2016 New Jersey Kiss Expo Review

2016 New Jersey Kiss Expo
Sunday, October 9th 2016
Somerset/Bridgewater Hotel, Somerset, NY

Our score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

One of the longest running and largest Kiss fan expo’s returned this year to the Somerset/Bridgewater Hotel (formerly the Crowne Plaza) in Somerset, NJ. On Sunday October 9th the newly renovated hotel played host to throngs of Kiss fans anxious to meet various Kiss celebrities included former Kiss guitarist Bruce Kulick and current drummer Eric Singer. Along with the numerous autograph and photo opportunities the event include several dealer rooms where fans could purchase everything from newly released Kiss items to some of the more rare and hard to find vintage pieces.

Having not attended a Kiss Expo in quite some time it was great to see that the NJ Kiss Expo was finally returning to the area. The event in years past was one of the largest Kiss themed Expos and always bolstered a top notch guest list making it a must go event for Kiss fans of all ages. This year was no exception as former Kiss and current Grand Funk guitarist Bruce Kulick and current Kiss drummer Eric Singer topped the list which also included artist Ken Kelly, Dennis Woloch and many others. Despite the event getting off to a bit of a late start once things got moving the atmosphere in the venue was upbeat and friendly making for a really enjoyable experience. Each celebrity guest was approachable and spent ample time with those looking for signatures and pictures. The vendor’s area of the event was split in to two different rooms which allowed for plenty of space to move around while looking at the various Kiss related items. There was even a space where kids could get their face painted like their favorite Kiss character.

Though there were several lulls in the day’s events due to scheduling and guests’ wanting to make sure every fan was able to get a signature or picture I think those who attended the event got what they had hoped for and, were more than happy to see the event return. With fewer and fewer Expo’s like this taking place taking place my only hope is that the NJ Expo is back for good and that it will continue to rebuild upon its solid foundation so that it can continue to be the go to expo for Kiss fans of all ages.

New Jersey Kiss Expo takes over Somerset, NY on Sunday, October 9th 2016

New Jersey Kiss Expo takes over Somerset, NY on Sunday, October 9th 2016
Tickets on sale now.

One of the longest running and largest Kiss fan expo’s in the world returns this year to the Somerset/Bridgewater Hotel (formerly the Crowne Plaza) in Somerset, NJ. On Sunday October 9th 2016 the rooms and halls of the hotel will be ALIVE with all things KISS! From endless tables of collectibles and rarities to a star studded list of celebrities including current Kiss drummer Eric Singer and former Kiss/current Grand Funk guitarist Bruce Kulick. There will plenty of other events also happing through out the day making this year’s expo the must see event for Kiss fans of all ages.

For tickets and complete event info visit: www.njkissexpo.com

Blu-ray Review “Scooby-Doo! And KISS: Rock and Roll Mystery”

Starring: Frank Welker, Mindy Cohn, Grey Griffin, Matthew Lillard, Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley
Director: Tony Cervone
Rated: NR (Not Rated)
Studio: Warner Home Video
Release Date: July 21, 2015
Run Time: 78 minutes

Film: 4 out of 5 stars
Blu-ray: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 2 out of 5 stars

“Scooby-Doo! And KISS: Rock and Roll Mystery” is one hell of an amazing mash up. It takes two of the greatest things I grew up with “Scooby Doo” and the music of Kiss and brings them together. I literally couldn’t be happier. It also features six classic KISS songs and most importantly an all new original song from the band just for this film. If you love “Scooby Doo!” and KISS, this is a match made in heaven! This is such a blast!

Official Premise: When a ghoul begins to terrorize an amusement park, the Mystery Inc. gang come head to head with the legendary rock group, KISS, who claim they’re also there to solve the mystery. Now the two groups must learn to work together as the clues lead them on a cosmic journey to another dimension.

