9/21/2018 – I was informed by several sources (including friends and anyone who knows I’m a big KISS fan) that not only was The GENE SIMMONS solo band would be playing at TURNING STONE CASINO on Friday September 21, 2018, but he would also be at Tops in Fayetteville, NY earlier that day to not only promote his new MONEYBAG SODA Brand, but also to do a Meet & Greet. For $20 you got a four pack of Moneybag Soda (cola / diet cola/ root bear /ginger ale), have it signed and get a pic taken by his photographer with the man himself. All proceeds from that $20 went to HONOR FLIGHT, a veterans charity (I did hear some reports that only $15 of the $20 went to charity-still cool). I had the entire day free so I made a day of it………..
The Meet & Greet was to start at Noon but due to me only getting three hours sleep, I didn’t arrive until after 11 AM. The one in Rochester had sold out and, with KISS just announcing their farewell tour two days earlier, I expected it to be sold out long before I arrived even if I came earlier. I was pleasantly surprised to see that it wasn’t so I got my voucher and waited in line. I ran into a number of people who I knew here including Brian “HAM” Hamilton (former bassist for my band CAROLINE BLUE), Rokken Randy & his wife Kristin, John Hamilton, Jeff Conkling, Charleen Norris, Michele Connelly, Michael Winton and Tom Carpenter-who was the first in line having waited 18 hours to meet Gene and get a pic. I’ve known since the early 2000’s how bad he wanted to meet any member of KISS-with Gene on top cause that’s who inspired him to sing. I think I was more happy for him to be able to finally do this than I was in meeting Gene. It was just so cool you know? Not to mention, just as I was talking to Tom, a photographer from Syracuse.com – Charlie Miller – asked for a pic of me and Tom for the site. The line was outside in this long U shape and I was in the second half. I was with some ladies who came here on their lunch break-and were VERY late getting back 🙂 A woman actually collapsed in line while waiting. She was taken care of and I heard later was still able to meet Gene which was cool. Gene didn’t arrive till around 12:20 PM and was actually directing traffic for a minute outside Tops. The line started moving at a good pace after he went………
Now, anyone who knows me that my favorite KISS member is PAUL STANLEY, but Gene has always been close behind. My “no drinking, smoking or drugs” policy was directly influenced by him for example. I have to say that, while I’ve been wanting to try out his soda for awhile (I even searched locally for it for awhile when it was released), I gave up drinking soda awhile ago (at least till I get on another film set where it’s the only option to drink again 🙂 ) but I still wanted to try it, plus my Dad wanted to try the root beer so I got a 4 pack of that for him. Then it was my turn to meet the man himself. I was a little surprised to find that I’m a little taller than him, but his first words to me caught me off guard cause I didn’t hear him fully. I’ve tried to remember them and the closest I can get was he called me either “Buckaroo Bonzai” or “Punky Brewster.” (leaning towards the later cause I don’t remember the hard consonant “K” from the former). It got a laugh from the crowd and I just wish I knew what he actually said. He signed the soda and said to come closer for the pic. It was pretty wild. You get two pics taken and during that Gene asked me “Are you being treated well?” I said, “It was awesome”-but I hope when the pro pic comes out that I don’t have my mouth open. Luckily Michele Connolly took some pics of me with Gene with her phone and, if that’s all that comes out, I’m more than happy. In fact, I haven’t been this happy in a very, very long time. It’s been a rough 12 months. Anyway….one of the photographers than said I look like Metallica’s bass player, to which Gene replied (pointing to me) “He’s better looking.” That got some laughs. I also got to say “Thank you” to Gene-which is actually the same thing I’d say if I met Paul. It’s funny-and flattering-cause there were a few people here who were happy that I got to meet Gene similar to how I felt towards Tom getting to meet him. I know Gene has a rep of being an asshole but I tell you, he couldn’t have been more charming. He was cracking jokes a lot and making people feel good and special. He also seem genuinely happy to be here meeting with the fans. He even signed some stuff people brought-and there was a strict rule that he wouldn’t ahead of time. The vouchers sold out here as well. I stayed and hung out with some friends till he left. I was very impressed with how all this was and was looking forward to seeing Gene and his band later this night at Turning Stone.
For the show, I was with Darrell White, Sarah Randall and her friend Joanie Laboda-Shaler. We got there and went to our sets-third row center. There’s a shot by Brian “HAM” Hamilton (former bassist for my band CAROLINE BLUE) which shows how close we were to the stage. There was no opening band for this-just Gene and his solo band. They played sixteen songs including the following………………
Deuce / Shout it Out Loud / Calling Dr. Love / Charisma / Are You Ready? / Do You Love Me? / I / Plaster Caster / Long Tall Sally / Sweet Pain / I Love it Loud / Love Theme From KISS / War Machine / She’s So European / Let Me Go Rock & Roll / Rock & Roll All Nite………………………..
