The not so glamourous side to touring – It is for me but I can tell it’s not for the band, everyone has a coffee in their grip and doesn’t say much to each other.
Originally I was spending two nights on the bus, but I learn 15 minutes before leaving that I will be flying with the band on a private jet to Tulsa, Oklahoma, tomorrow. Only one night on the bus. I was looking forward to two nights of this experience but after no sleep last night – it is most likely a blessing.
At the KTVI Fox News 2 Morning Show TV station the energy is high as people buzz around between studios delivering the mornings infotainment.
The Dead Daisies warm up and the roadies try to configure another piece of shitty audio equipment. The hosts make general chit-chat with the band, but it’s all over pretty quick, The Daisies nod to each other after the second song and Marco reassures that it went “smooth”.
We head on the bus to the Verizon Wireless Ampitheater so all the crew can prepare for tonights show. The roadies Pat and Lee inform me of a few specialties regarding this venue. It is Dizee Reed’s first gig back at this venue since the 1992 ‘Guns and Roses/Riverport riots ‘ where things got out of control, Axl Rose dropped his mic and refused to finish the set, after which a violent riot ensued.
This also Fortus’ home town so it should make for an interesting vibe.
We have something to eat in the crew cafeteria and I watch the tour crew bee-line through the cholesterol-laced bain maries, briefly catching up in passing whilst getting their breakfast.
“There was that girl sitting next to you last night bro” one shirtless tatted dude says to another.“Yeah she was fucking hammered, actually I was fuckin hammered”, he responds.
I watch the respondent eating his eggs and his inked-up knuckles are shaking, I cant help but wonder if it’s substance or he is on a deadline to get this food down and get back to his adrenaline laden work.
Roadies Pat and Lee take me over to see the stage set-up. It is crazy to see how much work happens behind the scenes to make a rock show happen. Lee explains to me:
“You got lighting guys you got audio guys, you got video guys.. Doing the dance, they’re just doing the dance, moving around trying not to get in each other’s way.” It appears to be an organised kind of chaos.
After being right in the chaos from behind the stage to standing from afar; a few minutes can really bring it to life. A huge mechanical spider that levels up and down the stage is being set up, each leg covered in bright coloured changing lights and its eyes point out like laser beams. This, of course, is part of the KISS phenomena.
From backstage it looks like a big old mess, 13 trucks backed up to unload, but there is a master plan behind it all. With three bands sharing one stage over one night, the stage is set up in a layout of three U shapes with each crew moving their bands set outwards and back into the truck at the end of their set. To see it all sitting on one stage before the show it doesn’t seem this strategic.
Tommy the tour manager tells me I’ll get an education in how tours work in the USA versus tours in Australia. The sizeable differences between infrastructure and spanning venues, “but then again this is overkill, but that’s what you can expect from a KISS tour.”
I am introduced to Gene Simmons right-hand man behind their dressing room. An intimidating German named Mikey, who assertively tells me that I’m not allowed to photograph the KISS outfits that are open in a wardrobe container – ordering the style girls to take them out of my view. His tone was one of ‘I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed’. He gets over it pretty quick when we begin discussing absinthe, “not the bastardised version, the real shit.”
At dinner I see Paul Stanley walk in, he walks over to a bain marie lifts the lid and sticks his tongue out as if it were putrid,I laugh as it is the same dish that my chicken caprece has just come out of. He must be bored because I know that he has his own catering.
I’m sitting outside talking to Marco before the show and Paul Stanley comes wandering out again, he looks focused, but also confused – if that’s possible. I’m surprised when I see him up-close: his skin is tight and not in a botox way, in a freakishly youthful way. Marco introduces us, he shakes my hand and says my name in that way that American people say it, which always feels like it’s not my name. He brushes his hair back and walks away, and I check out the studded red-soled Christian Louboutin boots he’s wearing – and owning like a boss.
A Styx segment is playing on the TV in the bus, fitting as I chat to Pat and Lee about life on-the-road. They tell me they do it for the responsibility that comes with the construction.
“Being able to fix something when it goes wrong, then hearing 10,000 people cheer because you’re the one that fixed it, that’s exciting,” Lee says.
Sure there are also cons to this business: time away from family, never having a day off but it’s a business of patience.
“Its not like a normal 9 to 5 where if you don’t like the guy next to you, you can just ignore him. We are always stuck together,” Pat explains, always a ‘glass half full’ kinda guy.
It begins to pour rain, I mean really piss down (I said this to a few Americans as it happened just to get a kick out of it) half the venue is outdoors! The rain dies down a bit later and The Dead Daisies go on – the set is awesome and the St Louis crowd are really receptive – each musician a ‘lifer’ as Jon refers to them: an artist who will play until their dying day.
I stay backstage for Def Leppard, whose sound is awesome. Watching Rick Allen smash it out was my favourite part of their set and something I will always remember.
Throughout the show I sporadically go out to mingle in the St Louis crowd, which made me feel lonely and strange. It had a carnival type of vibe and it was pretty rough. I went to buy a drink and was asked for ID, I hand it over and ask what is in the $15 vodka cocktail. “Well you can have vodka and sprite, vodka and cranberry….” Now I’m no mixologist honey but I believe they are mixers. I should have brushed it off but I waxed intellectual with the poor attendant on the semantics of a cocktail.
I didn’t get to see KISS on the first show – I seen them dressed and having photos but I don’t get to see their show until Houston. We needed to get on the road after Def Leppard, which didn’t happen anyway because the tour bus driver slept an hour past his alarm and didn’t get back till 10:30pm. The Band Manager basically tore him a new one as he does with everyone who doesn’t pull their weight. Alas, the show must go on.
Good night and Rock on xx