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LOVEGUNNER, a KISS Tribute Band: Laying Down The Bet

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By Johnny Griffith

So I have this video in my head of me being on Jeopardy! that goes a little something like this:

Me: I’ll take Music Trivia for $1000, Alex. (Of course it’s the Double Jeopardy question, and of course, I wagered way too much money.)

Alex: What band liked to play obnoxiously loud music by night and engage in frivolity by day was started by Stanley Eisen, Chaim Witz, George Peter John Criscuola, and Paul Frehley in 1972?

Me: Who is Bachmann Turner Overdrive? (which would be stupid because no one Alex Trebek just mentioned is named Bachmann or Turner)

Alex: Oh sorry there, Johnny, the correct answer would be the hottest band in the world: KISS!!!

At least that’s how it goes in my head when I think of the guys who would eventually become household names as Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Peter Criss, and Ace Frehley. KISS would go on to create a marketing empire, making music, merchandise, movies, and embarking on bombastic tours that became their trademark. KISS would see many evolutions over the years, but the one that always comes to mind is the original quartet in full makeup and in character as their alter egos. Not coincidentally, this is also the version you’ll get to see when you catch a show by LOVEGUNNER, a KISS tribute band based here in East Texas.

No longer viewed as second-class gigs, tribute bands have turned into well-oiled machines in which 

hours of, not only practicing the original music note for note but additionally, hours of studying mannerisms and the stagecraft necessary to give fans the experience they want. No one knows this better than Marshall Hance, Mark Shepard Hill, Jarod Frank, and Randy McDonald as they have spent the better part of the last two years developing themselves into an exacting replica of KISS when they take the stage. Even more impressively, they’ve done this while being scattered all over East Texas and being involved in other gigs.

 

I managed to track everyone down to find out who they are behind the makeup and what exactly goes 

 

into duplicating such a complex act:

Johnny: So let’s start with what character you play and a bit of background.

Marshall: I pay tribute to Paul Stanley, the “Starchild,” and I’ve been playing music since I was 10 years old. My dad and mom introduced me to music at a young age and have encouraged me ever since. I have my own personal group under the title of “Marshall Hance,” and we play all original music I have written.

Mark: I play the role of the “SpaceAce,” Ace Frehley, in LOVEGUNNER. I grew up in Longview and really got deep into listening to music around 1983 in the early days of MTV. I got serious about guitar around the age of 20 while at SFA in Nacogdoches. As the desire to become a professional grew, I decided to go to a music school and found the commercial music program at South Plains College in Levelland, Texas and attended from ’01-’04. Around 2007 I moved to Austin and got a gig playing bass for Gary P. Nunn for a while, then decided to move back to East Texas and played in the Escape Artists, a 60’s- 00’s cover band with the versatile and talented pair of Wes Odom and Jay Baker. After the Escape Artists became defunct, I began to look around for a new project to get involved in. I scoured Craigslist every evening and eventually saw an ad that read “KISS Tribute seeks ACE,” I absolutely had to look into it.

Jarod: I take on the role of Peter Criss who was the “Catman” on stage. I’ve been in the tribute band scene in Houston for close to 10 years playing in tributes to Ozzy, Foo Fighters, Poison, Mötley Crüe, AC/DC, Def Leppard, Weezer, Bon Jovi, and of course, KISS. KISS is the band that first got me into music, having bought Double Platinum on 8-track when I was 6 years old. I started playing drums when I was 9 and was in original bands from middle school through college. After a break, I joined some original bands around 2005, but after a couple of years, I realized that tribute bands were really starting to take off and could actually be more financially successful than bands doing standard covers or originals.

Randy: During the show, I’m the “Demon,” Gene Simmons. I’m from College Station and have been playing several instruments since high school. In addition to LOVEGUNNER, I’m also involved in a blues band and an old-time string band.

Johnny: So whose idea was it to start a KISS tribute band, and how did that get brought up in a conversation?

