Sunday April 19, 2015 was a planned day at sea. No stops (ports) just rock n’ roll debauchery from waking to sleeping (passing out), hell I’m not even sure the ship was travelling anywhere it may have just been anchored in the deep blue sea! After the breakfast experience, the day began with the EH Team photo. I began the EH Team on a whim before last year’s cruise for a few Toronto area cruisers that I knew and was quickly becoming friends with. The idea stemmed from a suggestion that we participate in the “countdown photo” game, each day until the upcoming cruise all year long photos are posted of cruisers with bands, or just funny and creative shots as a way to countdown to the next sail-away. Our glorious countdown photo idea was to be taken as The 80’s Invasion Tour-featuring Ted Poley, Enuff Z’Nuff and Bang Tango rolled into Toronto (The Story of The Countdown Photo). We started out with about 18 of us for that photo and before long we were joined by others from the Toronto area as they saw our shirts and the taking of the photo at the club and I was ordering another run of the tees. At the suggestion of someone else I put it out there on The Monsters Of Rock Cruise Facebook page, a great community for cruisers and fans and we were growing once again! The lone Canadian band on the cruise that year, The KiLLeR DWaRfS were even in on the action! With a new shirt design (hand drawn by comic artist and friend Rob Armstrong: www.groovydead.com) for the 2015 experience we had once again swelled in numbers, even “adopting” a couple of Americans into the fold. The photo event last year was extremely difficult to pull off trying to get it before The KiLLeR DWaRfS set which unfortunately changed times more than once. But we had a decent turnout even still, only missing a few hangovers and sleepers. 2015’s EH Team photo was taken at 11am on this Sunday and featured a much better turnout than the previous year, note the KiLLeR DWaRfS representation by t-shirt in the back even though they are sadly not aboard ship this year! Overall a great success……except that our photographer was caught on stage at the end of the “Cooking With Rock Stars event” and we had a scramble to find another camera. Some big ideas already in the works for next year’s EH Team, two cruises to work with (East & West) so if you’re Canadian get in on the action at The EH Team Facebook Page.
The first of the epic concert experiences on this long day of mayhem began with The Atomic Punks on the pool stage. For those unfamiliar, they are a Van Halen cover band playing only the best from the David Lee Roth fronted Van Halen era. The Atomic Punks delivered some excellent Van Halen versions and I my “tagline” quickly became: “They’re better than actual Van Halen“! Check out the video that I shot for “Running With The Devil” appearing soon on the Decibel Geek YouTube Channel. The hot, hot sun was already cooking my bald scalp, well adding to the base (burn) that I had already acheived during the drinking afternoon at South Beach on Friday and before long I was forced to retreat into the shade for fear that there were actually flames arising from the top of my crispy melon. Decibel Geek staff writer Derik Novak to the resue with some extra sunscreen, too much too late I fear, but at least now I can feel like a responsible adult!
After the set I ran into one of my cabinmates who even though laughing quite hard was attempting to give me shit. See, this morning of the three of us in the stateroom I was the first to arise and grab a shower. As I exited the closet (called a shower on the ship) one of my other cabinmates was awake and asked if I was finished. “All yours man,” I said. I grabbed my key card for the room and headed out to breakfast. And therein lies the problem. You see for the lights and power to operate in your stateroom aboard the MSC Divina a room key card is required to be in a switchslot in the wall by the door. Only thinking to myself that I need this to get back in later I grabbed my key from said slot on my way out the door. After a few minutes (like maybe 2 or 3) the lights turned out on the guy in the smaller than a phonebooth shower, plunging him into total darkness. His shouts fell on deaf ears as I was out of the room and our third mate was sound asleep after a late night (well early morning) party session. The best joke I didn’t even know I was playing!
From there, after the laughter had subsided for now it was time for some frosty beverages and chatting with fellow cruisers as I awaited the next set on my “hit-list” for today with Heavens Edge in about an hour from now. I was sporting my Rockpile Bar & Nightclub t-shirt and as the guys from Y&T walked by it was recognised. “Hey we played there” drummer Mike Vanderhule said, sparking the beginning of a conversation where among other things I thanked him and Dave Meniketti for playing at The Rockpile on my birthday last year. The brief exchange with these truly personable rockers ended with them taking photos of the Y&T logo in my tattoo.
