From the Archive: South of the Border with Pantera and Kiss, 1997
7:15 p.m. Forty-five minutes until Pantera take the stage. Gene Simmons, a baseball cap on his massive head and a blue denim shirt draping his considerable torso, pokes his head into the dressing room for a quick greeting before being distracted by a stunning young girl wearing a rubber band for pants out in the hall. Ace Frehley wanders by moments later. "Hey, Ace, you gonna watch us play?" asks Darrell. "I'm depressed," Ace frowns. "I'll be putting on my makeup when you guys are on stage."
"That's okay," offers Darrell, unquestionably the most rabid Ace Frehley fan in the entire Southern hemisphere. "We'll be down front watching you!" Ace smiles, bids a mumbled "Okayseeyalater," and meanders down the hall. "Ace Fuckin' Frehley, man!" Another toast is called for. More drinks. "Dude, we're almost out of whiskey," says Darrell to road manager Guy Sykes. A ghetto blaster turned up beyond the point of distortion blares out Biohazard and Black Sabbath, rallying the band's energy.
Everyone begins to pace in anticipation of the show. Singer Phil Anselmo, already a caged animal, positions himself on the floor and proceeds to knock out a rapid series of sit-ups. Each Panteran takes a turn at stretching and loosening up, with Val assisting by realigning everyone's neck and back cartilage with bone-shifting brute force. So physically demanding is Pantera's gut-ripping metal that the members require chiropractic treatment before and after each performance.
More drinks. Darrell pours faster. They listen to one last song before taking the stage-Thin Lizzy's shredding "Thunder & Lightning." Guy Sykes announces, "It's show time."
Pantera is ready to eat rocks and shit asphalt.
8:00 p.m. The house lights go down and a hungry roar shakes the building. Phil grabs the mic and greets Mexico with a guttural growl that would have members of Obituary soiling their death metal diapers. Pantera erupts into "New Level," and for the next hour chaos reigns over the Sports Palace. Gargantuan riffs fly like teeth in a Tex-Mex barroom brawl. A blinding splash of light reveals that nearly every other person in the audience is wearing Kiss makeup.
9:15 p.m. Kiss' dressing room door is open a crack and Gene and Ace can be seen putting on their rock regalia. Paul Stanley, wearing a shower cap to keep his hair from getting in the way of his paint job, puts the final touches on the famous black star over his right eye. Peter Criss is sitting on a couch whacking his leg with drumsticks. Business as usual for the hottest band in the land.
9:30 p.m. With cannons blazing, Kiss hit the stage. With drinks in hand, Pantera rush out and edge themselves into the front row, much to the delight of the crowd. Darrell, high-fiving everyone around him, settles into air guitaring along with Ace.
11:15 p.m. Kiss build to a final crescendo. Peter croons "Beth," the second of three encores, triggering a loud ovation from the delirious crowd. The show ends with Kiss wrapping things up with "Rock and Roll All Nite" amid a Fourth of July display of fireworks and near-miss explosions.
12:30 a.m. Mexico's Hard Rock Cafe is not unlike any of the other Hard Rock Cafes around the world Though the employees speak little English, they all recognize the international "drinky drinky" motion and quickly fetch platters of Coronas and shots of Jack Daniels and tequila for our table.
2:00 a.m. Gene and Ace stroll into the packed restaurant, nearly causing a riot. Gene, spotting the same gorgeous girl he leered at from the stage all night long, corners the lass.
"Ace, dude - pull up a chair," invites Darrell. Frehley seats himself between Darrell and this Guitar World correspondent, who is busy trying to keep from hurling up the several gallons of whiskey, tequila and beer he's recently consumed. The smell of smoldering nachos and chicken wings wafting up from the table is helping things along nicely.
2:30 a.m. In a toxic alcoholic haze, I end up staring at the back of Ace Frehley's head as he talks shop with Darrell. The back of Ace's head is no different from anyone else's head, except that it's Ace's head. And where Ace goes, so does his head, presumably. There are so many things I want to ask the back of Ace's head, but my lips feel like two pieces of bologna slapping together. Ace, a confirmed tee totaler gulps down glass after glass of ginger ale and spoons his way through several strawberry sundaes. If I didn't know any better, I'd swear Ace-his speech slurred, his eyes half-closed-was getting drunk on ice cream.
3:15 a.m. The restaurant manager enters the room bearing gifts-denim Hard Rock Cafe jackets, leather vests and T-shirts for all. Ace tries on several coats until he finds one that fits. Menus and cocktail napkins are passed around for autographs. Seizing the moment, Darrell corrals Ace into posing for a photo with him. "In case you haven't seen it in a while..." Darrell lifts his shirt to reveal a colorful tattoo of Ace Frehley on his chest. Visibly impressed, Ace smiles and wipes some ice cream from his face. "Hey, Gene-man, you guys rocked tonight!" gushes Darrell as everyone prepares to leave. Gene smiles, leans over, and kisses Darrell on the forehead. That's about as much as Gene will get tonight: the young girl he'd been hitting on for the last several hours had to leave; she has to get up early for junior high school tomorrow.
4:30 a.m. The restaurant has been closed for hours, but Pantera keeps ordering more drinks. Only when the bartender brings the tab does everyone decide to pack it in for the night. The bill comes to a whopping 4,100 pesos, and those who are able to stand without assistance make for the door without paying. Sykes hands a giant wad of currency to a waiter.
The kid looks like someone just kicked his pet burro. For all their high-rolling, Pantera and Kiss have stiffed him for a tip. Guitar World to the rescue. "Here," I say, offering every bit of cash left in my pocket. The waiter gives me a funny look and walks away, no doubt unable to express his gratitude for the handsome $6 gratuity.