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Kissing Like You Mean It 

The Kissers are a five-piece group from Madison, Wis., who combine traditional Celtic sounds, punk spirit and an old-fashioned country vibe with rock and roll rhythms. They are famous in the Midwest for their "rollicking" and wild stage shows and are now starting to tour more widely to attain a larger fanbase. Their newest release, Fire in the Belly, is catchy, clever, smart and fun. It combines their diverse influences and styles into an exciting, original sound. Curious? Well head down to the B-Side this Sunday night for satisfaction -- with a kiss.

The group started out playing cover songs of favorite Irish band the Pogues, but soon realized that they had an audience for their live performances and began to develop as an original band.

Of the band's beginnings, vocalist and guitarist Ken Fitzsimmons says, "Our first show in 1998 in the basement of a friend's house on St. Pat's consisted of green beer, 'Irish' leis, and a set of 25 Pogues tunes. This is about as Irish as it gets in Madison, Wisconsin."

But sure enough, the fans came out of the woodwork.

"We landed a weekly Monday night slot at a local bar and began building our original repertoire," explains Fitzsimmons. "With one album out [Fire in the Belly], another one due this fall, and a seemingly unending tour schedule [32,000 miles this year alone], we hope to build enough of a fan base to keep the Kissers a viable source of livelihood."

A unique thing about the Kissers' famed live shows is the way the audience influences the set and gives each show the potential to be a completely unique experience.

"As many bands will say, our live show is greatly and directly affected by the audience," Fitzsimmons says. "However, if we have our way, we like to play as energetically as possible in both a musical and physical sense. If the songs aren't fast, then they're not challenging. If we're not sweating, then we're not working. If we're not jumping around, we're not rocking. On the other hand, if the audience seems mellow, we'll work into it a little more and play our coffeehouse show. But inevitably we'll hit something upbeat just to see what the reaction will be."

Fitzsimmons says that rockers find the band folky, while folkies find them to have a rock edge. Still others, expecting straight traditional tunes, find the Kissers to be loud, while those expecting a run-of-the-mill Irish pub sing-a-longs are pleasantly surprised.

"This is all we do," he says. "And we try as hard as we can to put on our best show every night. If people aren't into it, then we've failed."

Succeed or fail, the Kissers are definitely fun and to watch and anything but predictable.

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