Much like the inevitable, difficult end of a happy love affair, the farewell performance by The Kissers left its lovers -- an enthusiastic and loyal local fan base -- exhausted, exhilarated and sad. Appropriately enough, the Irish rock band made their goodbyes at the High Noon Saloon, the successor to the original O'Cayz Corral, where they originally made their name with their Pogues covers on Monday nights ten years ago.
Ken Fitzsimmons, singer, bassist, and the only current member from the original iteration of the group, wrote an open letter in early May explaining the decision to call it a decade.
"Each band member needs to make enough money to live comfortably enough to afford a car, a home (or at least part of one), health insurance and have some left for life's pleasures," Fitzsimmons wrote, defining his simple idea of success. "If you treat your music like a hobby, it will always remain so, and if you treat it like a job, you just might be successful."
The passion and energy for which The Kissers are lauded never waned Saturday night, even far into their third set, and after at least several ongoing rounds of whiskey shots bought for them by sentimental fans.
All of the current members shone in their respective realms. Kari Bethke's vibrant fiddling, her husband Waylan Nate Palan's crooning voice and electric guitar, and Fitzsimmons' devoted vocals and twanging acoustic guitar combined forces to create the tight-sounding, irreverent Irish rock -- with a twinge of bluegrass and dash of punk -- its audience knows and loves. The crowd stomped its feet wildly, kicking up heels in moves that, much like the music inspiring them, resembled a mixture of the punk skank and traditional Irish jigs. Even the most staid fan couldn't resist a bit of foot-tapping when Sean Michael Dargan hit the bagpipe.
The Kissers' infections political songs riled up fans even more -- the fun but forceful lyrics of "No War" stand out -- and allowed Fitzsimmons' earnestly political side to shine.
But Saturday night was not just about the music for the band; it was also about nostalgia and camaraderie.
Most of the The Kissers' original members reunited on stage last night, including Jamie "The Helicopter" Ryan on drums and Pete "The Kid" Colclasure on the accordion. All members, past and current, downed shots of whiskey and shared the keg of Capital Amber onstage, linking arms and dancing to songs from the groups most recent album, Live Candy Ratz (2007) to their earliest, Fire in the Belly (2003). And between sets, the band members mingled with the crowd, which notably included the long-avowed fan Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz.
After three sets of foot-stomping, fist-pumping Irish rock, the crowd in the overflowing High Noon Saloon sadly had to say goodbye to The Kissers, at least for now. Fortunately, the band left its Madison fans with one last musical smooch -- or rather, a four-hour-long, energetic make out session.