My wife, Sheryl, and I took our seventh Rock Boat cruise in as many years. Once a person attends, they become part of The Rock Boat family, so there are lots of repeat voyagers. As always, we attended with my college roommate, Tim, and his wife, Marie. This year, we were joined by Tim's brother, Paul, and his wife, Leslie. I have known Tim and Paul since I was 6 years old. It was indeed another family affair.
For the unfamiliar, The Rock Boat is a cruise that is billed as the world's greatest floating musical festival. As the boat makes its way to tropical destinations, rock bands play concerts at various venues aboard the ship. In the past, shows have been an hour long. This year, in the interest of even more rock, the shows were 75 minutes long.
The various venues included:
- Pool Deck – accommodates ~2,500 people outside on Deck 12
- Stardust Theater – traditional tiered seating with cushy chairs that holds ~1,000
- Atrium – floor space for ~200 people (standing) with tables/chairs on floor above for ~100 more
- Spinnaker Lounge – traditional lounge that can hold ~300 people
- Bar City – small bar area that can fit a standing crowd of ~100 with a limited view from the floor above for another ~60
- Sports Court – basketball court with on-court standing for ~100 and a few rows of bleachers to accommodate ~100 more people
All shows are general admission, and the price is included in the vacation package. So, voyagers simply plop down and watch any show that they'd like to see. If any show is not to their tastes, they can try another one. At any given time, there are 3 or 4 concerts to choose from. Shows start as early as noon and some end as late as 2:30 am.
So here are some notes from our latest vacation.
Tuesday, January 30
New Orleans, Louisiana
Our very first Rock Boat cruise departed from New Orleans; subsequent voyages have been from Miami and Tampa. It was great to be back in New Orleans if for nothing else but the food.
Luckily for us, we also have family there. Thanks to my brother-in-law, Rick, and sister, Patti, for letting us stay in our condo that is only 3 blocks from the dock for our boat, The Norwegian Pearl.
The New Respects, Atrium
This was the first Rock Boat cruise for this quartet. They had a modern Motown sound that welcomed us as we boarded.
Kick the Robot, Sports Court
This alternative rock trio had a pleasing guitar-oriented sound. According to their website, their name signifies "a revolt against the soullessness of modern music."
Sister Hazel, Pool Deck
One of the things about The Rock Boat is that the line between audience and artist is blurred. As the boat is wide-open, voyagers can watch and hear the sound checks. I observed Sister Hazel as they got ready for their upcoming performance. They were still warming up vocally.
Later, it was show time.
Always our annual hosts, Sister Hazel played their traditional "sail away" show. They added some new songs from their upcoming album, Water, that was a nice change. Their performance of "This Kind of Love" was the best live version of this song in all my Rock Boat years.
Melodime, Stardust Theater
Melodime is a consistently good band. Lead singer, Brad Rhodes, does not have a very wide vocal range, but in all of our Rock Boat years, he's never had a bad singing performance. His vocals remind me of Darius Rucker. The band's performance of "Second Hand Smoke" was a highlight of the show.
NEEDTOBREATHE, Pool Deck
Lead singer of NEEDTOBREATHE, Bear Rinehart, told a story: "When people ask us what kind of music we play, I don't know how to respond. We just play what we like, but I guess you could call it redneck."
Stowaway Sessions Release Party, Atrium
Our schedule had a hand-written item entitled Stowaway Sessions Release Party for 30 minutes. It turned out to be a sound check for JD Escher and Tony Lucca who would perform later in the evening. JD and Tony were considered "stowaways" because they were extra artists who were not originally scheduled to perform.
Welshly Arms, Stardust Theater
This was a night of firsts. It was the first night of Rock Boat XVIII. It was the first time that Welshly Arms played in the Stardust Theater. It was the first time that played some new songs in public. This included an acoustic tune from their upcoming EP. Welshly Arms has previously not had any acoustic songs in their catalog. Overall, I enjoyed this performance as much as any performance I have ever attended on any of our Rock Boat vacations.
Barenaked Ladies, Pool Deck
Barenaked Ladies is, by far, the most famous band on the boat; however, I didn't really care that much for them. Their songs are novelty songs as in the theme from the TV show, Big Bang Theory. I am looking for more emotion in the music that I listen to.
The Rocketboys, Atrium
The Rocketboys are a band from Austin, Texas. Sadly, this show was a swing and a miss. The performance lacked energy, and the lead singer (Brandon Kinder) had zero stage presence.