Bad news travels fast as they say and the rumor mill was, as usually happens, running rampant with reports that Lita Ford had not made the boat! Apparently she was seen going through the metal detectors and so forth during embarkation, but was then denied boarding as her visas and paperwork were not in order. I’m sorry, but that’s not excuseable. Lita was on this cruise two years ago, so you should know what is required. Someone’s getting fired over this I’m sure!
I had seen guitarist Reggie Wu briefly earlier in the day and took a moment to advise him that I was pumped for their set. Reggie‘s band, Heavens Edge is a rather little known band from Philadelphia that didn’t receive anywhere near the exposure and recognition that they deserved back in the day. Their fanbase certainly grew in 2014 as they presented an excellent performance during last year’s M3 Festival and I for one was really looking forward to seeing the again. They were absolutely ripping on stage under the even hotter now blazing sun (it may actually be hotter than Hell!) with a set that started off with “Play Dirty” and took us through the majority of their awesome debut album but also included some choice selections off the sophomore Some Other Place, Some Other Time album. Keeping the between song chatter to a minimum vocalist Mark Evans did take a moment to recount a humorous little story about them being promised millions by the record company and being accosted by police as they discussed the matter in an alley after leaving the office as a lead in to “Up Against The Wall”, the song’s inspiration. The energy that these guys emit on stage is incredible and I must say that Reggie Wu has to be one of the most underrated guitarists of all time. While I say it’s hard to best Tyketto (who just hold a special place in my heart after last year), Heavens Edge is most definitely in the running for top of the cruise performance wise. Here’s Brian Ronald‘s photo gallery for both Heavens Edge sets aboard the 2015 cruise: Heavens Edge by Brian Ronald
Extreme had the Pantheon Theater the most full I’ve seen it yet I think for their 3:15pm set. I remember how much I was a rabid fan of Extreme as a kid back in the 90’s and how I saw every tour that they rolled trough Toronto on in those days. I even attended an autograph session somewhere and still have the vinyl edition of their debut record autographed and tucked safely away in my collection. Being such a fan back then, I guess maybe I burnt out on them a little and I never gravitate to listen to their music in this day and age. I really don’t know why and I have to say (catching only a portion of their performance at M3 last year in the pouring rain did not do much for me) that Extreme brought everything flooding back in seconds. Even though I was unable to catch their full set here, they awakened my passion for that debut record and its follow up, Pornograffitti, as I sat on the floor at the back of the theatre (the only seat I could find). They celebrated the anniversary of that sophomore Pornograffitti album, ripping through “Decadence Dance”, “Li’l Jack Horny” and “It (‘s A Monster)”. From there it was into “Rest In Peace” and “Am I Ever Gonna Change” from III Sides To Every Story, an album that I could not get into at all back then. But they next presented “Play With Me”, what was to be the only inclusion from the beloved debut, a song that originally appeared on the soundtrack to Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, my route of discovery and introduction for Extreme.