I have to say that thru out this whole show, the key word for me was “intimate.” I’ve never seen a show like this. Some of the stuff I’ll describe you can see from the pics. Gene was cracking a lot of jokes (many self-depreciating) and was extremely patient through out. I’ll get to that in a moment. Right after “Deuce” a woman from the crowd said something and he said a few things back and next thing you know she’s on the stage doing a little grinding routine. She also took off her bra and gave it to Gene-who used it from time to time to wipe the sweat off his face. He had three guitarists with him and while it’s common to have the guitarists switch off with soloing like one gets to solo in this song, another gets this song, etc-these guys were switching solo spots within the same song. So if one of them started soloing in, let’s say, “Calling Dr. Love,” part way thru another would play the rest. A very tight band and I only heard two errors-one where it seemed like someone had stepped on a guitar cord cause the lead cut out out for a brief moment and Gene messed up a little on “Love Theme From KISS” and, after the song was done, had the band re-play that part so he could do it right-freely admitting that he messed up by the way… Gene also had cue cards on the floor near his monitor and, at point, they played that famous song “Tu-Ning”-just like the local bands do 🙂
There were three songs where they had people come up on the stage to help them sing along. All women on “Do You Love Me?” All men on “I Love It Loud” and both on “Rock & Roll All Nite.” On DYLM, There was one woman who’s birthday was today and Gene led everyone in singing happy birthday to her. She was a huge fan and was crying while she hugged him. She said her wish was for Gene to give her a kiss for her birthday and he gave her a kiss on the cheek. BTW-some of my lady friends who hate Gene cause he’s such a “womanizer” might be interested in this part. At one point Gene was again exchanging with a woman from the crowd and I don’t recall what she said, but he said “You’re a woman-you should never be sorry. Men should be sorry…(I don’t recall the last part but I think it was along the lines of “… for not treating you the way you should be treated.” He wasn’t joking when he said this either. Very cool………On ILIL, he started talking to a little boy on stage and this guy kinda got in front of them trying to take a selfie and Gene, politely told the guy off and told him to quit blocking the kid. During the song, me, Sarah, DR and Joanie were laughing at this large guy on stage right-obviously hammered-who would unbutton his shirt a little and message his breast erotically. He was a riot. Even better-when the song ended, people were leaving the stage but has inching closer to Gene till he got right in front of him. Gene saw him and said “I don’t want to see that! Turn around and show the crowd”-which he did but was soon off the stage. During this song, Gene pointed to a guy next to him and said “Geezer Butler of Black Sabbath.” Check the pics to see for yourself (it wasn’t really him BTW).
Now, here in CNY, there are local bands here who draw a lot of people and have people up on stage with them for some songs. It’s been going on here for over 10 years. But I’ve never seen it where so many people were not only all over Gene, but trying to taking selfies with him in it-and Gene was very patient and polite with all of this. If he’d called security or made people move, I don’t think many would blame him, but he basically let it go on. There was even a moment where he started singing the first verse of ILIL (or was it RARAN?) and this guy grabbed his mic stand so he couldn’t sing into the mic for a moment. You could see that look of “WTF are you doing?” on Gene’s face, but I think the guy was trying to stabilize the stand for him. There were also times on the first two songs were he was saying, “Whoever is grabbing my butt, please stop.” Again-not screaming or getting angry. There were even some people late getting off stage and I’ve seen other frontmen yell stuff like “Get off my fucking stage!” Gene was politely saying into the mic something like, “We really need you to leave the stage now cause the people will get mad if you don’t”-almost like a nerd talking. You can see in the pics how surrounded he was people and major kudos to him for how he handled all of that.
The other thing that was different was towards the end, the two guys he partnered with for Moneybag Soda brought this huge chest with the Moneybag logo on it to the front of the stage. They opened it and told people to come up and get one for free. In addition, he had this large Tops bag filled with cookies and brownies and stuff. He said something along the lines of “I’m getting too damn fat as is!” So they started handing out and lobbing those baked goods into the crowd. It was cool to see a little girl on her father’s shoulders get a cookie. Everyone was just having a great time.
For those of you who want a taste of it, here’s a video clip of The Gene Simmons Band from that night handing out bottles of Moneybag Soda and baked goods / candy into the crowd by Mike Brunn. You can actually see the back of my head (cause I’m wearing pumps-HA!) at times in the video on the lower left 🙂
After the show, I ran into some more friends-including former CAROLINE BLUE bassist Billy Pierce and his wife. Here was a first for me. After the show, Denise Miclo came up to me with some flowers and said she couldn’t give them to Gene so gave them to me. I don’t remember ever getting flowers before. That was different. Gene and his band put on a great show and, as I mentioned before, I haven’t smiled so much in a very long time-and it was needed. Makes me wish I could have video taped the show. I saw video crew around and I hope he releases a home video release of the shows one day.