For the first time in 18 years, the deafening roar of KISS 98.5-loving teens and preteens, pumped up with holiday excitement and passion for their pop idols, will not fill KeyBank Center in December. The Grinch has officially stolen KISSmas Bash.
OK, there’s no grumpy, green, furry dude rubbing his hands with devilish glee as he steals KISSmas and dashes the hopes of our own version of Whoville’s children. The reasons are far more banal and ordinary. And they aren’t necessarily specific to Buffalo.
KISSmas Bash, an event produced by American broadcasting company and radio network Entercom, is not being canceled for good, according to sources involved with the matter. The annual KISS the Summer Hello and Kerfuffle shows, both also Entercom productions, are slated to continue. And if all goes well, KISSmas Bash will be back next year.
So why take a year off?
If we take the broad view, we can see these kind of pop package shows presented by Top 40 radio stations are becoming tough for secondary markets like ours to pull off. Consider this year’s Grand Poobah of pop holiday shows – iHeartRadio’s Jingle Ball, which will take over New York’s Madison Square Garden on Dec. 13 with a lineup that includes Taylor Swift, Lizzo, the Jonas Brothers, Camilla Cabello, Halsey and Niall Horan. Can you imagine that show happening in Buffalo? Neither can I.
iHeartRadio – which controls some 850 local radio stations nationwide, and also is becoming a dominant platform for podcasts and streaming radio – has all but taken over the holiday pop package concert market, and this year will present the big-ticket equivalent of our KISSmas Bash in major markets including Los Angeles, Tampa, Dallas, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, D.C., and Chicago.
In Boston, the KISS 108 Jingle Ball will feature Halsey, Lizzo, Niall Horan, 5 Seconds of Summer, Charlie Puth and Why Don’t We. Though some of these artists have performed at KISSmas Bash on their way up the ladder to greater commercial success, now that they've become major names, it would be difficult for Entercom to gather them together in a single lineup.
The past tendency of KISSmas Bash to concentrate on up-and-coming artists is being challenged, one can reasonably conclude, by the shift toward bills that are stacked top to bottom with major names.
KISSmas Bash has an awful lot to live up to. Over the years, patrons of the annual fest have been treated to performances from then up-and-comers who have gone on to become some of the biggest names in pop, among them Ed Sheeran, Shawn Mendes, Demi Lovato, Charlie Puth, Alessia Cara, Adam Lambert, Charli XCX and Neon Trees.
That’s a high standard to maintain, year in and year out, as the industry continues evolving at hyper-speed. There’s always been the danger of being left behind in the land of forgotten tertiary markets that were once secondary markets on the ascent.
For many families, attendance of a KISSmas Bash show has been akin to a rite of passage for teens and tweens and their parents, and a way to share in family-friendly fun mixed with a festive, holiday atmosphere. Many memories have been made at these shows over the years, and some of them are precious ones, no doubt.
“We went six years in a row, if I’m remembering correctly,” said Jill Maxick of Williamsville, a News contributing writer.
“My daughter is now 15 and we first went when she was 9. We enjoyed going because it was a way to incorporate music and concerts into an annual holiday tradition. We’re a small family and we don’t have a ton of annual holiday customs.
“Concert-going is something my daughter and I both love, so it seemed like a no-brainer, even though musically, the acts were sometimes hit-or-miss, to our tastes. That said, we lucked out a few times with some acts – Fifth Harmony, Adam Lambert, the Jonas Brothers, Chainsmokers – playing right before they became really big. For many years, it also served as a way for my daughter to have an annual activity with friends she didn’t see often, who went to other schools.
“So it was a social, musical and fun family tradition.”