Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Meister's "Views of the Cruise" - Volume #19 - Daily Diary

***These "daily diaries" were originally intended to be posted the day after the events, but as you can see there was soooo much going on during the cruise that it was impossible!  I hope you enjoy reading them as late as they are!***

Tuesday March 19th, 2013.

On this final day aboard the MSC Poesia we were docked in Nassau Bahamas.  I was up surprisingly early after the previous night's drinking and debauchery with the Saxon boys and company, of course when I say early I mean before 10am, not the crack of dawn or anything!  I again went for breakfast with the young lady sharing my cabin, but this time we went to the restaurant that was included in our cruise down on deck #5.  For all of my meals, as I did last voyage as well, I have been ravaging the buffet.  The food by no means is awful (as many have stated), but it is certainly not awe inspiring either and seems to be the same thing every day.  I did not even know that this restaurant was included until she told me about it, worth a shot!

While again not awe inspiring, was marginally better than the buffet and we chatted about the events we'd seen and partook over the last few days.  She decided that she wanted to disembark here and see Nassau Bahamas, I however opted out of this venture.  I saw Nassau last year when the ship docked here and was not overly impressed (maybe due in part to being a solo traveller last year and wandering the streets by myself).  I instead chose to find a quiet place within the bowels of the ship (it was a bit overcast and had been raining) and try to work on one of my already quite after-the-fact daily diaries of my cruise adventures.

On my way back to my temporary home of interior stateroom #11039 I ran into a couple of Keelaholics from the rehearsal experience and joined them seated in the reception lobby for a few minutes chat.  They were sitting with another gentleman when I approached and pulled up a seat.  The newcomer to our circle had an interesting and I thought very fun idea.  I learned that AC/DC had recently brewed and began marketing a beer, named after the band.  This fellow is a part of a group that wanted to show the can the world and has a Facebook page set up as well.  The can has already seen  many exotic locations and I felt a bit honoured to have my photo taken with the empty AC/DC Beer can.  At the time I write this diary, my picture with the "celebrity" had not yet been posted on the Facebook page, but hopefully it will be up soon, until then here is a picture of the parameters of the venture.  Check it out here and maybe you can meet the can someday as it travels the world.  (AC/DC BEER CAN)

After completing my article and another fairly pricey internet excursion to post it (must devise a better system next year methinks!), the sun was out and beating down hard as I took a stroll around the upper decks.  I ran into Dwain Miller who paused to chat saying that he was still so amped up after meeting Nigel last night.  That's awesome to hear and I'm glad that I was able to be a part of it!  Dwain was just coming from working out in the on board gym, which is something that I had planned to do while I was on the cruise.  My gym workouts are something that I look forward to and was hoping to keep up with during this trip.  I had yet to make it there to check out the facilities, but Dwain assured me that it was a full gym.  I took a look at the light beer in my hand with the frosty condensation dripping down the outside of the can and realised that the dream of working out for me on this rock & roll vacation was actually over before it even started!  So in light of that awakening of the truth, perhaps I should refresh my beverage and head off to forage for more carbohydrate laden food at the buffet!

That should bring us to around 3:30pm and I had successfully wasted the day relaxing and consuming during the Caribbean sun.  My ears were still ringing badly and I hadn't even seen a show yet today (I would have if there had been one), hey, at least I have some semblance of a voice today!  Something that I knew would return to haunt me in the near future as I started to formulate a plan of attack in my head for the 4:30pm Saxon show, their second of the voyage.

Knowing the rigmarole of entering the theatre I thought I'd better meander in that direction as there was no way I would accept anything less than front row for Saxon!  As luck would have it, there was no-one else around yet and I bided my time with another beer in the Zebra Lounge Bar right next to Carlo Felice Theatre.  I briefly considered trying to push my weight with my media pass to get in early and get a good vantage point, but decided against it as there were a couple of folks lined up now and I knew one of them, I waited with him.

