Im with the band
LO's John Thayer toured with his brother - Tommy Thayer, guitarist in legendary rock band KISS
Synchronized dance moves.
Scary make-up and space garb.
Packed arenas filled with black and white face-painted crowds mouthing every lyric to KISS songs.
We know they like to 'rock and roll all night and party every day,' but what is it really like to be on tour with the four members in one of the biggest rock bands on earth?
John Thayer of Lake Oswego spent two weeks in mid-May overseas visiting his brother - guitarist Tommy Thayer of KISS - while the band played to sold-out arenas on their Alive 35 European tour.
After sharing meals, bus rides, resorts and backstage passes, Thayer said he now knows that a fleet of Mercedes buses is the only way to sight-see in Europe, a KISS-itinerary operates like clockwork and no matter how busy the restaurant or nightclub is - if you're with KISS you're whisked to the best seat in the house.
'It's a fine-tuned machine. It's very professional and organized,' Tommy Thayer said of his band's touring schedule. 'And believe it or not, the guys in the band actually like hanging out with each other.'
Arriving May 12 in Italy, John Thayer said sitting on the side of the stage during the sold-out performance for 13,000 people in Verona that night was a nice introduction to the tour.
'Here's this ancient Roman gladiator arena and everyone was in KISS shirts,' he said. 'And it was loud - louder than usual.'
Thayer's seen nine or 10 KISS shows since the 1970s, seven of those since his brother joined the band six years ago, replacing Ace Frehley. On this tour, Tommy Thayer has a four minute guitar-solo.
'And about half way through, Tommy has these rockets that shoot out of his guitar,' John Thayer said. 'Everybody had their cameras out.'
But after the make-up and platform shoes are traded for sunscreen and flip flops, the band members who all sing - Gene Simmons on bass, Eric Singer on drums, Paul Stanley on rhythm guitar and Tommy on lead guitar - are just four musicians earning a living.
'A lot of the time,' John Thayer said, 'they'd rest at the resort to conserve energy for the show that night.'
But every few days, KISS manager Doc McGhee would set up sight-seeing activities for the members and entourage.
'When I walked up the hill and saw the Parthanon I was blown away,' John Thayer said of the famous temple on the Acropolis in Athens, Greece. 'And then being there with KISS was cool. It's fun to be with celebrities who get noticed. You feel a little more important in the moment - even though you know you're not.'
Thayer - who also traveled to Moscow with the band - said that security surrounded KISS wherever they went.
'It's a couple of guys dressed in pedestrian clothes who are there to make sure there's no trouble,' John Thayer said. 'Danny is the head of security - great guy. I had breakfast with him five times.'
When John Thayer and his sister-in-law, Amber, took a tour of the the Armory Museum in the Kremlin in Moscow they had their own private car, interpreter and bodyguard.
'Afterwards we went to this food court and (the bodyguard) just stood there as we ate and drank coffee,' John Thayer said. 'We thought it was great.'
Other rockstar perks?
'You never have to wait to get a table at a restaurant. Avoiding normal lines and security at airport terminals is good when you tour with your own private jet,' Tommy Thayer said. 'Life ain't bad.'
John Thayer said he enjoyed his all-access pass backstage.
'I had access to Doc's private hospitality suite,' he said of the manager's area. 'He keeps an ice-cold bottle of some top-shelf vodka, which he told me I could share.'
John Thayer said he was impressed by everyone's generosity. When KISS fans lingered in the lobby at the Ritz Carlton in Moscow, all of the KISS bandmates were happy to meet them.
'They go out of their way to make the fans feel appreciated,' he said.
It wasn't that long ago that Tommy Thayer was just a 13-year-old kid in Beaverton wearing KISS make-up on Halloween to emulate the posters up in his room of his rock legends, and now bandmates.
'You have to have that passion,' said Tommy Thayer, who coordinated and managed KISS' official 1995 Worldwide KISS Convention tour. 'At the same time, you have to work and work and work. It takes a lot of effort to make dreams come true.'
John Thayer, a musician himself, said the trip inspired him to get out his guitar and write some new songs. However, before a KISS show, his famous brother doesn't need to write new songs. He knows how important it is to serve the fans what they want - legendary rock and roll.
'It doesn't matter if you're playing in Portland, Moscow or Tokyo, the fans go crazy,' Tommy Thayer said. 'There's a universal appeal to KISS.'