Randy: Well, we didn’t actually start out to be a full-fledged tribute band. While playing at a Blues Jam one night, Marshall and I were talking and discovered that we were both KISS fans and made a comment in passing that it would be fun to get together and jam on some KISS songs. We started thinking about drummers we knew and brought in our friend, Blake. Our first idea was just to pick a few songs to jam on and have fun. We picked about five songs, got together one night, and were surprised at how good it sounded and how much fun it was to play these songs. We continued getting together and enjoying it more and more to the point that we finally decided to start searching for a lead guitarist to try to put together the full tribute show. After a few interviews and auditions, we found our SpaceAce, and after about five months of work eventually did put together our first short show. As we continued to progress, it became apparent to everyone that due to other obligations, our drummer was not going to be able to devote the time required by an ongoing tribute act, so we parted on good terms and located our current drummer, Jarod, who was able to step in as a rock solid KISS drummer and really advance the band quickly.

Johnny: Was this just another project to be in, or did the appreciation for KISS go beyond that?

Mark: Everyone in the band is a bona fide, lifelong fan of the group. I think it’s essential that everyone in the band be a serious fan of (whatever group) if you are to partake in a tribute band. The level of dedication and diligent study required to get elements correct is incredibly demanding, and if someone doesn’t have the conviction, desire, and pride to do the band justice, I just don’t feel you’re going to get a professional entertainment product.

Johnny: What have been the challenges up to this point of pulling this off and doing it with the execution necessary not to be a caricature of KISS, but rather a genuine tribute band that captures the essence of a KISS show in their prime?

Randy: Two challenges, really. One is that we all live in different towns, so even getting together to rehearse means travel and a commitment of at least a day or two. That’s one reason we work hard to make the most of our rehearsal time. The other challenge has been dealing with the complexity of many aspects at once. A lot of people think of KISS as being simplistic, but when you try to replicate it, you quickly begin to realize that it is a very complex act. Just playing the music and singing the harmonies correct is challenging enough. Then, you have to find or make the costume, learn what makeup is used, and how to put it on correctly. Also notable, the stage show is not just a collection of random movements. A lot of it is choreographed to happen at certain times and at a certain location on stage, and that all has to be worked out. Additionally, each signature shake of the head, facial expressions, and the unique way each individual moves around on stage is all studied and done for a purpose. Then, trying to do it all while wearing seven-inch heels and accurately playing your instrument is a whole new ball game. There’s a lot to think about at the same time.

Johnny: You guys recently did a big show at Clicks in Tyler that was amazing to watch. What did that show do for the band as far as confidence and exposure?

Marshall: Clicks was a great show! They have an amazing stage, easily one of the largest I’ve played on and definitely the best light show. Exposure-wise, we got amazing photos and videos to be able to showcase how we look and what we’re about.

Mark: That show was, by far, our best up to this point! That was the first venue where we could truly get the audio and visual aspects of a KISS show correct because they have the proper technology and ample stage space to accommodate a true rock show. It boosted our confidence immediately when we glanced back at the footage and saw what it looked like. I’d like to stress how professional and accommodating Tyler Johnson and David Wilson (sound and light techs at Clicks) are. They are true pros and went above and beyond to help us put on a professional show. We cannot thank David, Tyler, and Clicks enough for allowing us the opportunity to perform. They are a class act over there, and we’re fortunate to have a venue like Clicks in East Texas.

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Johnny: When it comes to KISS the look is as important as the music. Where did you find the costumes, and who is doing your makeup?

Mark: Randy’s wife is a very handy seamstress, and she did an excellent job manifesting the outfits for the Demon and Catman. Marshall’s costume is an officially licensed costume that KISS made available for purchase. My outfit was acquired from a costume builder out of Ft. Worth, named David McBrayer, who has a business called Metal Mayhem Tribute Gear and can be found on Facebook. David is fanatically passionate about what he does, and his main products are KISS tribute costumes. As far as our makeup, just like the real band, we do it ourselves. A lot of people assume that KISS, being millionaires, just have people sit in front of them and do their makeup, but that’s not the case and never has been.

