‘I was able to fulfill a longstanding wish’

For new and experienced performers, the Rock Show Experience was a platform for them to live out their dreams

Taras Kachkowski loves the band, KISS.

He often dresses up as frontman Gene Simmons, complete with the platform boots, black and white face paint and spiky shoulder pads made out of football gear.

It’s a costume he puts on at Halloween, or with some green touches for Rider games.

But until Friday night, he had never had the opportunity to perform as Gene Simmons on stage.

“The average person probably doesn’t devote an hour and a half to throwing black and white face paint on their face and making replica costumes, so I’d say I’m probably a pretty big fan,” Kachkowski laughed.

“I’ve sung everything from church choral music, Ukrainian folk music all the way up to heavy metal, and I have occasionally played some bass in public.”

But it wasn’t until the Prince Albert Winter Festival came calling that Kachkowski was able to put it all together.

He hosted the annual Rock Show Experience in full KISS garb, but near the end of the show, he got to live out a dream. Kachkowski came out, axe-shaped bass in hand, and led the band in a KISS classic: Shout it Out loud.

“This was the first time I was able to fulfill a longstanding wish of mine and perform in tribute to one of my musical icons,” he said.

“I was really happy to be asked to sing ‘Shout it out Loud’ for the show tonight.”

Kachkowski wasn’t the only musician who had a special moment on stage.

Local musician Kelly Kawula accompanied many of the acts Saturday night, wailing on his guitar with technical solos to help the event achieve its goal of giving guests a rock concert experience.

It’s one of his first and one of his biggest shows since surviving a health scare, and he got to share the stage with his son.

“Part of my healing and my recovery is music. It’s really helpful,” he said.

“To be able to play music and have energy on stage, and be able to play and perform and make music with the rest of the cast and crew is great, and felt really good.”

It was Kawula’s second time in the cast, but the first time he got to do it with his son.

“It’s an honour to be part of such a great show,” he said.

“There are fantastic musicians and singers. It was extra special for me because my son Blake was performing as well. It was even more meaningful this year because he was involved.”

In a way, there were three generations involved when Kawula was on stage. Show producer Dennis Adams played throughout the performances. He taught Kelly how to play guitar, and now Kelly is passing on that same love of music to his son.

“It was awesome, a great experience,” Blake said.

“I love playing music, I love playing guitar. I practice around three  hours a day and love getting up on stage.”

Blake said being out there with his dad was “the best feeling ever.”

Combining the energy of young performers with the skill of older performers was one of the themes of the night, as musicians of all ages took on some of rock’s biggest songs.

“The great thing about the winter festival is we do offer that opportunity for talent to be showcased in a variety of genres,” Kachkowski, who also serves on the Winter Festival board, said.

He spoke about 15-year-old singers and a 15-year-old guitarist who “nailed the guitar part” on Crazy Train.

“It’s not an easy guitar part to play,” Kachkowski said. He also praised the performances of some of the musicians who were “more experienced” as well.

“These shows give an opportunity for a lot of people from the Prince Albert area to show off their talents.”