The voice cast are impressive as well. We see Kiss on board featuring Demon (Gene Simmons), Starchild (Paul Stanley), Catman (Eric Singer), and Spaceman (Tommy Thayer). Guest voice performances include appearances from Kevin Smith, Jason Mewes, Darius Rucker, Garry Marshall, Penny Marshall, Jennifer Carpenter and Pauley Perrette.

Warner Bros delivers a comob pack with a Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD Ultraviolet copy. The 1080p transfer is super impressive. The colors are outstanding. The star of the film is easily the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. The KISS classic tracks, including “Shout It Out Loud,” “I Was Made For Loving You,” and “Detroit Rock City”, all sound AMAZING!

The special features though are a little lacking unfortunately. There are two classic 1978 episodes from the “Scooby-Doo” archives, “To Switch a Witch” and “The Diabolical Disc Demon”. “Are You a Scooby or a Shaggy?” is a super brief chat with voice cast including KISS, Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes, and Darius Rucker. Lastly there are some KISS bloopers in “KISS Cut-Ups”. I was really hoping for more features about the involvement of KISS and bringing these two classic pop culture icons together.

Book Review “Kiss, Kiss Good Night” by Kenn Nesbitt

Author: Kenn Nesbitt
Illustrator: Rebecca Elliott
Board book: 12 pages
Publisher: Cartwheel Books
Release Date: August 27, 2013

Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars

A snuggle, a hug, a kiss, a nuzzle. What wonderful ways to show you love someone. “Kiss, Kiss Good Night,” is a warm, loving, cuddle-inducing book. The animals in this book are all going to bed and before they fall asleep, their mothers each give them a sweet sign of love. There is nothing better than a mother’s love, especially at night. Kenn Nesbitt captures just what it means to love and be loved.

Rebecca Elliott is an incredible illustrator. She beautifully portrays a mother’s love with her adorable animal pictures. In every furry detail, there is a bit of love. This is a wonderful bedtime book. I can’t wait to read this to my daughter every night!

Bruce Kulick talks about playing music with Kiss and Grand Funk Railroad

Bruce Kulick is probably best known for his work with the multi-platinum selling group Kiss during the bands non-makeup years. Kulick spent 12 years with the band prior to the group’s 96/97 reunion tour which featured all four original members clad in their signature makeup. Bruce went on to play in several other projects such as Audio Dog, BK3 and is currently the guitarist for Grand Funk Railroad. Media Mikes caught up with Bruce recently to discuss his career as well as his tour plans with both Grand Funk and former Motley Crue vocalist John Corabi.

Adam Lawton: You joined Kiss while they were still going through somewhat of a transitional period. What was it like for you stepping in to that situation?
Bruce Kulick: I was aware that the band sort of hit their peak in the late 70’s early 80’s. They were still doing good stuff but “Music From The Elder” was a weird time for them. I was always aware of the band as I lived in New York and my brother had done some work with them. After things didn’t work out with Vinnie Vincent I knew that they were looking for people. When I saw that they got Mark St. John it made sense as music was really changing at the time. Bands like Van Halen were very popular on the scene. I think it was important for them to find a guy who was a hot shot, gunslinger type player who could do all of the tricks as opposed to someone like Ace Frehley whose style is rooted in that of Jimmy Page and Jimi Hendrix. When it came time for the Animalize tour to start Mark was having some health issues and wasn’t going to be able to tour. My brother had recommended me to the guys as did Mitch Weissman who is a singer/songwriter. When I first started working with Paul and the rest of the band they asked me not to cut my hair and told me I would need a guitar with a Floyd Rose so I could do some of the tricks that were popular at the time. I went in and played a solo on one song and did some little fills at the end of a couple others. After that is when they asked me to fill in for Mark. I was thrilled that maybe it was just going to be for a few weeks but it turned in to 12 years. When it was all said and done that I was going to be the new guy I remember getting a pep talk from Paul where he told me that he wanted me to be very competitive with my playing and that I should be able to cover both the older material and the new stuff. I was very grateful for the opportunity.

