The Rock Boat is the world's largest floating music festival. Although this was the twentieth voyage for The Rock Boat, it was only the ninth for my wife, Sheryl, and me. I guess it speaks volumes about the experience if we have been willing to spend nine of our vacations in this fashion. This year's trip traveled to Belize and Honduras, but that is unimportant, as it's about the voyage and not the destinations. Bands play at various musical venues as the ship sails. Since the theme this year was outer space, the voyage was billed as the galaxy's largest floating music festival.
Here is a recount of the shows. Peruse the list to hear small snippets of bands that might interest you.
Friday, January 24, 2020
Sister Hazel started The Rock Boat two decades ago. As our hosts, Sister Hazel performs the sail away show for every voyage. Though you may not have heard of the band, odds are that you're heard "All for You" on the radio or internet at some point in your life.
When preparing for the cruise, I listened to bands that would be on the boat using Spotify. "What about Everything" was a song that stopped me in my tracks.
Will Hoge and Stephen Kellogg
This show was a surprise as these artists were "stowaways" who were not listed among the lineup. Normally, they perform separately, but for this show, they picked categories out of a hat, and each performed a song from their catalog that fit that category. The songs, and the stories that accompanied them, were great. In my opinion, Will Hoge is a superior songwriter and storyteller.
Tony Lucca rose to fame as a contestant on the unknown-talent-search TV show The Voice.
This band has high energy and puts on a good show. You may know this band by their song, "You Wanted More" that they wrote for the American Pie movie. The performance of their song, "Open up Your Eyes," was one of the highlights of the voyage.
Saturday, January 25, 2020
Allen, Mack, Myers, Moore
This band was a combination of lead singers from other bands. Their sound was a little country for my taste, but the variety was impressive.
Sixth Man Sessions
Sixthman Sessions is a songwriting retreat where Rock Boat artists partake in creation, collaboration, and camaraderie of composing songs. Seven artists, strangers to each other before the retreat, come together to write and record new music just for the show. The full process from the first idea to completion happens in just 3 days. The creation process happened on a voyage months earlier, and the results were being shared on The Rock Boat.
This year's lineup included:
- Scott Terry of Red Wanting Blue
- Bradley Rhodes of Melodime
- Jack Weppler and Matt Carlin of SCR
- Carly Burruss
- Mike McFadden of Animal Years
- Meaghan Farrell performing with Amy Gerhartz
The stories behind the songs were interesting and insightful, and Meaghan Farrell even received a standing ovation.
Brett Newski and The No Tomorrow
This solo artist gave a heartfelt performance including high fiving every audience member by wandering around the entire lounge while singing and playing guitar.
Sir Cadian Rhythm (SCR)
Though I am not inclined to dance, this band is the most danceable band on the boat.
Red Wanting Blue
It took me a few voyages to warm up to this band, but now that I have, I understand why they are a favorite among Rock Boaters.
The Alternate Routes
Their song, "Somewhere in America," is the true story of the band's lead guitarist/songwriter, Eric Donnelly, who received a phone call that both of his parents were killed in a home invasion. It is a plea for gun control.
This Irish band is a party band. Their songs are either about drinking or fighting or both. They had a better fiddle player in prior years but were still fun!
Sunday, January 26, 2020
Aboard as a backup singer for Amy Gerhartz, The Rock Boat had its own A Star is Born scenario brewing as Meaghan Farrell is quickly becoming a star in her own right. She has been invited as a solo artist on The Rock Boat XXI.
Harvest Caye, Belize
It was nice to lay on the beach, listen to music, and watch the waves roll in.
We were also treated to a set from SCR.
This was especialy pleasing for me because they opened with "Church" which is my favorite song from their catalog.
Red Wanting Blue and Friends
Other Rock Boat artists took the stage to perform Red Wanting Blue songs with the band.
NEEDTOBREATHE includes two brothers in the band. Though one brother was absent due to squabbles within the group, the session guitar player filled the void skillfully. This show was solid from beginning to end. No songs were throwaways.
According to Spotify, the band that I listened to the most in 2018 was Welshly Arms. I know all of their songs by heart. The song selection for this set was not my favorite, but "Legendary," "Sanctuary," and "Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo" were standouts.
The soft and slow "Unspoken" was surprisingly moving.
Due to a prior commitment to a show in Orlando, Switchfoot had only gotten on the boat an hour earlier. They had never been a cruise ship before and didn't know what to expect but put on a rousing show. There was lots of interaction with the audience — including performing in the crowd.
Their hit, "Meant to Live," was the best song on the whole trip.
Epic Move Night: The Seaquel
"Epic Movie Night" was a theme in 2013, and it returned this year. Various Rock Boat bands performed songs that were featured in movies. Tonic's version of Jackson Browne's "Somebody's Baby" from Fast Times at Ridgemont High was better than the original.
Monday, January 27, 2020
If you were passengers like us who opted not to embark on a jungle excursion that featured monkeys and sloths, this destination was nothing but a shopping trip. Of our nine Rock Boat voyages, this was our least favorite stop.