Johnny: With more than 40 albums of material, how did you go about deciding what songs would be on the set list?

Marshall: Currently, the setlist is a combination of what we already knew and what was from KISS Alive 1 and 2. And a few from the 3rd and 4th alive tours. We plan to expand on to deeper cuts once we get the ball rolling with the set we have.

Johnny: What’s on the horizon for the rest of 2017 and into next year?

Randy: We’ve got our sights set on some bigger markets and traveling a bit, but we want venues in East Texas to understand that we really want to come out to the smaller venues too and let people be able to relive that original experience of the people who saw KISS from the front row when they were just starting out. Some venues may think that this show is too big for their venue, but they should give us a call. KISS played in all kinds of venues when they were starting out, and it’s fun for us to relive some of that same experience.

LOVEGUNNER on the Web:

  • LOVEGUNNER.com
  • facebook.com/lovegunnerKISStribute

*Photos by Travis Tapley

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Around East Texas

Feb. 24th: For a Good “Soulful” Cause, Edwin Holt

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For a Good “Soulful” Cause:

Edwin Holt, Red Clay Roadhouse, and Texas College Choir Join Forces

By Edwin Holt

Some of you already know the backstory of my musical life, what you may not know is the soulful bond that developed between myself and a culture that I have come to define as my second family.

Like most people that stay in their comfort zone of their own culture, I found myself in a different realm. For several years in the south Dallas area and beyond, I found myself, a twenty year old male, performing in an all black blues band, in all black juke joints. The music was and will always be a great reward of my dues paid. The family of musicians I inherited, was a reward I never saw coming. Having the opportunity to perform, travel, and join them at their dinner tables with their families, has changed me into someone else.

Growing up in the small town of New London, Texas, I was sheltered to what lied ahead in the real world. A world that opened my young eyes to the reality of a culture riddled with struggles that continue to plague our society and most importantly, the very body of Christ.

People talk about how we are divided as a culture. They say that leadership does nothing to aid within this division but at the same time we fail to notice the blame within ourselves. We think we are helpless to make any kind of change in the world due to who we are or where were from – I believe differently. My focus in life, is to make a continued difference using love as a means of change.

So it should be no surprise that when the Texas College Choir reached out and asked me to help them get to New York in their own efforts to share the Gospel of music, I was all in. And with that, I’m hoping you are all in as well.

Presented by the Holt family, this will be an evening full of soul that will take place on February 24th at 8pm. Doors open at 7pm. The performance is being held at the Caldwell Auditorium, 300 S. College Ave., Tyler.

Please help me help others with music. It is a wonderful gift from God that brings people of all cultures together.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit rosepickermusic.com.

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Around East Texas

Flatland Cavalry, Parker McCollum in Concert

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Upcoming Concerts

 

February 23rd (8pm) – Flatland Cavalry will be at Coach’s. Tickets are available at wildtexastickets.com.

February 24th (8pm) – Monte Montgomery in Concert – One of East Texas favorite artists, Liberty is thrilled to have back Monte Montgomery in concert. He has recently released his new album “Dragonfly” and is currently touring. Tickets start at $15. Liberty Hall is located at 103 E. Erwin St., Tyler. Tickets are available at libertytyler.com.

March 3rd (8pm) – Broken Valor w/ Panik Device, Victims Of Sanity will be in concert at Click’s Live. Tickets are available at the door with proper ID.

March 10th (8pm) – Shooter Jennings – Shooter Jennings is an American singer-songwriter active mainly in the outlaw country music and Southern rock genres. He is the son of country music legend Waylon Jennings. Tickets range from $35 -$45. Liberty Hall is located at 103 E. Erwin St., Tyler. Tickets are available at libertytyler.com.