AL: On your website you have done several Kiss album retrospectives that are very in-depth. What was it like looking back on your work for those albums?
BK: For me celebrating stuff like that has always made a lot of sense. I found that if I don’t do it now I’m not necessarily going to remember more if I was to wait longer. The whole thing came out of an offer that came through for me to visit Australia and do some shows. I have always been well received there and this was going to actually be my third time there. The promoter said we needed an angle and it happened to be the 20th anniversary of “Revenge” being released so they asked me if I could do some things from that album. It was like a giant light bulb went off in my head. I was given some DAT tapes of the sessions by Bob Ezrin and I realized that I had a treasure trove of material. Things just started coming back to me from those sessions. The clinics I did over there ended up becoming very long even though I didn’t play much but the fans were mesmerized. From there I decided I would have to write all this stuff down and find a good time to release it on my social media sites. After I did the first one I started realizing the anniversaries for these other albums and followed suit with what I had done with the “Revenge” piece. I had a really great time going through the stuff I collected over the years and thinking back about all those stories. We raided all of my closets and boxes of photos and such to find things related to the particular albums I was writing/speaking about. I am always being asked about doing a book and your basic book talks about this tour or that tour and what you thought about certain people. It’s not my style to throw anyone under the bus so I just didn’t want to do something like that. I would rather do something like what I am doing. I don’t have a title or anything yet but even after things are posted on line I end up finding more stuff that could be included in those stories. Each one of these look backs is sort of a chapter. It’s very exciting to be able to tell these stories from an era of the band that doesn’t get a lot of attention.

AL: Is there a specific piece from your work with Kiss that you are most proud of?
BK: There are highlights from all of it but I would have to say working on the “Revenge” album really said a lot. We spent a lot of time on that album and really paid attention to detail. I thought the “Unplugged” album was another really great piece. I never realized how tight we really were on that show. The band looked great and it was filmed really well. Even though un-beknownst to me that was the catalyst to end my career with the band it was still a great performance. I am very proud of my work on that.

AL: You are currently playing guitar with Grand Funk Railroad. Can you tell us how that opportunity came about?
BK: The industry is actually pretty small and you never know who you are going to meet. Years ago I played with Michael Bolton and we ended up opening for Bob Seger. Don Brewer was Bob’s original drummer and he is actually doing shows with Bob on his current tour. We met then and later on at another music event we met again so I was on the short list when Don and Mel Schacher were looking at putting together a new version of Grand Funk. Once they had a singer in place they reached out to me but I had to think about it for a little bit. They were looking for a guy who could forge his own sound while not hurting the stuff from the past. This was similar to what I did with Kiss. I ended up going to Michigan where Mel lives and we rehearsed in a show room at a nearby casino. Things were pretty easy right away and it’s amazing that here I am 13 years later gigging with Grand Funk.

AL: Did you have to spend a lot of time reworking your sound/tone when you first joined the band?
BK: Not at all. I really do what I do well. To be honest I get to play a solo in every song and I am not trying to imitate Mark Farner’s tone in any way. I have always had this talent for picking out signature riffs that people identify with and they want to hear those a certain way so I try to keep things as close as I can. You definitely have to make things your own so you don’t come off too stiff or clone like. I like to take my finesse and add it to the Grand Funk material. They are another one of those iconic bands.

AL: Can you tell us about some of your appearances/tour dates for the coming months?
BK: Grand Funk just keeps adding dates. The site was just revamped and it looks really great. Things are always being added to it so people should definitely check it out. I also have a string of acoustic dates with John Corabi. He and I have a certain chemistry that just works together. When I realized Grand Funk wasn’t going to be as busy this spring due to Don working with Bob Seger I got a little more aggressive with the people I know in Europe who book shows. We tried to work things out so that we could take the Eric Singer Project over but unfortunately Eric couldn’t commit due to various Kiss things that were in the works. The promoters still wanted us to come so John, I and Chuck Garric who plays bass in the Eric Singer Project and who also has his own group happened to have some shows that are double booked with us. During those shows the plan is to do the acoustic thing and also jam as an electric group. There aren’t that many gigs on this run as its set up to fit in between my Grand Funk gigs. I never seem to have the ability to say I am free for two months or something like that but that’s not a bad thing. I am glad the band keeps me busy.

