Kix: Walkin’ Away: The Final Show
Sept. 17, 2023
Merriweather Post Pavilion – Columbia, Maryland
It is with a sense of melancholy today, as I write these words. Last night one of my favorite bands called it a career after more than forty years of rock n’ roll music.
That band is Kix — Steve Whiteman, Brian Forsythe, Jimmy Chalfant, Mark Schenker, Bob Pare, and Ronnie Younkins.
Formed in the late ’70s in Hagerstown, Maryland, the band originally went by the name of The Shooze and then very briefly as the Generators, before becoming Kix.
Guitarists Ronnie Younkins and Brian Forsythe, bassist and main lyricist Donnie Purnell, along with drummer Jimmy Chalfant and lead vocalist Steve Whiteman made up the band’s classic lineup.
As a teen in suburban Washington DC in the late ’70s, you had a choice of rock stations to listen to and get your rock n’ roll fix: DC101, 105.9, and even 98 Rock out of Baltimore. I would listen to them all, hoping to find another slab of vinyl to spend my hard earned money on.
In 1981 Kix released their debut album, the self titled Kix which contained the songs Atomic Bombs, The Itch and the raucous and rude Yeah, Yeah, Yeah which usually closed the bands sets for many, many years.
I first heard “The Itch,” probably on DC101, and as the song goes, I got it! I became a fan and I went out the day I got paid and bought Kix’s first album and never looked back.
Watch Kix perform “The Itch” live in 1983 via YouTube:
In 1983 Kix released their second LP, Cool Kids — and I loved the songs “Cool Kids,” “Nice on Ice,” “Loco-emotion,” and the wonderful ballad, “For Shame.” The band on the other hand, were lukewarm with regard to the album, feeling they were being forced by a clueless record label to be something they were not.
By 1985, I was living in California, and the band came out with their third album, Midnite Dynamite and this album came with a more hard rock sound than the ’80s pop rock of Cool Kids.
I fell for it in a big way, blasting the title track as well as “Cold Shower,” “Scarlet Fever,” and the delightfully dirty ditty, “Sex,” from my car stereo every time I got behind the wheel of my ‘67 Mustang, no doubt to the delight of all my neighbors.
Although the band were quite confident in the music they had released, the album didn’t do as well as they had hoped it would. So in 1988, Kix went back in the studio and recorded and released their fourth disc, Blow My Fuse. The album is a stone cold, straight up rock n’ roll classic with 10 tracks of pure dynamite. “Cold Blood” and “Blow My Fuse” are a must play in every Kix set, along with “Get It While It’s Hot” and “No Ring Around Rosie.”
Atlantic Records on the other hand, didn’t quite feel the same way and were about to stop promoting the album because they felt it had run its course.
Guns N’ Roses manager Alan Niven heard Kix play “Don’t Close Your Eyes” at a show one night and couldn’t understand why Atlantic wasn’t releasing it as a single.
A couple of phone calls later, he had convinced the label of the error of their decision and the anti suicide ballad, “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” soon became the band’s biggest hit and sent the album Blow My Fuse to platinum status. The boys felt they were finally on their way.
Watch the official music video for “Don’t Close Your Eyes” by Kix on YouTube:
1991 found Kix back in the studio for their follow-up fifth album, Hot Wire. The album continued the harder rock sound of it’s predecessor, with tracks like “Same Jane,” “Hot Wire,” and another concert must play, “Girl Money,” destroying speakers everywhere!
The band had high hopes that Hot Wire would make it higher up the charts than their last LP, but a new sound from the Pacific northwest exploded across the airwaves and bands like Kix, found themselves on the outside looking in. As frontman Steve Whiteman has said, “There was a new party in town, and we weren’t invited”.
Hot Wire sold much less than Blow My Fuse and after being dropped by Atlantic Records and eventually releasing the forgotten followup disc Show Business on another label in 1995, the band decided to call it quits.
Over the intervening years, the band members busied themselves with side projects; Brian Forsythe played guitar in Rhino Bucket while Ronnie Younkins formed the Blues Vultures.
Steve Whiteman, meanwhile, formed the band Funny Money and Jimmy Chalfant soon joined him. After some personnel turnover, bassist Mark Schenker was added to the mix.
While gigging regularly at clubs all over the East coast, Funny Money would play a few Kix songs in their sets and calls for a Kix reunion soon began.
By late 2003, the guys in the band could no longer ignore the fans — and Kix reformed, with the original members of Steve, Jimmy, Brian, and Ronnie with Mark Schenker taking over bass and backing vocals from Donnie Purnell.
The band started playing gigs and eventually found themselves in front of 20,000 fans at the 2008 Rocklahoma festival. They were hands down the best band of the day and the fans enthusiastic reaction was eye opening for the guys in Kix.
Surprisingly, six years later, 2014 found the members of Kix back in the studio to record a new record, the amazing Rock Your Face Off.