March 16th (8pm) – Parker McCollum will be at Coach’s & Cowboys. Tickets are available at wildtexastickets.com.

March 24th (8pm) – Bibeau Record Release Party & Concert – will be held at Click’s Live. Tickets are available at the door with proper ID.

April 21st – Bowling For Soup at Clicks Live (8pm) – American pop-punk band Bowling For Soup emerged in Wichita Falls, Texas in 1994, but have since relocated to Denton Texas. Tickets are on sale at the door for $19, and may be purchased in advanced online for $15 at etix.com.

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Bands

EGuide Magazine’s Gig Guide

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Check out who is playing live in Tyler, Ben Wheeler, Gladewater, and more!

To include your gigs, send to eguidemagazine@gmail.com

Advertise your gig in the header for $150. E-mail us to reserve your spot!

Monday, February 19th

  • Love & War, Lindale – Karaoke, 8-12
  • Stanley’s BBQ – Ramoth Gilead & His Affiliad, 6:30-9:30

Tuesday, February 20th

  • 11th Frame Club – Lynn Groom, 8:30-11
  • The Back Porch, Kilgore – Brandon Nichols, 7-10
  • Coach’s & Cowboy’s – Karaoke, 8-12
  • F D’s Grillhouse – Eric Mosley, 6-9
  • Garage Bar – Karaoke, 8-12
  • Love & War, Lindale – Songwriters Anonymous, 8-12
  • Summerfield’s Bar & Grille – Karaoke, 7-11
  • Stanley’s BBQ – Dustin Becker & Chris Oliver, 6:30-9:30
  • UTTyler Cowan Center – Jazz Ensemble Concert, 7:30
  • Where’s Rufus – DJ, 8-12

Wednesday, February 21st

  • The Back Porch, Kilgore – 2nd Childhood, 7-10
  • Click’s Live – Karaoke, 8-12
  • Dakota’s – Darrin Morris, 7-10
  • The Forge, Ben Wheeler – Craig Wallace & T.D. Wilt, 6-10
  • Leon’s, Longview – Blues Jam with Johnny & The Nightcrawlers, 8-11
  • Stanley’s BBQ – Big Funky Cloud, 6:30-9:30
  • Yamato – Open Mic, 8-12

Thursday, February 22nd

  • 11th Frame Club – Lynn Groom, 8:30-11
  • The Back Porch, Kilgore – David Allen, 8-12
  • Breakers – Tne Last Marc, Ian, and Douglas Serenade, 9-12
  • Clicks Live – DJ Cicero, 8-12
  • The Forge, Ben Wheeler – Cody Noman, 7-10
  • Garage Bar – DJ Juice, 8-12
  • Liberty Hall – From Hollywood with Love, 7-9
  • Republic Icehouse – Karaoke, 8-12
  • Stanley’s BBQ – TJ Hammersley & Friends, 6:30-9:30

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Friday, February 23rd

  • 11th Frame Club – Karaoke, 8-12
  • The Back Porch, Kilgore – Cody Wayne, 8-12
  • Breakers -Lucas Kelm, 7-10
  • Circle M Crawfish – Karaoke, 7-11
  • Coach’s & Cowboy’s – Flatland Cavalry, 8-12
  • Dakotas Chop House – Jason Misenheimer, 7-10
  • ETX Brewery – Shay Bailiff, 7-10
  • The Forge, Ben Wheeler – Finding Shade, 7-10
  • The Foundry – Josh White at Mockingbird Conference, 7:30
  • Fusion – DJ Polo, 9-12
  • Garage Bar – DJ Panda, 8-12
  • Kawa’s – Quentin Moore, 7-10
  • Liberty Hall – Johnny Lee “The Original Cowboy,” 8pm
  • Love & War, Lindale – Lee Mathis, 8-12
  • Mario’s – Live Jazz, 6-10
  • Moore’s Store, Ben Wheeler – Mariah Keltner, 9-12
  • Paradise Harbor, Hawkins – Karaoke, 8-12
  • Republic Ice House – Johnny & The Njghtcrawlers and King Richard, 8-12
  • Rick’s – MoJiles, 8-12
  • Shoguns – DJ, 8-12
  • Stanley’s BBQ – New Breed Brass Band, 9-12
  • Stone Country, Lindale – Karaoke, 8-12
  • Taste of Italy On the Lake, Hawkins – Marcus Casburn, 6-9
  • Where’s Rufus – Karaoke, 8-12
  • Yamato – DJ Cash, 9-12
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Saturday, February 24th

