It can be a tough life playing in a wedding band. Sure, you’re usually paid more than you ever make from performing your own music, but there are a lot of downsides. Consider the position of New York wedding band St. James Infirmary, booked to play the Americana Hotel in May 1976: The reception consisted partly of hard-edged Teamsters and partly of way-out artists.

The chance of being asked to play a song that won't work for the audience is high. So, too, is the chance of someone's uncle being called up to "sing" a family favorite that should have been left in the past. Also high is the chance of having to play through some sort of violence and hoping your instruments don’t become weapons. Equally high is the unwelcome prospect of guests demanding to play those instruments. Especially if it’s the wedding of Kiss guitarist Ace Frehley, and his bandmates are all in attendance.

What St. James Infirmary thought of the short set from Kiss doesn’t seem to have been recorded, but a few precious moments of the performance, saved on 8mm film, can be seen below. Remarkably, it’s the earliest known example of Kiss performing without makeup. At the time of the 24-year-old Frehley’s marriage to Jeanette Trerotola, the band’s offstage identities were still a closely guarded secret.

Nevertheless, the cheerful faces of Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons can both be made out in the dark footage below. Introduced by their first tour manager, J.R. Smalling – who says, “Mr. and Mrs. Frehley … you wanted the best and you got ‘em!” – Kiss can be seen performing the recently released “Rock and Roll All Nite” and the then-unreleased “Shout It Out Loud,” which arrived later that year on their Destroyer LP. Reports suggest “Nothing to Lose” from Kiss' 1974 debut album was also played, although it wasn’t filmed.

It’s not the most solid performance by the future global rock legends, but it appears to be good-natured. St. James Infirmary weren’t the only people in the room waiting for the impromptu set to end; Fehley’s new father-in-law, senior Teamster Vincent Trerotola, reportedly asked Kiss to get offstage because they were getting too much attention and detracting from the family celebrations.

Of course, just because the guests knew the identities of the four men who took over the show, it doesn’t mean everyone in the room did. “What's funny, though, is they were still undercover at the time,” one YouTube viewer wrote. “Imagine the caterers and other people there watching this – they were probably all, ‘Hey, these guys are pretty good … they sound exactly like Kiss. That one even sticks his tongue out like the real thing!”

 

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