AL: Have you thought about putting out a new album with any of your other projects?
BK: It’s been 3 years since my last solo album “BK3” has come out and it is time for me to get some new material out. I have been writing and compiling some things so I like to think that I can get something out this year. I have mostly been looking at doing some gigs with my brother when time permits. People seem quite excited about seeing a Kulick brother’s thing. We are also looking at a few songs to possibly record for an EP. I am always a phone call or an email away from working on another project. Every day is exciting.

AL: Are there any other things going on with you lately that you can tell us about?
BK: I just got back from Europe where I appeared at large event called “Movie Days”. That was a lot of fun. I get excited myself meeting people who are iconic. Especially sci-fi people as I am a big fan of that genre. I have done many Kiss conventions around the world that are specifically unique to Kiss but this was only my second time I think appearing at a more movie themed event. I like when fans are excited to meet me and I get it because I am a fan myself. Getting to meet people I idolize is really amazing. That’s something I love about the entertainment industry.

Book Review “A Kiss Like This”

Author/Illustrator: Mary Murphy
Reading level: Ages 2 and up
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Candlewick
Release Date: December 11, 2012

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

I find that as a father of a new born girl, 6 months now, I am guilty of smothering her with about 354 kisses per day since she was born.  I am very big fan of author/illustrator’s Mary Murphy’s “I Kissed the Baby!”.  This book is a great follow up to it and is equally as cute.  If it does nothing else it will make you give many kisses throughout to your child, which I think is worth the prize of the book alone.

Premise: A giraffe kiss is very tall — just turn the page and see! Elephant kisses are long, of course, while tiny mice and bubbly fish have kisses all their own. Using a clever split-page format that makes for charming surprises, author-illustrator Mary Murphy shares a series of animal kisses that are sure to have babies and toddlers gurgling, giggling, smiling, and leaning over for their kisses, too.

Mary Murphy delivers not only a wonderful book her but also beautifully illustrated.  It is simple yet enough to keep the attention.  Besides the “Kiss” books, she also has done other great kids books including “Utterly Lovely One”, “Panda Foo and the New Friend” and “How Kind!”.  I look forward to what she has has planned next.  Another gem from Candlewick, though being released in time for the Holidays. This book could be a nice Valentine’s Day give also!

Concert Review: Kiss, Motley Crue, The Treatment “The Tour”
 Darien Center, NY

“The Tour”
Kiss, Motley Crue, The Treatment
Date: Saturday, September 15th 2012
Venue: Darien Lake Performing Arts Center, Darien Center, NY

Our Score: 3.5 out of 5 stars

The 2012 Darien Lake concert series came to a thunderous close on Saturday, September 15th as “The Tour” featuring Kiss, Motley Crue and The Treatment performed to a near capacity crowd. As fans of all ages many adorned in Kiss makeup gradually filled the venue the UK hard rock band The Treatment took to the stage and performed songs of their debut release “This Might Hurt”. The band had a really great sound and was full of energy. It’s always great to see up and coming bands on these larger tours come out and really give it their all and The Treatment did just that.

