route to survive.

"We're as authorized as a band can hope to be," said Clark. "We signed release forms years ago, and we're known to respect their name. We've never had a problem and, in fact, have gotten the thumbs-up and numerous compliments from the guys, as recent as this year from Gene Simmons himself.

"It's all about integrity. After years of research, it comes down to how to capture KISS at their finest hour, and bring it together as a band."

Back to the Buddah-heads, who, after getting their start at a costume party about three years ago, have big plans, BIG PLANS! They'd like to do an island tour outside of the clubs, like Ala Moana Center Stage and Hawaiian Waters Adventure Park, and maybe a high school class reunion or two ("although we'd probably be too expensive," mused Burgher Kinge).

And the Kinge mentioned maybe doing their own "Spinal Tap" movie, with segments of it being projected on video screen between songs in concert.

"We're more than a cover band," Burgher Kinge declared. "And if anyone's interested in helping finance the movie, call me."

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