I waited a long time to write this. Back in March, KISS came to Montreal on their Farewell tour, and thinking this was their last appearance, I decided to splurge and get the Meet & Greet VIP package so I could meet my idols. Now on the eve of an encore performance (the first show was one of the first sold out dates on the tour), I think I’ve had enough distance to write about it objectively. The euphoria has passed; so has the disappointment.
I went for the least expensive package of the three offered, but it was still really expensive. Like really fucking expensive. But what did I get for my $1000 (USD)?
We were allowed in the venue at 6PM by a separate VIP entrance, where we were given wristbands and a commemorative badge. The early admission was to give us ‘crowd free access to the merchandise booth’. In other words, we paid to be allowed to spend more money. I had cynically planned to skip this part, but I was so excited that I couldn’t wait after work and headed out straight to the Bell Centre. Ironically, my excitement cost me, as I entered the parking at 1000 de La Gauchetière 20 SECONDS BEFORE EVENING RATES KICKED IN. $20 instead of $13. But hey, at that point, who’s counting?
I have to say that it was nice to have early access to the merch booth. The girl behind the counter helped everyone pick their souvenirs, and she even went through the stack of Eric Singer-signed drum heads to find me one that was pristine. We can count this as a win. While waiting I got to talking with a fellow fan. That show was my 13th KISS show; it was Jim’s 113th. Jim Beis is one of the biggest KISS collectors in Montreal and a really nice guy; he also happens to be the mayor of the Pierrefonds-Roxboro burrough of Montreal. To everyone who said rock would be our downfall and we’d never amount to anything: ah! joke’s on you now. Jim pointed out to me a fan coming in through the doors. “This guy’s a huge collector too. He claims his collection is bigger than mine, but it’s not true”, he said with a wink. When the guy asked to take a photo with Jim, he quickly turned to me and said “Hold my beer. That photo’ll end up on the Internet.” Ah, the responsibilities of Mayors.
We were then led downstairs by the backstage area. Our group quickly filled up and we nervously chatted with each other. By the end we were probably close to 40 people. Eventually we were lead backstage where we caught up with the group that had the second tier package, that came with a tour of the backstage. People gawked at us, and I couldn’t help imagine them thinking “There goes the sucker train.” We were lead to a corridor where we all stood in file, waiting for the photo op to start. There must have been at least 75 people, so basic math tells me this is a very lucrative process.
I had very low expectations from the meet & greet. I’ve done a few before, and have attended many conventions. I expected a ‘Hello’, maybe a handshake. I knew there would be no opportunity for conversation, and anyway, what would we talk about? My story isn’t that different from everyone in attendance, and I think I’ve professed my love for the band by paying $1000 (plus the ticket cost) to be there. As the line moved forward, I entered the room and there they were, in the flesh. It was a weird feeling: I’ve seen hundreds of videos and photos of these guys over the last 35+ years, but being in the same room was something else.
The photo op moved pretty quickly, with an attendant practically dragging people off as soon as the camera clicked. You keep hearing about how tall they are with their boots on, but nothing prepared me for the effect as I walked up to them. I believe they were running a bit late and they had their entourage hustling about, constantly talking to them… which means their attention wasn’t on the fans. I got a greeting and fist bump from Tommy Thayer, I don’t think Paul Stanley even heard my ‘Hi Paul’, Eric Singer was eyeing something (a girl?) off to the side, even on the freaking photo. Gene was in character and gave a slight nod. People before me had asked for a second pose, but as I was about to ask, Paul told their manager “When did this two pose thing start?”, and I didn’t dare ask. That instant of hesitation was all the assistant needed to usher me off. As it turns out, of the 2 shots the photographer took, Eric Singer looks to the left on both, and Gene has his eyes closed on one. I had to Photoshop the best Gene pose unto the second photo, and move Eric’s eyes somewhat towards the center to get a decent memento of my
money evening. As I left, Gene kept his fist chest high for, I guess, a self-serve fist bump. How tall is he with his boots? I held my fist head high to reach.
Exiting the room, I was given a bag with my autographed photo; a metallic promo shot signed by all four. It looks great, and at least will earn a prime spot in my collection. We were told to hurry and get to our seats as the show would start as soon as they were done. The package also came with a $100 voucher for their online shop, that I haven’t used yet because the selection is horrible. I have to remember to use it before it expires…
The show was awesome, and I went home on a high of having met my idols. I was so excited when the photos showed up online, but so disappointed that the photographer didn’t even make sure everyone looked at the camera. That’s a huge disrespect for fans who’ve spent a lot of money for this experience. At least my Photoshop efforts produced something halfway decent, but let’s be honest: of the five people on this photo, one is clearly more excited to be there than the others. And it’s not even one of the guys paid to be there.
Once the euphoria died down, disappointment set in. For the next couple of months, I was a bit bitter about the experience.
But I’ve put the photo as my computer desktop at work, and my co-workers often stop and all ask the same question: “Are these wax figures?” And as these questions trickled in, I realized one thing: getting to meet KISS in full make-up in costume is a pretty amazing opportunity, and I’ve done that. Could it have been better? Oh, you bet. Would I like a do-over photo? Oh yeah. But I’ve finally met the band that inspired me to pick up a guitar, and set me on a path that shaped my whole life. And that’s priceless. For everything else, there’s Mastercard.
Come to think of it, I needed Mastercard for this too.