We were allowed in and as I walked by the Gestapo at the door I relinquished the remainder of my beverage.  I'm sure there's a reason for the "no drinks" in there rule but it's beyond me, especially since you can bring in a plate of food from the buffet!  I got right down front on Paul Quinn's right hand side of the stage and settled in, waiting for the assault to begin again.  And assault it was as they blasted into Heavy Metal Thunder followed by I've Got To Rock (To Stay Alive) and To Hell & Back Again.  A new song from the Sacrifice record, not yet released in Canada (but rest assured I'll have it as soon as I can!) called Wheels of Terror was next up and again as in the other show I was impressed with how well this unknown new material came off in a live
set.  Back to a classic after that with Dallas 1PM about the Kennedy assassination, Saxon really had the crowd screaming again and then the title track from the new CD Sacrifce after that.  Upon the completion of Sacrifice, Biff took a few moments to address the audience saying how fun the cruise has been and that he felt like they must have had a picture with everyone on the boat yesterday!  Biff also stated that even though he was a good boy and went to bed early (4am, by my count, is not that early Biff!), the rest of them had stayed up drinking until after 5am and playing this early was rough on them!  He then pulled the taped down set list off of the stage and tore it up saying that they were going to play what we wanted to hear, asking how we felt about Ride Like The Wind as they broke into the
Christopher Cross cover that they have been chastised for recording in the past.  I was surprised to hear The Eagle Has Landed next and it sounded incredible, with them showing no signs of a hangover by my count.  Never Surrender, Stand Up And Fight, from the new one again and Denim & Leather followed.  Biff then asked us to shout out what we wanted, which after a few minutes he admitted sounded like a jumbled mess.  He gave us the choice of Crusader, Solid Ball Of Rock and Princess of The Night, which got the loudest cheer and is a great song although I would have loved to hear Dogs Of War or Thin Red Line or Beyond The Grave, but beggars can't be choosers, I guess and any Saxon song is good by me!  They closed out with And The Bands Played On, a song about their experiences playing at the first Monsters Of Rock festival in 1980, where they blew the audience away and how fitting as they blew us away on the Monsters Of Rock Cruise over 30 years later!

On the way out of the theatre I ran into Dwain and Brian Jay as they were leaving.  I was glad to see that they had the chance to catch Saxon live as they had been so looking forward to it.  I had hoped to rush up to the pool deck and catch some of KIX since I had to bail early on their first show due to
a contact lens issue.  But the time was marching on and I lingered in the Zebra lounge instead waiting for TNT, having been quite impressed with their first show in the Carlo Felice Theatre yesterday.  This TNT show was nowhere near as great as the previous one.  Ronni LeTekro's playing was spot on, but singer Tony Mills looked rather angry, perhaps at the smaller venue and crowd or perhaps as some speculated, he was very drunk.  In either case it was a bit of a let down and I drifted away from the front of the stage and back to the bar area, eventually heading up to forage for food at the buffet.

I loaded up a plate and chose a table at the buffet.  I was sporting my Helix-Skin In The Game t-shirt today and was ready to catch their full set shortly in the Zebra Lounge.  As I sat down a young lady at the next table over commented on my shirt.  I looked up to see that it was Linda Vollmer, vocalist Brian's wife.  I thought it fitting that I enjoyed my dinner before a Helix show on the ship, wearing a Helix shirt with such special company.  If any of you know me or read my account of last year's cruise, you will know that last year it was the very same thing, except that it was Brian himself who joined me for dinner and that time I was so engrossed in stuffing my face that I didn't even look up when I answered his "is this seat taken?" question by waving absently at the other chair.  Only several minutes later when I raised my head from the onslaught of chow did I see that it was Brian sitting with me!

