The KISS album "Alive" opens with the words, "You wanted the best and you got it. The hottest band in the land - KISS!"
Mr. Speed aspires to be nothing less than the best when it comes to being a KISS tribute band.
Rich Kosak, who started the band in 1994, said, "I really do believe the integrity that I have, the passion that's in the four guys in the band, from a musical standpoint and from a KISS fan standpoint, is what sets us apart. We care about the music we play, and we care about playing it the way fans want to hear it.
"We give fans the classic songs they know and we play songs deep in the KISS vault that other bands can't or won't do."
Kosak is the only original member of the band, which just started as a way for he and buddy to play some of their favorite songs together and maybe capture the performance on a cassette. The first time they played out live, they wore suits like the band does on its third album, "Dressed to Kill," because they didn't have the elaborate costumes for which the band is known.
But when it comes to being KISS - or a KISS tribute band - the visual component is an integral part of the appeal.
WHAT: River Rock at the Amp -
Mr. Speed (KISS tribute) and
Thunderstruck (AC/DC tribute)
WHEN: 5:30 to 11 p.m. Saturday.
Gates open at 5 p.m.
WHERE: Warren Community Amphitheatre, 303 Mahoning Ave. N.W., Warren
HOW MUCH: $7 adults and free for
children ages 12 and younger.
ALSO: Saturday's concert also will include a KISS look-a-like contest at 8 p.m. and the drawing for the 2013 Harley Davidson raffle at intermission during Mr. Speed's set.
"We went from suits to costumes just cause we were trying to keep up with the few tribute bands that were out at the time," he said.
Mr. Speed - Kosak (Paul Stanley), guitar and vocals; Danny Ayala (Gene Simmons), bass and vocals; Joe Hess (Ace Frehley), guitar; and Andrew Sgambati (Peter Criss), drums - now travels with about $10,000 worth of props and equipment, and that doesn't include the money invested in costumes and instruments/gear.
"It's really important to us to put a polished product up there," Kosak said. "When we can put our whole backline on stage with quality sound and lighting, it's pretty impressive. I would love to see us."
Over the years, Kosak said he has met every past and present member of the band, living and dead, and he's played with later members Bruce Kulick and Eric Singer along with original lead guitar player Ace Frehley, who joined the band on stage for "Shock Me" in 2007. Mr. Speed also has performed for Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley.
"Those are the kind of moments that kids like us live for," he said.
Still on his bucket list is playing with Simmons and/or Stanley.
"That would be an honor. That would make everything really worth it," Kosak said.
For now he's satisfied that Simmons and Stanley, who are known for maintaining tight control of the band and its trademarks, allows bands like Mr. Speed to exist.
"Every time we put that makeup on our face, that's a trademarked makeup design," he said. "They don't come after us and we don't have to pay them any royalties. They know we're trying to be a band that people can have a great time seeing, where they can relive some childhood memories or some recent memories."
Kosak, 48, said he used to say he would evaluate his musical career choice at age 50, but for now he plans to, if not rock 'n' roll all night, at least keep Mr. Speed going for the foreseeable future.
"I don't think I'm ready to stop. As long as people keep coming out to see us ..."