Indianapolis Expo 2000
Indianapolis, my first KISS Expo, and I must admit that I was highly excited about the prospect of finally being able to attend one, something which I had read about so many times on the internet over the last few years. I felt like a child at Christmas, though a very tired child, as I left my house at 4:15am on Saturday to catch a shuttle to the airport. The anticipation was building to what I'd find at the Expo, both in terms of collectibles or the online people who show up at these events. I bumped into Mike at San Francisco International who was on an earlier flight via a different route than I. Heading to the Midwest was also a first for me - while I lived in the States from 1978-88 and 90-92 I have really not done much travel. One thing that struck was how beautiful it was coming into Chicago over the shoreline of what I later found out was Lake Michigan. But, damn, that part of the World is really flat... I mean really flat!! I caught a connecting flight to Indianapolis and arrived at the hotel with plenty of drinking time left. There were a few obviously KISS fans around, but I decided to head to the bar to quench my thirst after the travel fun. I had thought that the Expo would be held in a cheap sort of hotel, but the Four Points Sheraton turned out to be pretty good. The bar in particular stocked a quality selection of beers, many of which appealed to this Brit! Propping myself up against the bar I was soon involved in a conversation with a fellow KISS fan who showed me her collection of autographed photographs while waiting for the Kentucky Derby to show up on the broken TV. After two pints, I felt refreshed and went back to the lobby to check whether Mike had checked in. Smoking, I hung around out front, and noticed John Corabi heading off towards his room. "Cool", I thought, "so it's true that ESP are going to be here", somewhat amazed that the event was going to be as advertised! While waiting for Mike to get off the phone Eric Singer ambled by, and I managed a meek, "hey Eric". He responded with a friendly "Hi" and asked if I'd seen John. And then the thought struck, that I'd just stood five feet from the former Badlands, KISS, and Alice Cooper drummer! For me, who has never been particularly interested in meeting the members of the band, it was suddenly a matter of "Wow, there's Eric... John... Oh, and there goes Bruce". I walked up to Mike's room with almost a sense of unreality washing over me. I was at an Expo and it was so far everything as good as I'd heard from internet reports over the past few years.
I dropped my bags off in Mike's room and we headed down to the lobby to see what was happening. Eric and Bruce were down there, as were some of the dealers and internuts. What struck me about all of this was how relaxed everyone was. There was no rock star ego and both Eric and Bruce were incredibly friendly just everyday guys. More people arrived and their were friendly greetings by those who obviously knew each other - a gathering of the tribe - while Keith appeared and disappeared still organizing the Expo! Andre Augustine and Mark Rodgers arrived and hung for a while before people started heading off to grab some food in the pub. Dinner was cool, though it involved rather more alcohol than I'd usually imbibe! One person who showed up later was Bill Starkey, who turned out to be an incredibly interesting character with whom I didn't even discuss KISS! For me, it's more fun and interesting to find topics outside of the music to talk to people about - in this case it was motor racing! Soon after dinner it was time to head off to the radio station where ESP were late for an interview with a cool local rock presenter (he'd "open" the Expo the next day, but I can't for the life of me remember his name!). At the radio station, looking in on the interview, it was amusing to see how much fun banter was going on between Eric, John, Bruce and Andre. Admirably, they remembered to plug the Expo while talking about a variety of other topics, interspaced with KISS tunes and commercials. Mike dashed around snapping pictures while the rest of us hung out in an adjoining room. As soon as it was done it was time to head back to the hotel.