After taking a break to grab some food, ie: completely stuff my face with carb laden junk that tastes so good in an attempt to soak up the already decent quantity of beer intake, it was time for one of the most anticipated events of the cruise for me: Tyketto! Yes, I know that I just saw them two nights ago, at the pre-party but they’re just so damn engaging live it’s like some kind of hypnosis when they hit the stage. Tyketto sailed through another setlist, much the same as their pre-party one, but that doesn’t matter, any chance to be a part of the magic that is Tyketto is fine by me even if they just play the same song over and over for their hour long sets! Danny Vaughn‘s voice is beyond explanation and you have to experience it live to really get it, but alongside him Michael Arbeeny abuses his kit in a hard hitting display while Jimi Kennedy‘s bass thunders and Ged Ryland‘s keys are magical (appoligies on the drunken praise I attempted to shower upon you last night Ged). Chris Green provides the guitar for Tyketto stepping in for Brooke St. James and he simply blisters, as Vaughn said “there are a lot of great guitarists on this ship, but I’m not worried, I have Chris Green.” and rightly so. I extend my appolgies to those within earshot of my tone deaf singing, but I just can’t help it as Tyketto draws me in once again. Again my eyes were moist (dammit…what the hell is wrong with me?), definitely not sadness, however, they must be tears of joy like a religious experience! Danny Vaughn even thanked a cruiser who earlier had approached him saying “I can’t wait for Tyketto to play because you guys make me happy”….ahhh someone who gets it! Oh how I wish that Tyketto sold t-shirts! Last year I bought the DVD, but I need to support these guys as much as I can, hell I’d probably buy ladies panties if they sold them (that’s buy not wear!)! Time to man up, better go get a lite beer and kill a small animal (I’m not a hunter by any means, but it’s the manly stereotype)! Here’s Tyketto at the pre-party doing “Forever Young”
Milling about the pool deck drinking (what a surprise) I ran into a guy and his wife from Alberta (I think). He had read my MORC blogs of years past and actually thanked me for them! He told me he wants to write a blog on how helpful my blogs were to him in this, his first MORC experience. Careful sir I may just take you up on that! He must have been drunk…lol!
With Lita Ford actually not being on the boat the rumors were proved true and in her allotted time on the pool stage from 8:45-9:45 Derek St. Holmes stepped in to save the day and save the day he sure did! This would not be an artist that would normally be on my radar originally anyway and I only happened to catch this set after getting caught in the party mode on the pool deck. There was quite a large group of us in this boat (pun inteneded) and Derek St. Holmes delivered a great soundtrack to that party featuring some all-star guest musicians and a whole host of Ted Nugent classics. For those unfamiliar, St. Holmes was the vocalist and rhythym guitar player appearing on Nugent‘s first three solo studio albums. Among other things St. Holmes also teamed up with Aerosmith‘s Brad Whitford for the 1981 released album Whitford/St. Holmes and some of this material was also represented in this sizzling electric and engaging set. It’s because of this surprising set that he’s now on my radar when he’ll be stopping at The Rockpile in Toronto in late May. Thanks to for the awesome evening Derek St. Holmes and friends and be sure to check out Brian Ronald’s photo gallery from the event here: Derek St. Holmes by Brian Ronald
Heading down to the Pantheon Theater with the full intentions of catching at least a portion of Europe‘s set, I discovered that the entry line was beyond huge and therefore abandoned this plan. It was only to be a portion of the show for me anyway as there would be no way I’d be missing Keel on the pool stage! This was the one performance that I suspected might just finally knock Tyketto out of the race for “Best of the Boat”. I have no notes from this show in my phone (let’s just say that it didn’t save correctly and not that I had indulged too much to actually take notes, or maybe I was just rocking out too much to bother). What I do know and can guarantee is that Keel kicked ass once again (I have some videos to prove this statement, coming soon to Decibel Geek YouTube Channel) and that I was probably singing along with what I actually think the words might be, nailing it perfectly on the choruses though I’m sure! Keel are the band that I can thank for introducing me to the Monsters Of Rock Cruise (I found out about this rollicking adventure via the Keel website back in 2012 for the inaugural voyage) and also for providing me with the experience of a lifetime just prior to 2013’s excursion on the high seas, read about that little adventure here: The Meister’s Right To Rock With Keel
At the completion of Keel I wandered into the Black & White Lounge intent on catching some Babylon A.D. Unfortunately, with the stage in here being only about a foot, ok maybe two off the floor, a short guy like me is screwed for a sightline if you’re more than two people back, which I was with this set already under way. I listened to “Bad Blood”, “So Savage The Heart” and “Maryanne” as noted in my phone, but from there it gets fuzzy although I believe I remained for the entire set. I had recently seen Babylon A.D. at Firefest Festival in the UK back in October and they were definitely in my plans for the early portion of the day tomorrow.
The last notes I have in my phone are as follows: Ron, Eat, Sleep, so I can only assume I spoke to Ron Keel and then ate more not good for my fat gut carb heavy food before retiring for the night.
PHOTO CREDIT: Brian Ronald 2015