March 07, 2011
Article & photo by Stephan Reed

The Omni crowd looked to rock and roll all night in Toledo, but they wrapped it up after the KISS tribute band Mr. Speed left the stage.

The Cleveland-based cover band played for an audience of more than 200 Friday. The band came with thousand-dollar costumes and a miniature replica of KISS' stage, said Omni promoter Troy Michaels.

"(The band) really, really goes all out," Michaels said. "They are entertainers, self-promoters and people come to see the show."

Mr. Speed formed in 1994 with the current lineup and had a passion for KISS.

"We started the band because we are all fans of [Kiss] and grew up listening to the band. They were a major influence on our lives, not only musically, but socially," said Rich Kosak, who portrays guitarist Paul Stanley. "It just seemed like a natural thing that we wanted to do."

The metal quartet strives to be like the original KISS, not just in presentation but in sound.

"We always want people to be able to close their eyes and it sound like the record," Kosak said. "When people open their eyes to remind you of a time when you saw KISS, whether you saw them on television or you saw them in concert."

According to the band, there are four on-stage members and four superstars. Each member has his share of the spotlight.

Mr. Speed performs songs from almost every KISS album and tries to have a variety of songs written by different members.

"There's nothing we won't do," said Andrew Sgambati, who impersonates drummer Peter Criss.

"I think it shows the diversity of the band," said Danny Ayala, who performs as bassist Gene Simmons. "It shows that everybody's got the ability to sing, play [and] be the frontman in the band for a little while and not put that responsibility on one or two guys."

Each member has a 40-hour-a-week job, and they rehearse at least once a week. They use the weekends to perform and play between 25 and 35 shows a year.

"The music is definitely the most important thing as far as us paying attention to detail," Sgambati said. "As far as the costumes, we do everything we can financially within our means to make the best costumes we can."

The band has toured the country and has met the original KISS. On one occasion, the authentic Ace Frehley went onstage with the band and played a few songs.

"Every year we make more memories," Sgambati said. "It's always hard for me to pick just one (memory) because everything is a good memory."