Some people may consider themselves big fans of their favourite band, but Shandi Strong celebrates KISS like no other. Strong’s entire basement is an homage to KISS, from official merchandise to her own photographs of their live shows.
Strong has seen KISS every single time they’re been here, except once.
“‘They were here at the University of Manitoba once on their very first tour, out of the back of a station wagon. I didn’t know about them at the time.”
Her love of the band started in Grade 8, when she first heard “Rock and Roll All Nite,” though she thought they were a band from the movie Phantom of the Paradise.
Though it wasn’t a popular choice, Strong stood by her band.
“Critics, radio station people, your friends, people that liked disco, everybody hated KISS. They didn’t have an easy go of it, but they were stubborn, persevered all the way through and I think that’s part of why they speak to me so much,” Strong says. “Here they are, they’re outsiders, they’re doing what they think is right, and they’re still doing it. And if there’s any definition of success, that’s it.”
While the basement may look like an extended altar, it’s also a jam space. Strong’s 11 guitars are hung across the walls, and while she hasn’t honed her craft as much as she might like, she still enjoys playing and jamming with her girlfriend and friends.
“I have a party here every August long weekend and a few times in between with some of my musician friends and we just hang out and we make noise and we entertain people and goof around, and it’s a ball.”
1) Signed photograph from 1977 Meet and Greet
“It was kind of an epiphany for me,” Strong says. “I’m getting to meet people I’ve idolized since I was a kid, and at the time I was just in the process of cementing everything and coming out as trans and it was the reason I changed my name, I took from a Kiss song, and so it was just like all of a sudden, ba-da-boom, I’m here, culminating everything I had ever wanted in life was that moment.”
2) Hello Kitty Kiss Figurines
“My girlfriend that I was dating at the time bought me two of them, just a little while ago before we broke up, and I had to go and find the other two on eBay. But I thought that was kind of cute...there’s the big tall ones behind the Hello Kitties, those are from the 70s, they’re in various states of repair.”
3) Tommy Thayer Space Man guitar
“This is a Tommy Thayer space man Les Paul from Gibson, and I bought it from Tommy Thayer. He actually touched this. And he autographed the case, I’ve got pictures with him, everything like that. And it was just like whoa, this was really cool. So he was like, .... ‘Here, mention my name and you can come backstage.’”
4) Overhead guitar light (still a functioning guitar)
“A friend of mine sent me a picture on Facebook once and it was a similar idea to that, and he says I betcha you’d like this, and I’m going yeah, I’d really like that ... So a trip to IKEA, and Wal-mart for the mylar behind it, and couple hours later I made one.”
5) Stage lights, laser and rainbow flag from Gio’s
“I was very involved with Gio’s for a number of years and when we closed, some of the stuff we sold off and some of it was just going to go into landfill, so I got that. I got the flag that used to hang out front. Gio’s is a very special place for me.”