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Quite a memorable KISS

Joey Talbott is still making his way back down to Earth. The Racine musician, 38, lived his childhood dream on Sept. 2 when he and the rest of local band Wheeliebar opened for rock legends KISS at Milwaukee's Marcus Amphitheater. It was an experience the bass player said made him feel like he was floating on a cloud.

"It was so incredible being up there," he said. "And leading up to it, there was so much going on that for two days afterward, I didn't know what to do with myself. It was a great experience."

Talbott and his band mates won their spot as KISS' opening act through a national, online competition at eventful.com Fans and friends from near and far voted Wheeliebar into the top five positions, and KISS picked the winner from among those bands.

"We are so grateful for and amazed by all the support we had," Talbott said. "Even my second grade teacher, who I hadn't seen in years, knew about the contest and asked how it was going. It is such a good feeling to know that all those people were out there, helping us along."

It also felt great to share the stage with his rock 'n' roll heroes, especially KISS frontman Gene Simmons, the Park High School graduate said. Describing the entire day as "surreal," Talbott said he enjoyed every minute, from watching KISS' crew set up equipment, to sharing the famous band's backstage buffet, to his conversation with Simmons. When Talbott lifted his sleeve to show Simmons his KISS tattoo, the tongue-wagging rocker told him, "I knew you were a stand-up guy."

While Simmons - who television viewers might know from his reality show "Gene Simmons Family Jewels" - can seem intimidating, he and other KISS members are actually "the nicest guys," Talbott said. "Gene even took the time to talk with my wife and kids."

Surprisingly, Talbott said he and his bandmates were not nervous about being KISS' opening act. Wheeliebar's 20-minute show featured five original songs and, when it was over, Talbott said he did something he'd never done on stage - thrust his fist into the air in celebration.

"It went well and was so much fun; I was just so happy," he said. "It felt right - like we were supposed to be there."

Wheeliebar lives childhood dream by opening for rock legends in Milwaukee

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