The album was full of Kix’s trademark tongue in cheek, hard-rocking music. New fan favorites “Love Me With Your Top Down” and “Can’t Stop The Show” were quickly added to the set.
For years after their come back, Kix regularly toured across the USA, playing clubs and multi-day festivals like the annual M3 Rock Festival and even toured across the seas, as part of the Monsters of Rock cruises.
But time is relentless and in May of 2023 at the M3 Festival in Columbia, Maryland, Steve made a surprising announcement: Kix was calling it quits!
Steve explained the reasons for the decision. Jimmy’s health had taken a few hits recently, and Steve himself was tired physically and felt that he would not be able to sing like he thought he should be able to and he didn’t want to disappoint the fans.
Which all brings us to last night, a cool, rainy Sunday evening at the Merriweather Post Pavilion on Sept. 17.
Another long time local favorite band, Child’s Play, opened the show with a tight nine song set of rock music that was well received by the hometown crowd.
The fans, of course, were there to give the dirty boys of the underground, an enthusiastic yet ultimately melancholy farewell.
The pavilion lights dimmed and the enormous black curtain hung across the front of the stage fell to reveal a multilevel stage set complete with giant video screens, colored lights and fire pots — Kix were going to go out big!
The band opened with “Atomic Bombs,” the first song off their first album. The returning Ronnie Younkins shredded up and down his guitar fret board with an enormous smile on his face the whole time. It was good to see him back where he belonged!
They followed up with “The Kid,” another track from their eponymous LP. Recent addition, guitarist Bob Pare, traded tasty licks with Brian and Ronnie throughout the show.
Then came the wicked one-two punch of “Midnite Dynamite” and “No Ring Around Rosie” and it was truly game on, with the crowd responding with a mighty roar.
During the lull between songs, Steve told the crowd that the band would be doing a few medleys throughout the night and they proceeded with the first, containing snippets of six songs.
The full version of the song “Red Lite, Green Lite, TNT” came next.
Then it was time for a song about Steve’s favorite subject to sing about, venereal disease, and the track “Scarlet Fever” rang out from the giant stack of speakers hanging overhead!
“Don’t Close Your Eyes,” the band’s “lone hit” as Steve called it, created a momentary calm before the band kicked into “Girl Money,” while videos of strippers and dollar bills played on the giant video screen behind the band.
Watch the official music video for “Girl Money” by Kix on YouTube:
Another four song medley was followed by the crowd favorite, “The Itch,” and found Steve encouraging the fans to join in a sing along.
The band was then joined on stage by Brad Divens, who had subbed for Ronnie on the Cool Kids album, to play along on the track “For Shame.” Steve even got in some exercise by walking through the crowd while singing the song!
Guitarists Ronnie and Brad, and Bryan and Bob, all shared the stage for the next group of songs and seemed to enjoy it immensely. A murderer’s row of “Cold Shower,” “Cold Blood,” and “Blow My Fuse” got the crowd singing and dancing and led into the final medley of the night.
Then it was time for the final song of the show and possibly their career, the long time set closer “Yeah, Yeah Yeah” with it’s ribald stream of conscious rant by Steve.
Then, all too quickly, the set was over.
The band gathered at the front of the stage for their final bow then Steve introduced the band and their guest performers along with their support crew and management team.
With smiles, heartfelt waves and maybe even a few tears, the band left the stage, bringing down the final curtain on a wonderful rock n’ roll career.
Farewell to the mighty god damn Kix band — you will be missed.
1. Atomic Bombs
2. The Kid
3. Midnite Dynamite
4. No Ring Around Rosie
5. Fireballs/Body Talk/Ball Baby/Luv-A-Holic/Love At First Sight/ Love Pollution – medley
6. Red Lite, Green Lite, TNT
7. Scarlet Fever
8. Don’t Close Your Eyes
9. Girl Money
10. Book To Hypnotize/Cool Kids/Cold Chills/Bang Bang (Balls of Fire) – medley
11. The Itch
12. For Shame
13. Mighty Mouth
14. Cold Shower
15. Cold Blood
16. Blow My Fuse
17. Tear Down The Walls/Walkin’ Away – medley
18. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah
Kix is: Steve Whiteman (vocals), Jimmy Chalfant (drums), Mark Schenker (bass), Brian Forsythe (guitar), Ronnie Younkins (guitar), Bob Pare (guitar), and Brad Divens (guitar).
One last thing, I want to say thank you to Kix — it’s safe to say that I would not be a concert photographer without their allowing me, as well as encouraging me, to shoot their shows through the years and learning my craft as I did so.
I hope you fully enjoy all the happiness and good times the future has in store for all of you.
Thank you, so very, very much!
Here are some photos of the final performance of Kix at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Sept. 17, 2023. All pictures copyright and courtesy of Michael Sprouse.