Back at the hotel things became a bit of a blur, it'd been a long day! Propping up the bar I refreshed myself with a few more Sam Adams (hic, Barney Gumble reporting!) while more and more KISS freaks appeared. I met quite a few KISS fans, some who were online, who all turned out to be really cool characters, and it stroked the ego nicely that some even knew of the KISS F.A.Q. II. And then I bumped into Mike who stated, "so... you ready to interview Bruce?" I had known that I was going to get a chance to talk to Bruce at some point over the weekend, though hadn't known when. I certainly hadn't expected the interview to take place at 11pm, after I'd been in the bar for so long, and had to take the opportunity when I could otherwise risk not having the chance! But, what the heck, schedules must. I grabbed another pint and went in search of Bruce. Not knowing Bruce, I was loathe to drag him away from the bar where he was hanging with John, but fortunately Keith came to the rescue and we were soon heading off to Bruce's room. Once I got past the difficulties with Mike's voice activated recorded (not his fault, mine for playing with it!) the interview with Bruce turned out to be very varied and interesting. While I had three pages of notes ranging from Blackjack to Union, and everything in between, I decided to just go for the current issues, especially with the time. I didn't want to inconvenience Bruce too much. Bruce was very animated, friendly, and relaxed and responded fully to all of my questions. It was a real insight into his personality and he seemed to enjoy discussing his post-KISS projects. There definitely appears to still be loyalty to KISS. Half an hour later I thought I'd covered everything I needed to on current affairs and we headed back to the bar. I grabbed a final pint and headed back to my room to catch what little sleep I could!
Sunday morning 7:30am, and with too few hours of sleep, the wakeup call arrived. A loud ring followed by a loud curse! Grabbing a quick shower it was time to get moving. I headed down to the Expo room where dealers were getting set up. My eyes lit up as I saw some of the collectibles being displayed. I mean really, that I was drooling. Mike soon appeared, and with my hang-over, I did very little to help him set up the KISSOnline table! By nine the line for people coming to the Expo was stretched out halfway around the hotel - I was impressed! I grabbed a couple of aspirins and decided to do a bit of early shopping! Before I knew it I'd blown several hundred bucks on collectible vinyl! Oh well, you only live once! By the time the expo opened the KISSOnline table was looking good. Mike had brought some cool videos, a Detroit Rock City promo clip, the Playboy Girls Of KISS promo, and the Got Milk photoshoot footage to show fans during the day. These seemed very popular. While most people were there to shop, be it for tour shirts, Mexican tour collectibles, toys, or vinyl, many fans brought their families, and the room was soon packed. Soon it was time for the Q&A with Andre about his new book, Guardian Of The Gods. He came across as not being the ogre his size would suggest! After Andre Adam Mitchell did a Q&A session, and while much of what he talked about had been mentioned in other interviews, it was interesting to hear the answers in person. Plus, for many there they'd probably not heard some of what he said. It was fun to hear him talk about his song-writing relationship with KISS, his own career, and Eric Carr's Rockheads project. He seemed to be a really nice guy. While I continued to make my rounds of the dealers throughout the days to make sure that I hadn't missed any vinyl, it was nice to meet Steve Stierwalt Jr., who had hosted the KISS F.A.Q. on the web for a while. Just like his online personality he was a very cool guy. I was finally able to meet Dale Sherman, who I'd been in email contact with since the time when I was living in Britain, but it was nice to meet in person. He was very friendly and had some collectibles for sale that I was more than happy to relieve him of! Later in the day it was time for the ESP performance. This was something I was really looking forward to, and the band did not disappoint, even though they were very loose and hadn't played together for a while. What struck me was how talented all of the members were. Bruce is incredible and the onstage banter is hilarious. They opened their set with material from the ESP album playing "Four Day Creep", "Free Ride", "Still Alive & Well", and "Teenage Nervous Breakdown", before adding in the KISS classic "Strangeways". The staging was impressive for such a small location, great sound and great lighting, though God help us if they ever add pyro! It was L.O.U.D.! My personal favorite has to have been the version of "Changes", which ripped, though it was followed up with an impressive "Set Me Free", which pushed Eric to the limit. Eric then performed an amazing version of "Moby Dick" which really illustrated his skills as a drummer. "Jungle" live is awesome, and it really gives the band a chance to just jam! Four KISS classics followed and ensured a spread of material sure to please all sorts of fans: "She", which works very well, especially with the John Corabi guitar outro, "Watchin' You", which you can never go wrong with, and "Domino". "Nothin' To Lose" again gives Eric the opportunity to shine. Closing the set was an unexpected and absolutely fantastic version of "Smokin' In The Boys Room"!
After the live performance the Expo wound down. I was exhausted. The next day it was time to head back to San Francisco, but I can say one thing: The Indianapolis KISS Expo was worth it. It was fun from start to end!