I think I’m recovered from the wonderful time we had on the BluesCruise.
What a trip! It’s soooo not like any other vacation I’ve been on. It’s not like we were actually doing anything new, just doing something we dearly love, very nearly non-stop.
If you don’t want to read through this, and just look at the (mostly musician) pics, they are here.
The ship left from Ft. Lauderdale, so we flew from record cold and dry northern CA to sunny WET Florida on a Saturday for a next-day Sunday sail. We thought getting acclimated to the weather and time change for a day before we sailed would be a good idea. The flight was gross as always. I hate airports now. Hotbeds of unease and discomfort and interminable WAITING.
[whining]The first leg was on a US Air flight in a packed and cramped 757 with poorly modded drop down CRTs in the ceiling. The color was shot on half of them. Nice touch. We changed planes in Phoenix and got on a Delta Airbus which was roomier and not as crapped up as the first plane. Long flight, though. Someday when I’m rich I’m going to do that sort of flight first class. I imagine that would make all the difference. [/whining]
Hit Ft. Lauderdale and caught a [cranky non-English speaking] cab to the motel – Bahia Cabana Motel, Waterfront Bar and Restaraunt,(pic) famous for its 7 a.m. happy hour … and it was right across the street, literally, from the Ft. Lauderdale beach. According to the bartender Nick Nolte used to hang out there and the 7 a.m. happy hour was invented for him.
Our room sucked, stunk, and badly needed re-furbing, if only to cover up the mold in the bathroom. Glad we booked our one night at the end of the trip there, too. Live and learn.
It was over a bar and VERY noisy, but fortunately there was an antique air conditioner stuck into a hole in the wall above one bed, and it was louder than the bar noise so sleeping actually was an option. The high point of the stay for me was coming upon a girl and two guys necking etc. on a bench near our door. I got to say, “Hey, get a room!” and cracked myself up.
Embarkation on Holland America’s Westerdam the next day was smooth and not nearly as annoying as the Carnival routine.
My thoughts so far:
Carnival = Wal-Mart, Holland America = Nordstrom
The cabin most definitely did NOT suck, and the boat was beautiful.
Enough travelogue –
The music was awesome. I can’t even begin to describe what a treat it was to be able to roll out of bed, go eat, and try to decide WHICH great band we wanted to hear. All good music, all of the time. What an amazing thing to be able to be entertained like that pretty much non-stop for 7 days. Whew.
Performances we saw – this isn’t all of them but it’s what I can remember off the top of my head and I’ll put a link to all the performers at the end of this. Please bear in mind that I’m not a musician so if the terminology is wrong or I skipped something, take it with a grain of salt – just know we loooooved it all!
Tab Benoit started things off as we set sail – it was out on the Lido deck, aft, (pic) (another pic)and I think he set the tone for the rest of the cruise. Fun, great music, relaxed, entertaining. With beer! We were swaying with the music in the balmy breeze. Heaven.
Tommy Castro – Saw him a couple of times -He did his salute to James Brown that we saw in Oroville New Year’s weekend. And then Get Up Off Your Seat – which is my favorite funky thing that he does. His horn players, Tom Poole and Keith Crossen, affectionately known in OUR cabin as the Power Twins, showed up on stage with just about everybody we saw during the cruise. I liked ’em, very professional, fun to watch, and obviously they have a lot of stamina. 🙂
Michael Burks – Great guitar player, we saw him a couple of times. Once in Sac at the Horseman’s before the cruise, too. My favorite was in the Vista room, where he jumped off stage and played his guitar across the dance floor and up the stairs all the way to the top. Flash mania ensued (pic). He was great. He played “Little Wing” which is one of my ATF songs and did a wonderful job of it. Dare I say it … As good as Eric Clapton on the Derek and the Dominoes album. I dunno, maybe it was the beer and ambiance. But he was outstanding.
Ruthie Foster group – wonderful voice and presence (and guitar playing) – she did an appealing combination of blues, gospel and folk. Her voice just rang like a bell. We saw her in the Queen’s lounge, so it was an intimate acoustic experience. Earl Thomas sang with her at one point. He is also very good, but apparently going to straight gospel so he’ll drop off my radar.Ruthie also did a set with Beverly “Guitar” Watkins and Sue Foley. Fabulous. Man, that was a lot of talent in one spot. Actually, you could say that about the whole boat.