I arrived early for Helix and obtained a fresh cold beverage, I must say that the service seems to be much better than last year at the bars.  I grabbed a comfy lounge chair near the front of the stage and sat down to wait, watching the boys set up their gear.  Kaleb (guitarist) and Fritz (drummer) recognised me and came over to chat.  Kaleb and I again tried to make a loose plan to meet for our quick interview and I learned that Kaleb had played on Brent Doerner's My Wicked Twin CD as a fan joined us and had the boys do some autographing duties.  Afterwards the conversation somehow drifted into Fritz telling us a hilarious story of being pulled over by police on the way to a gig with all of his drums in the back.  I won't say the details here, but if you run into Fritz on next year's voyage or at a gig, maybe you could ask him to regale you with the story, it'll have you chuckling to yourself for days I'm sure!  As the time drew nearer I
secured my spot at the front of the stage and the crowd closed in around me.  The boys changed things up a bit, which is always great for fans that have seen them perform several times.  They opened up with something different in Ain't No High Like Rock & Roll from the No Rest For The Wicked record and then into the awesome Wild In The Streets.  I noticed that Fritz was playing the drums barefoot, I'll have to ask him if there's a particular reason for that next time I catch him.  Dirty Dog followed and while I've heard the boys play it previously it does not always make the set list and is a great rockin' track.  This time Brian regaled us with a little story about strippers being the subject matter of the song that I'd never heard before.  The Kids Are All Shakin' and the MTV hit Heavy Metal Love assaulted us next and I was struck with the amount of energy that Brian Vollmer exudes on the stage!  Make 'Em Dance was next up and is about how club owners in the early days always wanted to know if Helix was a dance band because that's what sold.  Do they sound like a dance band to you? During this song new guitarist John Claus showed off some skills, playing for a few seconds with his teeth to the pleased reaction of the crowd.  Two cover songs followed Crazy Elephant's Gimme Gimme Good Lovin' and A Foot In Cold Water's Make Me Do Anything You Want which
branched straight into Deep Cuts The Knife.  Does A Fool Ever Learn took us to another song that I'd never heard in the Helix live set previously with I'm A Live Frankenstein which is actually from Brian's solo record When Pigs Fly and featured him imitating the movie monster across the stage.  Kaleb broke into his solo here which unlike some of the other bands aboard ship is short and features a re-working of The William Tell Overture and I can't help but wonder just how much new life has been breathed into one of my all time favourite bands by this young man joining.  As always Helix shut down their stellar assault with probably their best know song, Rock You.  Throughout the performance it must have been extremely hot on that small stage because Brian kept dumping bottles of water on his head and shaking his wet hair at the front row, which was actually kind of refreshing to the crowd as well!

From there it was right next door in the Bar Dei Poeti acoustic lounge for another fellow Canadian with Russ Dwarf.  It was nice to see that Russ had a good crowd and that the place was fairly full as him and his guitar player Kevin opened up with the KiLLeR DWaRf's classic Stand Tall.  I'm Alive preceded Comin' Through which is from my personal favourite Dwarfs album Dirty
Weapons.  Russ is quite funny with his monologue between songs and is generally having a blast up there, maybe he should have considered a career in stand up comedy on the side.  A few years ago Russ was part of a band including several other Canadian music icons called Hardroad.  They produced one CD called Miles and the title track was the next in Russ' set.  It Doesn't Matter At All and Dirty Weapons both from my beloved Darwfs disc followed and I couldn't help but think how great it was to hear these classic Canadian songs done acoustically and I made a mental note to pick up Russ' new Wireless CD featuring acoustic versions of his favourite Dwarf tracks.  I have heard rumours and hints that there may be some sort of Dwarf reunion and although it's just speculation, I sincerely hope it comes to fruition.  Check out Darrell Dwarf's new band as well.  I noticed several other artists in the audience and had to chuckle once again at another drummer/drummer picture, this time Fritz Hinz from Helix posing for a picture with Johnny Dee of Doro/Britny Fox.  Driftin' Back from the Method To The Madness recording preceded the closer of Keep The Spirit Alive.  I had a chance to chat briefly with Russ after the set as he posed for pictures and autographed CD's for a long line of fans.

My balance was a little "off" as I stumbled away from Russ and headed off in the direction of the pool deck and Great White's performance there.  I could hear the music floating down through the stairwell as I closed in on the upper deck.  I had long ago abandoned the elevators, being too
impatient to wait for them all the time!  Save Your Love was the track that greeted my ears as I climbed the last flight and emerged onto the pool deck.  On the way to the stage I passed by Gina Stile of JSRG and took a brief moment to congratulate her on two amazing shows.  I was able to hear all of Mista Bone before I checked the time and had to move on to meet Kaleb Duck of Helix for our interview.  This time, as I walked by, the elevator had just reached the floor and I piled in with a few other folks.  Daryl Gray, Helix's bassist was aboard the elevator and he commented on my choice of shirt (I still had my Helix T on!).  I caught up with Kaleb in the Zebra Lounge as planned and after a couple of beers, we decided to again postpone the interview and just enjoy the night.  As he said "This ship is just like the movie Groundhog Day!  Every day I wake up, eat breakfast, start drinking and watching bands until I go to bed.", very true sir!  I made my way back up to catch the end of Great White and got there in time for Can't Shake It and Rock Me.

