The Gene Simmons Vault Experience Cleveland - by Scott Carr
It's been well over a decade since Gene Simmons first spoke of releasing a mammoth box set of unreleased demos spanning his entire recording career. When it was first talked about it had a working title of Monster. Gene claimed it would be the biggest box set ever and all Kiss fans know Gene knows how to hype a project, so when he said it would be big, we knew it would be something special.
As time went on the project seemed to hit some road blocks and went into a state of limbo, so much so that Kiss used the Monster title for their 2012 studio record.
Finally last year news started to break that the Gene Simmons box set was back on track and had a new name: The Gene Simmons Vault!
Gene also announced that he would be doing something that had never been done before, he wanted to hand-deliver the box sets straight to the fans. There would be no retail version of The Vault, Gene wanted to make it an "experience" and travel the world to deliver The Vault to the fans. The project became known as The Gene Simmons Vault Experience.
Gene teamed-up with Rhino Records and they developed a box set like no other: The Gene Simmons Vault weighs in at almost 40 pounds and it actually looks like a vault. Inside The Vault is a hard-back book full of text & rare photos and - more importantly - 11 CD's of unreleased Gene Simmons demos that date back to 1966. You also get the first ever non-makeup Gene Simmons action figure and other goodies.
The Vault website soon took shape and event dates started popping up, so purchasers could pick a city close to their home and make plans to attend The Vault Experience and receive their Vault directly from the demon himself.
Once The Vault dates started to appear I would casually check the event page to see if there were any close to my home of Columbus, OH, with no real thought that I would actually be able to attend one. I absolutely wanted to do it but I wasn't sure everything would fall into place to make it happen. I'm a working musician and have a pretty busy gig schedule, so the date would have to fall on one of my off days, and there aren't many of those. Beyond scheduling, how could I afford it? The Vault isn't cheap. Maybe I could sell a guitar? No, I don't have one that I could bear to part with. Sell of some of my prized vinyl collection? That definitely wasn't an option, I've sold off records in the past and have always come to regret it.
A date was announced for Cleveland Ohio on Saturday April 28th and it worked out that I had that entire weekend off. I had been stashing away money made from gigs playing with my band and I had managed to save the cash to buy The Vault Experience.
After several visits to The Vault website, I finally pulled the trigger and made the purchase.
A couple months later I found myself heading to the Cleveland Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to meet The Demon and get MY Vault.
I arrived in Cleveland the night before the event. I wanted to be well-rested and ready for my Experience. Of course I did not get any sleep the night before because I was so excited for my adventure that would be unfolding the next day. It was like Christmas in April.
Vault attendees were told to arrive at the Rock Hall around 10am the day of the event and wristbands would be given out to designate your place in line. Of course it ended up being a cold, rainy, windy day in Cleveland but Kiss fans are troopers and we didn't have to wait very long before being ushered into the Rock Hall.
Keith Valcourt from Rhino Records was on hand and he and his staff had everything rolling along very smoothly.
The first part of The Gene Simmons Vault Experience consisted of a "songs and stories" segment. All guests were in an intimate theatre on the fourth floor of the rock and hall and Gene entered with an acoustic guitar and basically played songs and told stories about how he writes and creates songs. Keith from Rhino kept this portion of the experience moving along and would ask Gene questions, and also fielded questions from the audience.
After the "songs and stories" portion concluded, Vault purchasers were taken in groups of 5 to a lower level of the Rock Hall to meet Gene and get their Vaults.
I was No. 7 in line, so my turn came up pretty quick. It was fun hanging out in the green room with other Kiss fans prior to meeting Gene. We were talking all things Kiss and comparing items that we were gonna get signed.
Finally it was my turn to go see Gene and get my Vault. I wasn't nervous but I was really excited. I had met Gene three times over the years and had always been really engaging and nice to me, so I knew this would be another special Kiss memory.
I entered the room and there stood The Demon and next to him was my Vault. This man is larger than life even without his monster boots. He welcomed me into the room and we just began chatting. There were other people in the room, including Rhino staff photographers and I was also allowed to bring a guest. Once I started chatting with Gene it was like everyone else disappeared....I was in my own little world with one of my childhood idols. I felt like I was 12 years old again.
We talked about music, we talked about our moms, we talked about The Vault and I was also able to give him some of my Kiss related writings I've done for Pencil Storm. He seemed genuinely excited to receive these, explaining that he loves to read about himself. Classic Gene!
Gene signed a few different items that I had brought with me, including my original 1978 Solo Album Picture disc, an original 1974 ad for the first Kiss album and also a picture of Gene and myself from 30 years ago. Gene really liked that picture and we talked a bit about how that meeting had occurred.
Lastly he signed the top of my Vault . He wrote "Only Got One Life, I'm Gonna Live It, yeah," which is a variation of a line from the song "Trial By Fire" from the Kiss album Asylum.
"Only Got One Life, I'm Gonna Live It" was kind of my motto for this entire Vault Experience.
A couple months have passed now since my event and I am still working my way through the music that is included in The Vault. It really is a 50-year journey through the songwriting evolution of Gene Simmons. It's a lot to take in. Although most people think the music is why fans are doing these events but the music really seems like a bonus. Meeting Gene and hanging out with the Kiss fanatics is what The Vault Experience is all about.
I've done a lot of cool Kiss related things over the years and seen Kiss in concert more than any other band, but I will have to say that the Gene Simmons Vault Experience ranks at the top of my list of Kiss memories.
Scott Carr is a guitarist who plays in the Columbus, OH bands Radio Tramps andReturning April. Scott is also an avid collector of vinyl records and works at Lost Weekend Records. So...if you are looking for Scott....you'll either find him in a dimly lit bar playing his guitar or in a record store digging for the holy grail.