Commander Cody (George Frayne) was great. Highly entertaining and still full of left-leaning piss and vinegar which I love. Listening to him was like stepping back in time when he was singing “Smoke, Smoke, Smoke that Cigarette” and “Hot Rod Lincoln”. That was probably the most FUN set I saw. He also did the Saddest Song Ever Written, namely “Down to Stems and Seeds”. :):) He had a young bass player with him that got out a stand-up base which he proceeded to slap the shit out of. Good stuff.
We got to talk to George for a bit in the little gear shop when we bought the poster he did the artwork for. Personable, chatty, nice as the day is long.
DuWayne Burnside totally rocked us on the aft deck a couple of times. He was a lot of fun, too. Played one rockin’ set with Michael Burks. Hot!
The Fabulous Thunderbirds – Kim Wilson is an astonishingly good harmonica player. He did things I didn’t know were possible to do with a harmonica. He’s a windy guy with a lot of stamina. I liked the rest of his band, too, but they sort of paled by comparison unless you were going by tattoos.
Little Charlie and the Nightcats, Mel Waiters, Otis Clay, Lil Ed and the BLues Imperials, Buckwheat Zydeco, Mitch Woods – All polished professionals, great entertainment.
Jimbo Mathus. Mathis. Interesting guy. I don’t know which spelling is right, I’ve seen it both ways, a lot. He gets the award for Musician who most resembles Keith Richards. But more maybe more versatile? He led an awful (a tiny bit TOO extemporaneous with amateurs, perhaps?) bluegrass-y accoustic jam in the Queens lounge which I liked anyway. Watermelon Slim sat in front of us and stomped his feet. (pic) Jimbo also jammed with DuWayne doing a lot more rockin’ kind of blues. He’s got a recording studio (link) that looks like it would be fun to visit. If I played an instrument I’d go have him record me. Todd Sharpville played with them at one point, too. He’s another hot guitar player.
Taj Mahal did his usual good-time music. I got annoyed with him because we went to see him as scheduled in the Vista room and the band he was pushing played for a loooooong time first. They were good but I a)didn’t care about them at the moment and b)resented being tricked into seeing them. No biggie, but it was irritating.
We saw a set by Murali Coryell. He’s got a really nice voice and plays guitar well when he’s doing the old standards, but his song writing skills leave something to be desired. Blues documenter Robert Muggee was doing (you guessed it) a documentary in there while we were watching Murali, and he recorded the songs Murali wrote. Couldn’t record the standards because of rights issues, I guess. But they were not what I would want documented about the BluesCruise. I mean, musically they were nice, lyrically, not so much.
Deanna Bogart showed up in almost as many places as the Power Twins. She is a great sax and piano player, VERY entertaining to watch. Good showmanship. She was mentoring a 13 year old piano player, also very good, who sat in on a lot of the jams. I can’t imagine how good he’s going to be when he’s 20. Wish I could remember his name, but I’ll come across it somewhere.
Sue Foley put on a good show, she played with the JW Jones band. Not being up on celeb gossip or anything I don’t know if they are dating/married/related but they acted like they were probably boinking each other. Why would I care? I don’t, it was just an observation and they looked cute together. Or possibly *I’d* like to boink one (or both) of them.
There was a drummer named Chuck “Popcorn” Somebody that I liked. He was fun and added a lot to whichever band he was with. I saw him jam several times. Good stuff.
That was about it. I didn’t see Joey Gilmore (but Bob did), Paddy Milner, or Leon Blue, unless I was too drunk to remember, which is possible.
Island hopping: We went to Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos which we toured in a horse drawn wagon, and St. Thomas USVI which we toured in a taxi, and finally St. Bartholemy or St. Barth’s, French West Indies, also a taxi tour but much better than the previous one, as our driver was friendly, knowledgeable and spoke English. St. Barth’s was my favorite, though to be honest, if we do this same trip again I doubt I’ll get off the boat. Unless you’re willing to spend big bucks or just want to get some beach time in there’s not much to do after the grand tour. Two cups of coffee were $15 on St. Barths. Two small glasses of wine, a liter of water, and one small appetizer were $36. A LOT. But we got snooty french service to go with it, so it was quite the experience. 🙂