Getting my exercise for sure, I raced back down into the ship to the Pigalle Lounge for Rhino Bucket's second set of the voyage.  They opened with One Night Stand and pushed through into Welcome To Hell.  Who's Got Mine? and the title track from my personal favourite Rhino Bucket CD Hardest Town followed suit.  This band is straight ahead rock and roll and they have referred to themselves as "The last real rock & roll band."  Front man Georg Dolivo addressed the crowd, simply saying "Here's a song about my penis," as they rolled into Beat To Death Like A Dog and after that why not play She's A Screamer!  With the pressure of many, many beers pressing against the walls of my bladder I backed away from the front of the stage and headed towards the washroom.  Upon my return I saw Kaleb and Fritz at the bar as I ordered another beer, was Helix following me now?  Hanging near the back this time with a couple of friends I heard Georg say "This is not a Rhino Bucket cover band, we keep releasing new music unlike some
others!  We have a new album coming out in August, but I'm kinda lazy sometimes so it might be later than that!" as his introduction to the new track Raise Your Glass. The boys were blasting through Beg For Your Love as I took a self picture of myself and the lovely Lorraine Lewis from Femme Fatale as she was rocking out near the back of the crowd as well.  I skipped the last of Rhino's set as I wanted to catch Dangerous Toys for my first time and I once again trudged up the flights of stairs to the pool deck.

Jason McMaster and Dangerous Toys assaulted the stage and audience like nothing I'd ever seen or heard before, from what I remember of course (I had been well into the beers by this point).  They opened with Outlaw and McMaster was absolutely ferocious. Sugar, Leather & the Nail and Take Me Drunk followed in the attack and the Toys were sounding great.  Gimme No Lip came next and I noticed that Jason had several cool band patches on the back of his leather vest including American Dog and Bullet.  Bones In The Gutter and Ten Boots (Stompin') followed and I lost track of the next few after this until I was brought back to earth hearing Gunfighter.  I moved back from the front of the stage once again and watched the rest of the show from back near one of the hot-tubs with a friend.  Queen of the Nile, Pissed and
  Sport'n a Woody hit us next and I lost track once again as the same young lady who was distracting me with her exposed breasts during Cinderella and Friends yesterday was again displaying her attributes. It turns out that the young lady is a friend of my friend that I was watching Dangerous Toys with......("excellent" as he rubs his hands together ala Mr. Burns from The Simpsons).  Torn away and drawn back to the show I was just in time for the tail end of a favourite D'Toys track of mine in Demon Bell from the soundtrack to the Wes Craven movie Shocker.  Then it was Teas'n Pleas'n and Scared to close out the set and while I thoroughly enjoyed the set and have no regrets, I am determined now more than ever to catch them again when I can pay full attention without the influence of so many beverages and breasts.

From here the debauchery continued as my friend and I wandered over to the Mojito Bar on the pool deck situated behind the stage.  This is always the spot to be late night on the cruise as they serve until something like 6am and is a hubub of activity especially on this last night aboard ship.  I saw many friends here and as we drank with some of the performers until the wee hours of the morning, my memory of the evening has totally left me.  In reviewing my photos later on it appears that I had a great time and there are several photos of me with cruiser friends and performers such as Share Ross of JSRG, Nikki Blakk and my personal favourite shot of what appears to be some sort of "photo bomb" with Russ Dwarf.  Add your own caption to that photo in the comments section below if you like.

All in all The Monsters of Rock Cruise is one of the best experiences of my life two years running and I can't wait to see what they have in store for us next year.  Will you be joining me aboard ship?

The Meister

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