Monday, November 23, 2009

It's Cold Gin Time Again

KISS / Buckcherry
Oracle Arena, Oakland, CA
November 22, 2009

Earlier in the day, I was a bit bummed that I was missing Heathenfest at the DNA Lounge tonight. The Norwegian band Vreid were on the bill and I've been wanting to check them out ever since I got into their latest album Milorg, a concept album chronicling the Norwegian resistance movement against the Nazis in World War 2 (!). It's Metal AND educational; the liner notes alone are great. Alas, Umlaut can't be everywhere at once... and as events unfolded it was obvious I had made the right choice of events for this Sunday night.

I grew up during the original KISS Generation, and KISS were like my first girlfriend; they were the first Rock band I ever got serious about. However, I was done with them by 1979 after they put out the disco pandering 'I Was Made For Loving You' and while other friends kept their fandom alive over the years, I buried mine before my 15th birthday and moved on. Later in the 20th Century, I saw 2 shows on the Reunion Tour back in 1996-2000 and had a great time at both (1996: Louisiana Superdome with the Melvins supporting.... 2000: Oracle Arena with Ted Nugent...). However, KISS became "KISS" to me when Ace Frehley was kicked out of the band in 2002 and Tommy Thayer donned Ace's makeup and Eric Singer became The Cat in place of Peter Criss; having "replacements" donning the iconic makeup seemed blasphemous and false. The argument has been made that other bands change members all the time, but with KISS there is something very emotional and sacred about the original members that exists for no other band. Although I haven't been a "true" KISS fan in years, I still felt outrage over "imposters" wearing The Spaceman and Cat makeup and could never see being "okay" with it. I felt that way..... until tonight.

After the chilly guest list drama of the night before in San Jose I was a little apprehensive as I approached Will Call. However, as soon as I saw the envelope that had been left in my name I knew we were gonna have ourselves a Lock 'N Loll party tonight!

Umlaut's All Access Laminate
(color removed to make it harder for sneaky fucks to counterfeit)

With the magic plastic around our necks there was no way I was going to enter the venue via the civilian entrance, so we walked around to the truck ramp and entered the show properly via the backstage door. We wandered around backstage and checked out catering and the production office before finding our seats... but I didn't stay there long as I went to meet a friend for a drink in the concourse and then found myself backstage again with Wexford Girl and The Bassist.

Wexford Girl introduced me to a couple of KISS' high ranking crew guys and we stood in a hallway chatting as the VIP meet & greet was being organized around us. As we waited I ran into 4-5 former colleagues from "another" merch company where I used to work; although it's been awhile it was nice catching up with them. Then we noticed a commotion at the end of the hallway and suddenly KISS came marching into view to take their place inside the meet & greet room... but as Gene was about to enter the room his attention was distracted by a couple of chicks who seemed to have bum rushed backstage (at the 0:17 second mark of the video):

(Vid by Umlaut)

Also note Paul was air guitaring to Buckcherry (who were onstage at that moment) as he walked into the room.

We waited as the other guests were ushered into the room for their photo op, and at one point KISS' tour manager came back to check on us and asked "Why are these people going in ahead of you?? You should have gone in first.." Say what you will about KISS, but their people really took good care of us (THANKS!). Finally it was our turn, and we were ushered into the room where the band members stood in front of a backdrop. Gene immediately gravitated towards Wexford Girl (of course) and we did a quick pose as the band's photographer took a couple of shots. Eric Singer asked me something and I said something in response and as we were leaving I turned back around, took a couple of steps, stuck out my hand and shook Gene's hand and said something to him... and he said something back... and that was that. I met Gene Simmons and lived.

After our close encounter with Gene & Co. we few, we happy few, laughed our way to a beer vendor for a celebratory cold one and found our seats and minutes later the houselights went down... "Oakland! You wanted the best, and you got it... The hottest band in the world... KISS!!" I was caught completely off guard by how great the band was from the moment they hit the stage with the old school double punch of 'Deuce' > 'Strutter'... Oh man, as soon as they launched into 'Strutter' (perhaps my favorite KISS song) something went off in my head and I was 12-years old again. "Everybody says she's lookin' good.. and the lady knows it's understood... STRUTTER!"

The view from Umlaut's seat.. Section 127..

I'll get this out of the way now: This was THE MOST FUN show of the year. Hands down. No contest... Game over, man... Game over. The entire evening was so easy and everything that a Lock 'N Loll experience should be. I haven't laughed so much at a show in a long time and it's funny how I still know ALL the lyrics to the old KISS songs... and, as much as part of me hated to admit it, Tommy Thayer was GREAT on lead guitar and played Ace's old solos note and nuance perfect and moved around the stage with more energy than Ace ever did.. I know, sacrilege perhaps, but I only speak the truth... However, I did have a problem with Thayer singing Ace's signature song 'Shock Me' and Eric Singer singing Peter Criss' song 'Black Diamond'. At least they didn't have Singer sing 'Beth'.. but 'Shock Me' was just plain wrong.... but my outrage soon disappeared as THE FUN of the show swept me away again (sorry Ace and Peter..). So much FUN... 'Hotter Than Hell' with Gene fire breathing... 'Calling Dr. Love'... 'Parasite'... '100,000 Years'.. 'Shout It Out Loud'.. Gene spitting blood then flying up to the top of the lighting rig to sing 'I Love It Loud'... Say what you will about KISS, but they still put on an amazing Arena Rock show... over the top production and stage design.. and they know how to work a stage and a crowd like few other bands these days.

Two songs off the new Walmart-only CD were played, but I used the first song as an opportunity to hit the bathroom, as did alot of other dudes. Great minds think alike! As I got back to my seat Paul was going into his onstage banter to introduce the next song by saying "When you're feeling down you KNOW there's only ONE THING that will pick you up.." and I shouted "COLD GIN!!" and the dude behind me heard that and said "YEAH!! COLD GIN!!!" At that point I should probably have turned around to high five him, but I didn't.. but a couple of seconds later the band launched into... 'COLD GIN'! You know it's the only thing that keeps us together.

Another aspect of the KISS live experience has always been the cheesy element, especially Paul's between song banter. I wish I had counted how many times he said "PEOPLE!" when addressing the crowd... "PEOPLE listen here..".... "PEOPLE we have a song...".... "PEOPLE!"... and then Paul flew:

Paul Flies During 'Love Gun' (Vid by Umlaut)

What a fucking FUN night.. Say what you will about KISS, but I left the show feeling HAPPY... REALLY HAPPY... and that doesn't happen very often. No, KISS won't change my life at this point.. but they reminded me that life is not bad at all. I still wanna Lock 'N Loll all night and party every day... and it's always funny when a stranger comes up to me at a show and asks "Are you Umlaut??"

Number of Landmine Marathon shirts = 1 (mine). I didn't even bother to try and do a merch audit because the merch area was the size of a small store. On the way back to the car, some pimply-faced teenagers called us fags. As I drink my morning coffee and prepare for the chaotic week of home renovation that I have ahead of me, it's nice to know that I can still be 12-years old in my head and have FUN in that innocent way again. Okay, back to the 21st Century.

Click HERE to see Photo Ray's pics from the show!