25 years since the valentine’s day massacre.

My daughter and I were recently at a record shop on Valentine’s day, doing some last second shopping for my wife. While there Mara pointed to a KISS record and said, “Hey, I’ve seen them before.”

I asked, “Where?”

I was genuinely curious as, not being a big KISS fan myself, I wondered where she had come across them.

She said, “They were on an episode of Scooby Doo.”

Fair enough.

I asked her if she knew that once, her uncle Craig and his band had played a show dressed up in KISS makeup?

and then it hit me…That show was on Valtenine’s day 1998. 25 years to the day.

To most people, February 14th 1998 means nothing aside from another day to eat chocolates and spend a few bucks on roses. To a very, very, very, very small group of hardcore fans in Cleveland it was the date of a cool and memorable show. For me, it was my first time onstage performing. The show dubbed, the st. valentine’s day massacre.

My older brother was in a band called Skipline who, like most bands, came and went quickly with little fanfare, and yet they managed to cause a stir from time to time by playing after breaking up. My brother was a vocalist, sharing those duties with Bryan and Mark, who also played guitar. My brother had never been in a band and hasn’t been in one since. He was a born performer and had lungs, man, but he also battled a similar stage fright as many performers do. It always threw me for a loop because when he was up there he would and could do and say anything at any given time and he had crowds eating out of the palm of his hand. he was a presence. he was a loose cannon. man, he was cool.

His band had a “joke song called “louie” about Star Wars that they cobbled together quickly in the studio and tacked on to their debit cassette tape. The song was a highlight of the show, us all being nerds and this offered us a chance to sing and scream along about nein nunb, a character who deserves more credit (Right, Mike Quinn?)

My brother never committed to the band fully and eventually they went their separate ways, with mark taking over the vocals as the frontman. My brother moved a few hours away. On paper it was to attend college, but…

Anyway, they booked a show at the phantasy in Lakewood, Ohio where nine inch nails, faith no more, sound garden, Marilyn Manson, Mushroomhead and many others had played. The band wanted to make the show a spectacle, so they enlisted me and pooch, a friend of ours to aid in their entrance. When it was time for them to play, the club shut off all the lights and, if I recall, they had smoke machines going…but I might be totally making that up. I was kneeling in the darkness in front of Jim’s bass, while Pooch was stationed near mark’s guitar. They had the instruments set to run through various trippy effects. When the time was right, pooch and I started “playing” and making weird noises. He was actually a guitarist. I was…well, I delivered pizza back then.

As we played, a pre-recorded loop of a KISS song blasted through the sound system. The guys in the band crept to their spots in the darkness. Still in darkness the guys geared up and I stood near the back by the drums. The lights kicked on, the band started playing and as they ripped into the first song, I stage dove for the first and only time.

Oh, did I forget to mention I am overweight? I was back then as well, though less so.

I flew through the air for half a second and saw the fear in the eyes of those under me as I crashed into the mosh pit. The band played a solid 30 minutes, which was about all the material they had, but they saved ‘Louie’ for last.

My brother announced that he needed help, beckoning Pooch, Bryan, Ryan, and myself to the stage to provide gang vocals throughout the song. We wore masks…stormtrooper, c3p0, and I had on a yoda mask and for some reason I wasn’t wearing a shirt. The first and also the last time I think I’ll ever be onstage without one.

With a quick intro from my brother we blasted into the song. We hadn’t practiced, hell, the band hadn’t played together in a couple years, but the song wasn’t made to be taken too seriously, right?

Partway in I “took the lead”on vocals during a death metal-type barking breakdown originally recorded by Mark. I didn’t know the words by heart nor had I ever really growled like that, but man it felt like fun.

Most, if not all, of these photos were taken side stage by Scott Badovick, who also got some backstage shots. I “sang” at the far side, so I dunno that I made it into many, if any, of the photos. There was one small one, which was used in the CD liner, but I am not sure I still have it. If I find myself with yoda mask on, I’ll post it. Here was me with the guys before the show:

Can you tell which one is me?

Ah, there it is. No shirt, yoda-masked doug, stage right with pooch in the middle.

There’s my brother meeting the crowd.

The song was over as quickly as it started, as was the show. Skipline had returned and the club buzzed with energy. I had gotten onstage and had a blast. I wanted more. I didn’t know how to play any instruments or sing, and I wasn’t attractive, physical enough to get crazy onstage or even knowledgable enough to create my own character/personality up there, but none of that mattered.

The show was captured with an audio recording, so I have the weird, wild, semi-cringy, first song I ever played for your enjoyment…at the end of the song you may catch some bad words/derogatory terms, which weren’t from me.

after this show, some of the guys stuck with music and found other projects to pass the time. you may have even heard some of them, but those bands weren’t a part of the st. valtentine’s massacre of 1998. Also, bryan passed away recently, an unforeseen tragedy. He was a couple years older than me, good friends with my brother for a time, but I didn’t know him as well. He was always cool to me and we had a few good fnm talks as well as sharing a bunch of nerdy sci-fi/star wars stories back then. condolences to his family and friends.

I tried out for a band later that year that dissolved before leaving the basement, but adam from that band and I have been working on music under the indoria name ever since (and he currently plays keys in the firmary).It wasn’t until the following year that I joined my first band that played out, recorded, and released original music. They were called fromandafly. Here I am, 25 years since the first time I took the stage and I’m still trying to figure out if I belong up there or if it’s just too fun to quit.

In two days, The Firmary releases our debut EP Soft Reboot and it’s at such a bad time. We are drummerless, my job is sucking my soul away, and we haven’t been able to promote this collection of songs at all. I have been performing for 25 years on and off (more off than on really), and I feel like there’s a lot more that I want to accomplish. I’d love my granddaughter to point to a photo at a record shop someday and ask Mara why gramps is shirtless onstage screaming about jawas.

About douglasesper

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