I loved KISS as a kid. They were my “first” band. It was the 80’s and I was an innocent naive kid. I began my KISS journey somewhere in the 80’s when I was around 14 and the Crazy Nights album was a big part of that discovery (ridicule as required). From there I worked my way backwards in no particular order. I would stop by the local shopping mall almost every day after school, browsing through the cassettes, dreaming of my next KISS purchase as I strived to save up my paper route and odd job earnings for this express purpose of expanding my collection, there were sooooo many. I didn’t know which one was better than the other, who played on each one, I simply chose by which cover I thought looked cool (explaining how Unmasked was an early addition as I loved comic books). Sometimes I chose by looking at the track list to see if that album in my hands contained one of my favourite tracks from my beloved Smashes, Thrashes & Hits compilation purchased shortly after release. I took each one home and basically overplayed it, not just listening to, but absorbing each and every track for the usually two-three week span before I could afford the next little gem. I loved every album (yes, even Music From The Elder), I deflected insults and ridicule of “my” band at school, I was a KISS fan. On several Halloweens, I donned the kabuki face paint of The Demon, Gene Simmons a feat that took 2.5 hours to get exactly right. I had a full costume as well, crafted over a couple of years prior to my first event wearing the get-up. I’m sure that I’m not alone in this. I snapped up movies such as 1984’s Runaway with Tom Selleck and Gene Simmons and 1987’s Wanted Dead Or Alive with Rutger Hauer and Gene Simmons whenever the family would have a movie rental weekend. Once a little older, working at a video rental store offered the perfect route for searching out some of the more obscure Gene Simmons acted movies. I was a Gene fan too!
Nothing can compare to that excitement I felt for KISS in my days of oblivious fandom. They are still “my” band, but now, largely thanks to the internet I simply know too much. I know about the fights and the hating each other (that alone caused heartbreak when I found out about this), the business practices, the tell-all books (none of which I have read, not wanting to further tarnish my opinion of my band), the hatred of the fans, the never changing setlists, the new albums don’t hold much water for me anymore…..all of it!
When asked what my favorite band was I always responded without hesitation KISS. Now it’s a much more difficult answer that may or may not involve KISS depending on what day you catch me. I know too much. Once it was a dream to meet Gene or Paul or anyone else involved with KISS. Now I’m just afraid that meeting either of them in person will simply tarnish my already low opinion even more and heighten my annoyance (change the goddamn setlist once in awhile!). It will never happen, I’ll never meet them I won’t allow it. All said and done here I am still a KISS fan at heart. I don’t need to know who tied Peter Criss‘ shoelaces in 1975 or what colour underwear Paul likes to wear. Something that was such a huge part of my youth and formative years cannot be so easily cast aside, but it is pretty dormant. Recently my KISS passion was re-ignited and all it took was something simple. A memory.
I recently purchased a new surround stereo system for my home entertainment. After making all the required connections, I sought to test out the unit and for this purpose my hands landed upon the KISSology set. I have owned all three of these for quite some time, adding them to the collection shortly after their release. even though I had outgrown my band and never even got around to watching them all! Vol. 3 1992-2000 is what I chose as I’d never viewed this previously. The DVD, as I’m sure many of you are aware, begins with a performance of the Revenge tour in Detroit 1992. As the band literally exploded onto the stage (there was not even a DVD menu, it just played right away), ripping into “Creatures of the Night” I was instantly captured. They were bouncing all over the stage with the Statue of Liberty looming behind them, I haven’t seen this much energy or effort in KISS in the last few performances I’ve seen, the age factor notwithstanding of course. By the time they had completed “Deuce” and began “I Just Wanna” I was already lost inside my memories, transported back to a time when my KISS fandom was at the pinnacle of its excitement. My memories landed a little farther back for the pre-Revenge tour and the club dates that KISS performed in select cities.
Somewhere, somehow I found out about the concert announcement that KISS would be doing a rare club show at The Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto. Who knows how I heard about it before the internet days, I don’t recall exactly how that came down. What I do remember is that at this time I was nineteen, now legal drinking age in Ontario, Canada. This would also be my first concert in a club or bar since, previously being under-age had prevented my attendance at some awesome shows. Having attended literally every other concert show, always big stadiums, since the time I was 16, I had made friends with the young lady at the ticket outlet. She would automatically pull off two tickets to every show before selling to anyone else in the line whenever she saw me and my buddy waiting. We would bring her a coffee. We happened to be first in line this time anyway. Anyone remember back before the internet when we had to camp out in parking lots and outside shopping centres to get our concert tickets? Sad that kids today will never know or experience that. As I recall, this KISS club show sold out in something like two and a half minutes and us and the guy behind us were the only ones to be able to purchase their tickets, much to the dismay of the fairly large line.
When the day grew near (which if I recall was not long after ticket sales), I was nervous and excited for not only this KISS event, but my first club show. We wanted to be near the stage of course, so we devised a simple plan, shift-work. The show was to take place on Wednesday May 6, 1992, so the evening before that we put our plan into action. One of us would always be in the line (and we were not the first ones either!). We took turns holding that spot outside The Phoenix Concert Theatre on 410 Sherbourne Street, Toronto. We tried our best to balance it between work schedules and called in sick where necessary, ensuring that both of us were there for the overnight portion of the experience. Our efforts were richly rewarded once we got inside and secured spots right on the stage between Paul Stanley and Bruce Kulick. We didn’t move for the whole time, having at several points to fend off the surge from behind that threatened to push us into or even under the stage. Shooting Gallery was the opening band, and I was familiar with them in part, loving their song “Nature Of My Business” that appeared on a compilation cassette that I had acquired somewhere. KISS, of course, were fantastic for a young fanboy like I was back in that day and upon returning home at the end of the night I made some quick notes about the show. Here’s what I wrote down:
“Awesome (standing area) seats – front row just to left of centre. Slapped Bruce’s hand. Gene stepped on my finger. Touched them all. Felt their sweat falling on me like a shower. Grabbed many pics!”
That sounds like I had a fantastic time, if a little “fanboy”. I fully recall my guitar pic collection technique on that night (I have 9 total). Bruce had his pics taped to his guitar with a line of masking tape. When he bent down and played right in front of us at the edge of the stage I noticed that the tape was beginning to peel off and was hanging loose. I reached up and grabbed it, gently tugging the strip of taupe coloured tape away from his guitar bringing with it six or eight monogrammed guitar pics. I pocketed a couple for my buddy and I and the flung the rest over my head and behind me for other fans to secure a souvenir. The pics from Gene and Paul I caught or was handed personally.
I also noted the setlist that night:
“Firehouse”, “Parasite”, “Strutter”, “100,00 Years”, “Cold Gin”, “Deuce”, “Unholy”, “Lick It Up”, “Tears Are Falling”, “Heaven’s On Fire”, “God Gave Rock ‘n’ Roll To You II”, “I Want You”, “Rock And Roll All Night”, “Love Gun”, “Shout It Out Loud”, “Detroit Rock City”, “I Was Made For Loving You”, “I Love It Loud”, “I Stole Your Love”, “God Of Thunder”, “Calling Dr. Love”, “Take It Off” (**not listed in the order played that night as I don’t remember what came when)
If KISS made a recording of the bathroom noises generated after Gene ate Ex-lax mistakenly thinking it was chocolate I would still buy it….I am a KISS fan!
Thanks to KISSology Vol. 3 1992-2000 for transporting me back to that awesome concert and time in my life, rejuvenating my KISS fandom once again. Hopefully the boys don’t squash it too quickly this time around.