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KISS wows crowd at Turning Stone, Frankfort man takes in 38th show

By NICOLE PITT

FRANKFORT, N.Y. (WKTV) - Who wouldn't love to see their favorite band live in concert. On Friday night one Frankfort man saw his favorite band, KISS, in concert for the 38th time!

"As soon as the music came out of the speakers, I don't know what it was but it just grabbed me and just wasn't gonna let go," said Fran Congelo.

Fran was just four years old when he heard KISS for the first time while his older cousins were babysitting. "You kind of got plopped into their world when they babysat," said Congelo. "I can still remember even at that age putting the album in my hands and as a kid you are really drawn to that and you see that image and you are like wow look at these guys."

FIRST KISS MEMORY:

"I was probably about the same age, 4 years old. They were absolutely huge at that time. The marketing merchandising blitz had just started and I can still remember my aunt buying me a KISS colorform set and I didn't really know that they were a band at that point," said Congelo. "I just saw this image and it sucked me in and I kind of remember playing with it a little bit. I wish I still had it today because it's worth a fortune!"

FIRST CONCERT:

At eight years old Fran dressed up as a KISS member for Halloween and was known for wearing KISS t-shirts throughout highschool but it wasn't until the age of 21 that he experienced his first KISS show at Madison Square Garden.

"I went down with my best friend," said Congelo. "Tickets were so hard to come by. We didn't even sit together at the show. He was at one end of the garden, I was at the other. I just remember that curtain dropping and there they were and I just couldn't have been happier."

Fran didn't expect to see the band as many times as he has. "They were in their 40's then. I never thought they'd still be doing this 20 years after that."

ON THE ROAD:

To see KISS 38 times, Fran had to travel quite a bit! What's the farthest he has traveled? "I drove 792 miles to Charlotte, North Carolina," said Congelo." If I had a friend that lived in another state I'd call them up and say hey I'm coming. Can I sleep on your couch? KISS is in town."

Fran describes his ticket stubs as his most prized possessions. "Every ticket stub is a story and who I was with and the road trip and what it took to get there," said Congelo.

FAVORITE KISS MOMENT:

KISS was coming to Syracuse in 2000 and Fran was not able to stand in line for tickets. "So I talked my then 65-year-old, 4 foot tall mother. 'Please go stand in line and get me a KISS ticket?' I don't know how she managed to do it but she got me literally the best seat in the house. Front row dead center. I'd never been that close. I couldn't have been more excited and I just had the time of my life the whole night. I have fantastic photos."

"You can't beat not one but two of the members of the band that night, seeing you down in the front row taking the guitar pick they are playing with and you catch it. I still have both of those."

MEETING THE BAND:

In 2003, KISS was touring with Aerosmith and Fran was able to see them in Buffalo. "As soon as their show ended I was told where to go and what to do and I went back stage and there was this big hospitality tent and I was told I was going to get an autograph and say hi."

Fran says the meeting was surreal. "I'll just never forget walking up to them and they just said 'how are you' and the only thing I could think of was 'I'm scared to death right now' and one of them just grabbed me and they kind of pulled me in and we took a photo together and I've never felt shorter in my life."

"I just kind of stood there in awe. There were these guys who were always on the radio and TV and here they were in arms reach and here they were hanging out with us. It was amazing," said Congelo.

Fran also met the band Friday night at the Turning Stone. He was a VIP ticket holder and attended an acoustic session before the big show.

"The meet and the greet was awesome," said Congelo. "They came out right away and did a 45 minute acoustic set. I shouted out a request, they played it. I caught two guitar picks from Gene Simmons. I talked to the drummer about Harleys and then they signed my helmet. Forget crossing an item off the bucket list. It's just shredded and thrown in the garbage."

SHARING THE KISS EXPERIENCE:

"I've taken so many people over the years that have come with me and it was their first time and they didn't know what to expect," said Congelo. "And I can't help but kind of look at their face as soon as the band hits the stage and every single time- jaws on the floor."

IT'S ABOUT THE MUSIC:

Surprisingly, Fran isn't a big KISS collector. He has a few things that have special meaning, but for him it's all about the music.

"Having a Gene Simmons doll is nice but I'd rather have that guitar pick that got flung out to me in Syracuse," said Congelo. "You can go on the internet and find people who have spent 30, 40, 50 thousand dollars on KISS rooms in their house and while I think that's cool I don't necessarily think that makes somebody more of a fan than somebody that doesn't have all that stuff."

"For me it's the music and the concerts and while I might not be a collector of the toys and the games and everything with their face on it, I've gone to great lengths to go and get my hands on every piece of recorded music I could find and go to as many shows as I could find. Because to me the experience of going to the show and the friends who came with me and what the band played that night. That's my memorabilia. It's my memories.

Fran does have one thing, though, that will last forever. "My favorite member, Paul Stanley, since day one has had this little rose tattoo on his right shoulder. I always liked it. So I decided in 1999. I was going to get the exact same tattoo in the exact same spot. Every time I notice it, it just kind of reminds me of this crazy 34 year journey with this band."

This is a journey that Fran hopes will continue for years to come. "I'm sure there are people out there that have watched the same movie over and over again, a movie that they love, that movie never changes. But it's the connection you have with it and it's the way it makes you feel and if it makes you happy, who cares if it's the same?"

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