A journal aboard the KISS Kruise V

By  Ken Sharp / Goldmine Magazine

October 30, 12:25 PM, Spinnaker Lounge, Ax Petting Zoo

Enter the Ax Petting Zoo. This isn’t an enclosure for wild animals but a showcase for Gene Simmons’ personal bass line. Who else could pull off brandishing an Axe shaped guitar that would make Lizzy Borden proud than Gene Simmons? Other bass guitars in Gene’s deep arsenal sport exquisite design/handiwork teeming with gleaming studs, animal-like scales and even one emblazoned with the U.S. flag. Fans from Brazil, Germany, Finland, the Netherlands, Russia and Japan mingle and have the opportunity to try out these monster 4-string basses. “It’s like a history of Gene Simmons seeing his evolution through the various bass guitars he uses on and off the stage,” marvels David Latt, 54, owner of an automotive dealership from Houston, Texas.”

Christina Vitagliano, coordinator for Gene Simmons’ bass line fills us in on “The Demon’s” 4-string arsenal: “Because Gene and KISS have become so iconic, so have his basses. He has three standard basses, an acoustic Punisher, his standard Axe bass and his standard Punisher bass. But there are also tons of custom models like a Dragon scale Axe and Punisher bass. Ken Kelly, the artist who did the covers for “Destroyer” and “Love Gun” does hand-painted Punisher and Axe basses for Gene as well. ”

John Upshaw Downs, a 56-year-old resident of Charleston, South Carolina took his fascination with Gene’s basses all the way to a Washington, D.C. prestigious institution. “I have always loved Gene’s iconic Axe bass. I read an article on how Eddie Van Halen got his Frankinstrat put into the Smithsonian. I thought, why not put his iconic bass into the Smithsonian as well. I contacted the curator of the museum, Eric Jontz, and with his help the Gene Simmons Axe bass is now proudly part of the Smithsonian museum where fans from all generations can come and enjoy this unique one-of-a-kind instrument.” For more info on Gene’s line of basses, check out www.genesimmonsaxe.com

October 30, 5:15PM, Pool Deck, KISS “Unmasked” electric set

Fans from over 30 countries gather together on the pool deck; hanging off the upper tier are a multitude of large banners from Germany, Spain, Australia, France, Brazil, Finland, England, Denmark, Canada and others proudly displaying the flag of their country. The band clambers onto the stage like conquering heroes and Paul Stanley exclaims: “We’ve always done the sailaway show acoustically; this is like we’re in a rehearsal with 3,000 people!” They kick off the set with “Flaming Youth” as the ship leaves port and begins its seaward jaunt to Jamaica. This rare airing of “Flaming Youth,” a fist-pumping anthem culled from the band’s 1976 album, “Destroyer,” indicates that this is no normal set but rather one which finds the band dusting off lesser or never before performed gems in their vast catalog, many voted on by this year’s KISS kruisers. Other jewels plucked out of the KISS canon including “Ladies Room” and “Mr. Speed” from “Rock ‘N Roll Over” —  plus several deep cuts gleaned from the group’s second album, “Hotter than Hell”: “Strange Ways,” “Mainline, “Coming Home,” and “All the Way.” “This is my fourth KISS Kruise,” raved Kjell Solberg, an office worker from Elverum, Norway. “I was so excited to hear all the real obscure deep cuts and celebrate with the entire KISS Navy!”

October 31, Halloween, 7:45 PM, Spinnaker Lounge, KISS meet and greet and photo op

A long line of fans, an Army (or should that be Navy) of KISS t-shirts is the evening’s chosen attire by most; there are also some fans adorned in KISS makeup and some wearing elaborately designed costumes mimicking their musical heroes. Fans of all ages file through waiting in anticipation for the moment they can meet Paul, Gene, Eric and Tommy and pose for a photo of the band in makeup and decked out in their “Alive!” costumes. Yumiko Nemoto, a 53-year-old office worker, from Tokyo, Japan is radiant and overcome with joy. “I can’t believe I just met these superheroes of rock! I first saw KISS play at the Budokan in Tokyo in 1977 and here I am, many decades later, meeting them in the flesh. Being able to meet the band and have my photo taken with them in full kabuki makeup is a dream come true!”

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