Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) students, instructors and alumni are celebrating the 50th anniversary of a concert held in the school’s gymnasium by one of the most iconic rock bands in history.
On February 6, 1974, the post-secondary institution hosted a little-known New York City band called KISS.
This was the second show of their first North American tour, which began with three stops in Canada.
Frank Shufletoski remembers the performance like it was yesterday.
Shufletoski, a SAIT journalism student at the time, was working toward a career in photography and was one of the first to take photographs of the band.
“It started with a small crowd in the corner of the gym and then these guys came out with their painted faces and their six-inch platform heels. It was a little intimidating,” she said.
“At first it was quiet, very quiet, and then the wall of sound just hit you. Wow. They just turned it up.”
Shufletoski didn’t know at the time that photography was not allowed for the event and began taking photo after photo.
He certainly didn’t realize that this was the beginning of a new era in rock ‘n’ roll history.
“If I had known they were going to be so famous, I probably would have taken more photographs, but I only took a couple rolls of film. Maybe not even that,” he said.
“From their first appearance on stage, they were very polished. They were fantastic, until the end of the show, and you assumed that maybe they would make it, and did they ever make it?” “.
KISS’s Canadian shows on the tour began with the Dinwoodie Lounge at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, then with SAIT in Calgary and the Taché Hall at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.
It is believed to have been a dress rehearsal for the band before performing at larger venues.
In fact, the SAIT men’s locker room was one of the first places where rockers Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Ace Frehley and Peter Criss first donned black and white makeup.
In honor of the now-famous anniversary, SAIT students and instructors on radio, television and news broadcasts are joining in on the fun.
SAIT’s campus radio station will change its name for one day only on Tuesday to ‘KISS 103’ as students host all-day KISS-themed programming from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Listeners can tune into RTBN.ca for a full day of KISS music across the airwaves, with exclusive interviews and shows featuring a history lesson on the rock band’s journey to stardom.
The concert that almost wasn’t
The concert almost didn’t happen.
Ron Scheurkogel, president of the SAIT Student Association (SAITSA) back in 1974, thought it would be a fun idea for the campus to host a concert.
“Every student council is new at the beginning. Nobody knows anything, but we wanted to promise everything,” he said.
Scheurkogel and his fellow student council members went to the Canadian Entertainment Conference in London, Ontario, where they hoped to sign an artist through Columbia Records.
There they could hear artists such as Michael Quatro, Valdy, Gordon Lightfoot and MacLean & MacLean.
However, one who truly considered SAITSA to be the best was Michael Quatro.
He was well-loved at the time for his unique sound that came from a Moog synthesizer and a Hammond b3 organ.
“We made signs and did everything we could to advertise the fact that we were going to have this big concert, but Columbia Records canceled it,” Scheurkogel said.
“They said, ‘Quatro doesn’t want to come, but we’ll give you this other group,’ and it was KISS and we said, ‘Well, who is that? We’ve never seen or heard of these guys.'”
Dan Murray, who at the time was vice president of communications for SAITSA, was especially disappointed because hundreds of multicolored Michael Quatro posters had been printed as part of a project done by students in the graphic arts management lab.
“It was really a hassle to fill this void now,” Murray said.
“They told us there was this new group coming, KISS. We knew they were coming from New York, which was kind of exciting, but there was a lot of mystery around it and they told us we couldn’t advertise it.”
Murray found the idea of not being able to advertise the concert absurd, as he was told he could not advertise on local radio stations or in the student newspaper Emery Weal.
“However, the other problem for us was that this concert could no longer be held at the Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium,” he said.
“That’s when the people who actually run SAIT stepped in to help us.”
SAIT’s president in 1974 was the late Fred Jorgenson, who offered to host the concert in the SAIT gymnasium in the Student Activities Center.
A deal was reached within hours and KISS now had a headquarters in Calgary.
‘All types of power requirements’
As with any major rock ‘n’ roll concert, the logistics behind its preparation can require hours of planning and hundreds of staff members.
SAIT students weren’t expecting much from a concert held in their school’s gym, but KISS was different.
More than two days passed before trucks with workers showed up to set up the stage.
“All of a sudden we started getting into the technical details of KISS and it turns out they needed all kinds of power requirements,” Murray said.
“We had no idea what their show was or what the audience was going to see. We knew that most bands just plugged into a wall socket and were good, but now we needed long cables, 30-amp service. There were even systems hydraulics. involved.”
The pyrotechnics that went off during the performance caused several noise complaints.
sounding the alarm
Scheurkogel regrets not being able to see the KISS concert, as he was busy helping organize the event.
But he definitely heard it all.
“Wow, was there ever a lot of noise?” he said.
“My job was to sit outside and because there was a bank in the same building, it was so loud that the alarm system went off.”
Scheurkogel and an employee at a nearby bank they had to call were unable to turn off the alarm, and eventually some Calgary police officers showed up to respond.
“So the bank manager, a couple of police officers and I sat at the counter, listening to the concert… It was a lot of fun,” he said.
“We sold it out. A lot of people came and didn’t really understand who it was, but wow, it was an amazing concert.”