The KISS Expo

Our intrepid reporter Chris Martin ventures forth into the Kiss Expo and neevr qask him top tkae part in karaoke…

The year was 2004. It was about three days after my wife left, and clearly I wasn’t in much of a mood to go out and interact with people. But, after much encouragement from my buddy Roger and his son Andrew, I decided to venture out to the KISS Expo in Charlotte that day and try to find some semblance of joy and happiness. Sadly, Gene Simmons pissed all over that. After years of having an agreement with Phil Elliot, the man that ran that and many other Expo’s, he underhandedly sent his lawyer and Federal Marshalls to bust up the event because some folks were selling bootleg videos/DVD’s. Phil said then and said it again recently that had Simmons simply contacted him and said get rid of the bootlegs, it would’ve been a done deal. Thanks to this he decided to stop doing Expo’s and nearly became a non-fan. Lucky for all of us fans of the band, and after some time to heal the wounds, he has gone back to doing Expo’s again. This past Sunday was the first Atlanta KISS Expo since then (to my recollection) and I had an absolute blast!

The night before we had witnessed the mighty and powerful Final Curse live, and since Roger lives in SC and closer to Atlanta than where I live, my girlfriend and I decided to spend the night with him and his wonderful family. And despite the fact that I got very little sleep, when I arose from the couch to start getting ready, I was pretty bright-eyed and bushy-tailed…well, at least as much as a grumpy old bastard can be. Several factors played in to my excitement for the day: I’m a KISS fan, this was AJ’s first KISS event, plus I actually had a little bit of money to spend. We were a little later getting on the road than we had originally planned (I did say Roger was involved so lateness is usually a part of our fun,) but we still had fun making our way there. Most of our conversation dealt with trying to figure out who the Special Guest would be that hadn’t been announced. Many jokes were made at the expense of Vinnie Vincent and Tommy Thayer. We even speculated that perhaps zombified Eric Carr would return, as tasteless as that was.

Once we finally arrived at the Hilton the first point of order was to use the bathroom. Once that was taken care of we purchased our tickets and started winding our way through the maze that is a KISS flea market. Perhaps it was due to what happened in 2004, but there seemed to be fewer dealers/tables there, but I’ve got to say that the selection of stuff there was pretty impressive. I actually saw some stuff I had never seen before. My first near purchase was almost a near mint copy of Alice Cooper’s School’s Out LP that still had the panties. This was the very first time I had ever held that in my hands. Some other time I will own it though. I was mesmerized, as I tend to be at these functions, by the incredible wealth of KISS memorabilia. I never was big on the toys. My thing was posters, bootlegs, and LP’s. I could’ve spent so much money, but I walked away with some pretty awesome stuff, and spent under $100.

Pretty much missed all of the Q&A stuff from the guests. I did hear some of Jason McMaster from Dangerous Toys/Broken Teeth, and part of Robert Fleishman ex Vinnie Vincent Invasion singer. McMaster had been to several Expo’s before, and he’s always super cool to listen to during these things, but even better one on one. Fleishman, despite being an incredible singer/songwriter, is sadly not much of a public speaker. He’s soft spoken and not overly engaging. He also talked a whole lot about his 9 months in Journey prior to Steve Perry joining. I don’t typically go to these events for the guests though. After my first KISS Expo in Atlanta (which was actually the second one Phil had ever done there) and finding out as soon as we walked in that Ace Frehley was the special guest, well, needless to say I could care less who else appears. I’ve already met The Man. I do like catching up with some of the people at tables and stuff. Had a lengthy talk with Phil about the Charlotte fiasco, and told him that if Gene was the special guest, he should get a free kick to the balls on stage for doing what he did in Charlotte. It wasn’t Gene though. Spoke for a bit with McMaster, and I hope to someday name the right price and have him bring out either Dangerous Toys or Broken Teeth to play for me. I also enjoyed meeting Kadria, vocalist for the new band Inviolate. She’s super sweet and very talented. Oh, and Queen Simmons was great too.

After this was KISS Karaoke. I hate karaoke. I wasn’t overly pumped about this happening, until we realized that it would be karaoke with a live band. This was pretty damn cool. The first person up was a guy doing Ozzy’s “Bark At the Moon.” He was spot on! Come to find out he was a lawyer by day and performed in an Ozzy tribute band by night. For the most part everyone did an excellent job. There were a couple that kind of missed the mark, but it was still a lot of fun. One guy even did “Holy Diver” from Ronnie James Dio, which I was worried that I would wind up crying more about a horrible performance than I did when the man himself passed, but I’ve gotta give the guy credit, he did a great job and paid excellent respect to The Metal Midget. Once the karaoke was done they did the prerequisite costume contest, followed by a tribute band.

I’ll admit that by the end of the day I was pretty wiped out. The Special Guest still hadn’t arrived and I had heard speculation that it was either Ted Nugent or Ace Frehley. I took the opportunity to go speak with Phil and basically said I knew he probably wouldn’t tell me who the guest was to be, but I simply wanted to know if he/she might still show up and if so would it be worth hanging around for, that we had a long drive and hadn’t planned on staying for the tribute band. The decision was made to go ahead and leave. Since AJ hadn’t witnessed the spectacle that is a live KISS show (that’s coming up in July) we stayed around so she could see a little of KISS America. Never seen this particular tribute band before and really could only endure about a song and a half. They really weren’t all that good. But neither the no-show guest nor less than stellar tribute band would detract from the outstanding time we had.

Before we left Atlanta we ate at a place called Rudy’s New York Pizza. The pie was awesome. It wasn’t thin crust like I had figured it would be (I’m a thick man that loves thick crust) and simply one of the best pizza’s I’ve ever had before. If you’re in the area, check it out. Afterwards we made the long trek back to the house. I’m proud to be a full on KISS nerd and highly encourage everyone to go to one Expo at least once in your life. Phil did say he hoped to return to Charlotte either end of this year beginning of next, so once I hear about a date I shall pass it on to you. Until next time my peep’s always remember: Get up and get your grandma out of here.

David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 20 September 2020.

UK Blues Broadcaster of the Year (2020) Pete Feenstra presents his weekly Rock & Blues Show on Tuesday at 19:00 ( BST, GMT+1) as part of a five hour blues rock marathon “Tuesday is Bluesday at GRTR!”. The show is repeated on Wednesdays at 22:00, Fridays at 20:00). This show was first broadcast 22 September 2020.

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