  • The Back Porch, Kilgore – Ryan Matthews, 9-1
  • Caldwell Auditorium – Edwin Holt & The Texas College Choir, 8-12
  • The Central Station, Gladewater – Heather Harper, 7-10
  • Club 155 – David Allen, 9-1
  • Dakotas Chop House – Larry Hooper Duo, 7-10
  • ETX Brewery – The Jazz Connection, 8-10
  • The Forge, Ben Wheeler – Craig Wallace, 3-5, Trey Rosenthal, 7-10
  • Fuzion – Latin DJ Night, 8
  • Garage Bar – Chase McClannahan, 9-1
  • Kawa’s – Dan Rocha, 7-10
  • Lago del Pino -Blind Pursuit, 8-12
  • Liberty Hall – Monte Montgomery, 8pm
  • M6 Winery, Bullard – Withrow Cooley, 3:30-6:30
  • Mario’s – Live Jazz, 6-9
  • Moore’s Store, Ben Wheeler – Tyler & The Tribe, 9-12
  • Republic Ice House – Bluez Boys, 8-11
  • Rick’s – Live Music, 9-1
  • Stanley’s BBQ – Open Mic, 6:30-9:30
  • Strada Caffe – Jordyn Lackey, 8-10pm
  • Taste of Italy On the Lake, Hawkins – Marcus Casburn, 6-9
  • Where’s Rufus – DJ, 9-1
  • XLN – Grant Cook & Friends, 9-1
  • Yamato – Karaoke, 8-12

Sunday, February 25th

  • Click’s Live – Acoustic Chaos, 9-12
  • The Forge, Ben Wheeler – Tommy & The Acoustics, 7-10
  • The Grove – Chris Oliver, 11-2
  • Lago Del Pino – Dustin Becker, 12-2pm

Monday, February 26th

  • CBS19 Music Monday’s – The Kirby’s, 10pm 
  • Love & War, Lindale – Karaoke, 8-12
  • Stanley’s BBQ – Ramoth Gilead & His Affiliad, 6:30-9:30

Tuesday, February 27th

  • 11th Frame Club – Lynn Groom, 8:30-11
  • Back Porch – ReULion Charity Jam, 6:30
  • Coach’s & Cowboy’s – Karaoke, 8-12
  • Dakotas Chop House – Gary Patrick, 7-10
  • F D’s Grillhouse – Eric Mosley, 6-9
  • Garage Bar – Karaoke, 8-12
  • Love & War, Lindale – Songwriters Anonymous, 8-12
  • Republic I’ve House – Todd Rinlee, 8
  • Summerfield’s Bar & Grille – Karaoke, 7-11
  • Stanley’s BBQ – Dustin Becker & Chris Oliver, 6:30-9:30
  • Where’s Rufus – DJ, 8-12

Wednesday, February 28th

  • The Back Porch, Kilgore – Adam Brown, 7-10
  • Click’s Live – Karaoke, 8-12
  • Dakotas Chop House – Gary Patrick, 7-10
  • The Forge, Ben Wheeler – Craig Wallace & T.D. Wilt, 6-10
  • Leon’s, Longview – Blues Jam with Johnny & The Nightcrawlers, 8-11
  • Stanley’s BBQ – Big Funky Cloud, 6:30-9:30
  • Yamato – Open Mic, 8-12

 

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