The kings of the sunset strip, Motley Crue were up next and proceeded to make an entrance like no other. Clad in hooded robes, masks and with scantily clad girls on their shoulders members of the band made their way through the crowd before walking up onto the stage. This seemed to really catch the crowd off guard and helped set the stage for the bands performance. Each song in the set was accompanied by pyro, water cannons, arial performers and at one point Tommy Lees very own roller coaster. These things all sound great on paper but at times during the show there seemed to be just too much going on which I felt took something away from the music. Vince Neil’s limited movement due to an injury sustained a few nights before requiring him to wear a walking cast didn’t seem to hurt the bands performance but it surely wasn’t helping. At times the members seemed distant and uninterested in each other. At the start of “Home Sweet Home” several sour notes rang out over the crowd and though the band quickly recovered you could surely tell each member was on a different page.

Kiss closed out the night performing a 13 song greatest hits set dressed in their iconic make up and signature platform boots. Though the set list was made up mostly of classic Kiss gems the band did
perform one new song. “Hell or Hallelujah” the first song to be released off the upcoming album titled “Monster” gave a little bit of fresh air to a set list which has gone relatively unchanged since the 1996 Reunion tour. The band sounded great and despite my extreme dislike for current members wearing past members make up the band looked just as good. Even though I would liked to have seen some different songs make their way in to the set it’s still always good to hear the classics performed live and loud!

With “The Tour” wrapping up just a few remaining dates in September I will be very curious to see what each of the bands have in store for the coming months. It would be great to once again see what each of these bands can do on their own separate headlining tours.

Kiss Set List
1. Detroit Rock City
2. Shout it Out Loud
3. I Love it Loud
4. Firehouse
5. Hell or Hallelujah
6. War Machine
7. Shock Me
8. God of Thunder
9. Love Gun
10. Lick it Up
11. Black Diamond
12. Calling Dr. Love
13. Rock and Roll All Night

Motley Crue Set List:
1. Saints of Los Angeles
2. Wild Side
3. Shout at the Devil
4. Same Ol’ Situation
5. Sex
6. Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away)
7. Home Sweet Home
8. Live Wire
9. Primal Scream
10. Dr. Feelgood
11. Girls, Girls, Girls,
12. Kickstart My Heart

The Treatment Set List:
1. Drink, Fuck, Fight
2. World on Fire
3. Get the Party On
4. I Fear Nothing
5. The Doctor
6. Departed
7. Nothing to Lose But Our Minds
8.) Shake the Mountain

Concert Review: Kiss “The Lost Cities Tour 2011” Verona, NY

Kiss “The Lost Cities Tour 2011”
Date: Thursday, July 28th 2011
Venue: Turning Stone Casino, Verona, NY

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Kiss wrapped up their 18 date Lost Cities tour at The Turning Stone Casino in Verona, NY on July 28th. A surprisingly smaller venue than what Kiss has been a custom to after 35 years in the music business however the intimate venue didn’t stop Kiss from unleashing their bombastic stage show on the near capacity crowd. Fans were treated to a somewhat scaled down version of the “Hottest Show on Earth” but none the less Kiss still delivered!

This was my 10th Kiss show and despite Paul’s almost verbatim chats with the crowd and Tommy Thayers cheap and almost sickening Ace Frehley imitation I was still entertained. Kiss proved that no matter how big or small a venue they can still entertain a crowd. Gone were Gene and Paul’s flying rigs and the massive back line of speakers however it was nice to see the band play without that stuff bringing back an almost eighties stripped down Kiss feel to the night. I would have liked to have heard a little more variation in the set list as I am sure most diehard Kiss fans like myself would agree however the night proved to be very enjoyable and showcased just why Kiss is the hottest band in the land!

Set List:
1.) Modern Day Delilah
2.) Let Me Go, Rock ‘N’ Roll
3.) Firehouse
4.) Deuce
5.) Do You Love Me
6.) Calling Dr. Love
7.) Shock Me
8.) I Love It Loud
9.) Love Gun
10.) God of Thunder
11.) Black Diamond
12.) Detroit Rock City

Encore:
13.) Beth (Acoustic)
14.) Lick It Up
15.) Shout It Out Loud
16.) Rock and Roll All Nite