Sammy Rae and The Friends
This is a band from Brooklyn. In my opinion, The Friends would be better without Sammy Rae. She has little stage presence and talks most of her vocals. Her African-American backup singer would be a better front person. Though this was not my cup of tea, others enjoyed the show.
She plays hard rock. She's a great guitar player and a reasonable vocalist but makes little eye contact with her audience.
Red Wanting Blue
My favorite song from their catalog is "White Snow."
The theme of this show was "Red Wanting Blue in Space." This was a very professional show with special lighting and extra props. The high energy performance thrilled the crowd including us. Well done!
Tuesday, January 28, 2020
A duo from the band performed an acoustic set. Their performance was very soothing.
A pool deck is always a great place to see a daytime show. The warm sun with a cool ocean breeze adds to every performance.
It was different seeing them party in the daylight. It's quite not the same.
Hero The Band
This band combined soulful singing with hard rock guitar. In some of the songs, their vocals could have been more prominent in the mix. We witnessed first hand in Belize that they are enthusiastic beach volleyball players.
Liz Brasher plays straight-ahead rock 'n' roll. She rarely applies special effects on her guitar. She doesn't bend her strings often which means her instrument stays in tune for the whole show without swapping in a second guitar. Her stage presence is quite appealing, especially when she smiles, which she should do more often. Background vocals would also enhance her sound.
She ended her set featuring her church choir vocals instead of her guitar.
This band wow'd the crowd including Sheryl. I was impressed that they covered Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill."
This band has lots of energy. I thought the lead signer/guitarist was going to hit his head on the low ceiling.
Songwriters in the Round
Songwriters in the Round is where artists tell the stories behind their songs and then play them acoustically. Will Hoge was head and shoulders above the rest. His best story was:
I was tucking my 4-year-old son into bed, and he asked "Dad, can I ask you a question?" I said, "Sure." He asked, "Are you and Mom getting a divorce?" I thought to myself, "No," but before I answered, I thought that he might have some inside information that I am not aware of. Now that I think of it, she has been playing "Candy Crush" on her phone a lot lately. But I answered, "No, why do you ask?" He told me, "On your last album, you had a song about a couple that was getting a divorce." I have always been a truthful man, so I tried to explain to him the concept of the suspension of disbelief. He just looked at me, puzzled. I looked around his room and saw all of his Star Wars toys, so I said, "You know that George Lucas writes all of those Star Wars stories." He replied "Yeah." So I continued, "He writes about being a Jedi even though he does not have Jedi powers. Sometimes grownups have to make up things to tell a story." He said he understood. I felt good about myself that I had done my fatherly duty quite well. As I left his room, my 6-year-old son in his room across the hall whispered to me, "Hey Dad, I knew you and Mom weren't getting a divorce." So I entered his room, and here is where I overreached as a parent. I thought my 6-year-old would say "I knew you weren't getting a divorce because I can see the way that you and Mom look at each other. I can see the way you constantly work on your communication skills to enhance your marriage." With this in mind, I asked my son, "How did you know Mom and I weren't getting a divorce?" He replied, "The children in your song ride the bus. We don't ride the bus." So I have the Nashville Public School System to thank for teaching my son the true meaning of love.
I typed up that story from my memory of 24 hours ago. Technically, it's not a quote, but it's darn close. He played a song about a couple who appeared happily married but were actually living a charade.
This show celebrated 20 years of The Rock Boat voyages. The other artists joined them on stage for the finale.
When asked why they've hosted The Rock Boat for the last 20 years, the answer was "We did it All for You."
Part of The Rock Boat experience is theme nights. We opted to participate in:
The Roaring Twenties
Let's Glow Crazy
The Rock Boat should have a glow-theme-night every year as an audience of glowers is interesting to see.
On land, Sheryl and I attend a concert every 3 months or so. So to see 33 shows in 5 days is a treat for us. From what the bands say in their during-the-show banter, it is a treat for them as they find The Rock Boat special because:
- It is rare for so many bands to be able to hang out together for 5 days. Their paths may cross out on the road, but never for such an extended period of time.
- Concert attendees are willing to give bands that they don't know a chance. Attendees are on the boat for the duration. It's not like they've got someplace else to be. Typically, there are 6 simultaneous shows at any given time. If concert goers aren't pleased with a performance, they can simply walk to another venue and enjoy a different band. Performers never get heckled or booed off the stage.
- The Rock Boat is a community. Though this year's trip featured 363 first-timers, there were 1934 repeat offenders with 86 Rock Boaters with 15 or more voyages. Everyone behaves themselves. The $695 price tag (minimum) attracts a type of concertgoer not prone to drunken brawls. This year's Rock Boaters came from all 50 states and 9 other countries.
The Rock Boat was the very first music on-the-water festival. Today there are similar experiences with The Kid Rock Cruise, The KISS Cruise, or The Legends of Rock 'n' Roll Cruise. According to band members and concertgoers who have embarked on other ocean performances, The Rock Boat is the best one. For performers and listeners, it is all for you. Hearing is believing.
Vacationing is alive in the lab.