For two and a half weeks, Consequence of Sounds Sasha Geffen will be exploring Montreal and its music scene, attending the mammoth three-day music festival Osheaga (featuring The Cure, Beck, New Order, Vampire Weekend, and many more), and taking in the local culture. Follow her adventures here, or through the hashtag #MTLMoments on Instagram and Twitter, and visit Tourisme Montreals website to learn more about the city.
Right around the corner from our hotel, the Bell Centre looms inside the kind of clean, modern architecture that plates most downtowns. It’s here that sports fans pile in to watch the Montreal Canadiens play hockey, but today it’s rigged for a different kind of athlete. We line up outside with hundreds of KISS fans, some of whom are decked out in silver armor, face paint, and four-inch platform boots. This is rock n’ roll cosplay, and a lot of it’s fantastic.
I was born a little late to have personal nostalgia for KISS, but the fandom clearly passes through generations. We see people who might have been in attendance at KISS shows in the ’70s, and we see kids who might be going to their very first concert. The event isn’t just about remembering the glory days of rock, but about participating in an ongoing legend. Everyone’s there for the spectacle.
After standing at rock clubs every night, it’s a bit of a relief to sit down inside the stadium. Openers Shinedown play a set that could be a Broadway musical’s rendition of an alt-rock concert: groomed, practiced, deliberate. The lead singer calls out the people of Montreal for being “the most hardworking,” but we have a feeling we’re not the first to hear that praise. Then he asks everyone to hold up lighters during a power ballad, and a sky of cell phone screens glitters in the dark.
KISS has rehearsed impeccably, too, but now we know exactly what we’re in for. A screen bearing the band’s emblem suddenly drops. We hear those screams. Everyone but the drummer descends from the ceiling on a giant mechanical spider while the pyrotechnics explode. The crowd loves it. We love it. We’re sitting next to someone who keeps his earbuds in the whole night while his son watches the fireworks, and they both love it. I’ve never seen so many devil horns thrown in one place. Gene Simmons spews blood from his mouth during a weird amorphous bass solo, and Paul Stanley flies out to a pedestal in the crowd after he gets us to call his name. The whole drum kit rises on hydraulics. Sparks erupt from the neck of each guitar.
Mikala met the band a few weeks ago in Vancouver, where she asked them if they’d be willing to have the Kiss experience continue with different performers. They said they’d love to. The show’s not about them as musicians or even so much about the music anymore. It’s the ritual, the flash, the myth of it.
After the show, we linger at our hotel bar because we have a hunch that KISS might be staying at the same place as us. Sure enough, after about an hour, Tommy Thayer’s behind us ordering drinks with a host of affiliates. Paul Stanley and Eric Singer quickly join him. We’re the only ones in the room who aren’t associated with Kiss. As we leave, we stop to congratulate Paul, who’s wearing bifocals under his sharply peaked eyebrows. You rarely think of Kiss under the makeup, but sometimes they’re drinking 10 feet from you. This is Montreal: everyone keeps looping back on everyone else.
Previously on #MTLMoments: Sasha catches The National’s documentary and chats with Tom Berninger.