Sunday, November 30, 2014

Calling Dr. Love

Kiss army! Do you have a case of rock 'n roll pneumonia? Dr. Love says the first step of the cure is all your Kiss favorites! It's gonna be hotter than hell at Sonny's in Lakeside!

So! Many! Exclamation! Points!

Reading Style Weekly's calendar as I ate breakfast this morning, I spot "HTH. European Kiss tribute act. Sonny's Bar and Grille."

This shouldn't have caught my attention. I was never a Kiss fan; in fact the only Kiss song I could name off the top of my head is "Beth" and isn't that the one that true Kiss aficionados deplore?

My sole Kiss memory is a comment my best friend made decades ago when I asked her about the band. "Have you ever heard Paul Stanley speak?" she asked rhetorically. "He sounds dumb as a brick."

I never gave Kiss another thought until today.

With no plans tonight, I was scouring the calendar for possibilities since Facebook had yielded nothing. Why not a night of middle-aged men in make-up? Especially in a bar I'd never heard of, much less been to. Who knew what might come of such randomness?

There was no shortage of Kiss fans (I was ticket #98 of 110) in the house when I arrived at Sonny's, despite the fact that the band didn't start for another hour plus. My guess is they'd all come in time to get seats. A server immediately pegged me for a first-timer and jetted over to offer me alcohol to ease me into the scene.

When I inquired what kind of tequila they had, she responded with, "Patron, Cuervo and the house crap-tastic." I think I'll have Patron, thanks.

I found a stool near the electronic bowling and sat down. Looking around, I spotted a half dozen people in Kiss t-shirts and more than a few people vaping away on their e-cigarettes.

A guy walked by and grinned. "You got a pretty smile." After a couple of minutes, the guy behind me tapped me on the shoulder to ask if I was waiting for someone. When I said no, he and his friend opened up a conversation.

One was an Oregon Hill native, a breed I'd never met, and his first concert had been Johnny and Edgar Winter (but his all-time favorite had been Def Leppard but "Before the drummer lost his arms"). His buddy's first had been Three Dog Night.

Another guy came over and set his Budweiser down next to my Patron and pointed at it. "I'm going to the bathroom. Don't you slip any date rape drug in my beer." Not especially funny.

I knew the show was close to starting when my server climbed atop the L-shaped bar and began shooting pictures of the crowd on both sides. "Act like you're having fun!" she yelled. It was apparently a record crowd for Sonny's, which I was told has only been open about six months.

Then the lights dimmed and four guys in white face makeup, platform boots and wild hair strode through the crowd toward the stage. It was show time for HTH, which I was informed meant Hotter than Hell. Suffice to say I had a lot of Kiss learning to do tonight.

When they started playing, I didn't recognize anything, but even a non-fan could tell that they were good musicians. A stranger said that two of them had other bands.

I kept waiting for one of them to fall off those ridiculously high silver boots they were wearing. The boots on the guy playing Gene Simmons (I know it was supposed to be Gene because he kept sticking his tongue out) looked like sharks' heads with teeth.

"We're up here knocking them out and you guys better be knocking them back!" the drummer Peter (when the musicians referred to each other onstage, it was as the real Kiss band members' names), called out to stimulate bar sales. He needn't have worried; trays of Fireballs and Budweisers were being ferried to customers constantly.

Unlike me, most of the crowd knew the words to every song. "How many people like to get lit?" Paul asked to major cheering. "How many people like to lick?" Screams. "Here's a singalong for you: "Lick It Up." You better believe they sang along.

An hour into their set, people were still arriving and my O-Hill buddy found a space for us right in front of the band so I could fully admire the detail of the band's costumes. The first thing I noticed was how sweat-slicked Paul's bare chest was in his cut-to-the-waist studded jumpsuit.

I only stayed right in the front for a couple of songs because it was mayhem up there and I wasn't enough of a Kiss devotee to deserve such prime real estate.

And just so you know, when they played "Beth," I did recognize it.

Back in my regular spot, I overheard a newcomer ask a server about craft beer selection. She looked at him with the shred of patience she still had at that point and informed him, "No, we don't have any custom beers, baby, just the basics."

When the cowbell kicked in, a guy near me matched it beat for beat by using the large ring on his finger slapped against his beer bottle. I gave him points for creativity.

My new friend observed that I must not smoke since I'd not once left the bar, unlike so many people who paraded in and out all night to stand outside in the freezing air and feed their habit. "Yea, me, neither," he said. "I used to work in a cigarette factory and I know what shit they put in those things."

Then, like a light bulb had gone off, he snapped his fingers and said, "That's who you remind me of! Debbie, the prettiest girl at the cigarette factory. You look like her!" I'm sure he meant it as a compliment.

When Paul took his guitar and came down off the stage to walk through the crowd, flashes went off like he was walking the red carpet for paparazzi. The crowd was into it.

Hell, I was into it. I may not have recognized many songs - I agreed with a guy who told me he was listening to other stuff when Kiss was big and so was I - but I'm no stranger to hard rock, either. With two guitars and pounding drums, it was '70s-style anthemic. It got my backside moving. It was fun for a night.

But European tribute band? The calendar editor must have made that part up.

After the evening ended, I headed out to my car. As I was backing up, a guy came toward me, motioning for me to roll my window down. "You've got such a pretty smile," he said. "When the weather gets warmer, would you go for a ride on my Harley with me?"

Who do you think I am, Debbie? Sorry, no, mister. I was not made for lovin' you.

See how I slid that Kiss reference in right there at the end? That's what one night of HTH can do for you.


  1. you did well Kid....


  2. It was a fun evening, even for a non-Kiss fan!

  3. i see. maybe i won't call you "kid" anymore. you've been thru a lot... hard to beat this late November weather huh?


  4. Do you mind if from now on I refer to you as "Debbie, the prettiest girl at the cigarette factory."

    Because it will make me laugh every time I say it!

  5. k...
    your car's not runnin'? ... vmfa too far? would the deck a top city hall be better? let me know....

  6. My car will be fixed as soon as the part comes in (mechanic says tomorrow or Friday) so I'll be fine after that.