Ready to perform my absolute best cattle impersonations we arrived at the Port of Miami a little earlier than we were supposed to for boarding The Monsters Of Rock Cruise, but when have I ever followed the rules? To my great surprise there were hardly any lineups at all and we were rather quickly ushered into the terminal, through customs and then into a mild cattle line as we waited to check in, receive our key cards and so forth. I must admit I jumped a little when I saw the impeccably dressed gentleman in the Decibel Geek t-shirt. My fully outstretched hand leading to my pointing finger caught Decibel Geek staff writer Derik Novak‘s attention and we shook hands. After more than two years of chatting over Facebook, it was great to finally meet my fellow Decibel Geek in person. We waited together for our respective group numbers to be called for boarding, chatting about Decibel Geek and music in general while a couple of random folks requested photos of my sleeve tattoo. Once aboard the ship my cabin was not yet prepared so it was up to the pool deck, luggage and all (although I do travel fairly light in general) and joining a table already procured by my Toronto crew. It did not take me long to secure my drink package (go for the gusto of 72 drinks for the 3.5 days aboard, that should be plenty!) and it was instantly a relaxed heaven sort of feeling sitting there in the warm Miami air looking out at the water surrounded by friends all filled with the same excited anticipation of what we were about to experience. There were also many, many greetings from friends located around the globe that I only see aboard our yearly cruise as well as members of the Canadian group that I started last year, The EH Team.
Before too long the concerts began and for my first event aboard the luxurious MSC Divina I checked out Zebra, a band that I was not too familiar with. I’ve tried to listen to some of their music, but I just can’t catch their buzz at all. The live experience was not much different for me. I just find the material average at best and the stage presence severely lacking, but I have a few friends that sing the praises of Zebra, so maybe it’s just me. Back up to the pool stage for drinks and to get ready for Tesla‘s sail away concert, that I probably won’t be watching anyway. Don’t get me wrong I like Tesla and they sound just like their albums when they play live, but it’s a bit of an overdose having them always do the sail away all four years now and this one was listed as Simplicity At Sea which leads me to believe that they would be doing their Simplicity album in its entirety. In my humble opinion, this release has no life to it and is the absolute worst album in their catalog. However, none of this mattered as the pool stage had not yet been erected! The first time in the four-year history of The Monsters of Rock Cruise that this has been a problem and with no apparent action any time soon Tesla and our departure from port were delayed. So far, the concerts of MORC 2015 were turning into a bit of a bust!
Leatherwolf was about to save the day however. I headed down to the Black & White Lounge early enough to secure myself a position at stage front. With the stage being about a foot above the floor in that lounge, a short guy like me if you’re three people back you can see only the tops of their heads and that’s if you’re lucky! They were a half hour late starting, presumably held back due to the delays above, but once they began they wasted no time in fully abusing the audience. Leatherwolf brought the thunder hard and heavy in this truly amazing set that had the volume cranked way past 11 (my ears may actually have been bleeding afterward…who needs ear plugs?). I chuckled during one short break between songs when someone behind me in the crowd yelled out: “Yeah! Fuck Tesla!”, couldn’t agree more sir! The Leatherwolf setlist included “Spiter”, “Thunder”, “Street Ready”, “The Calling”, “Gypsies & Thieves” and “Derailed” among others.
Finding myself back up on the pool deck I was warmly greeted by my friend Dwain Miller (Keel drummer) as I walked by. Great to see him again and so looking forward to the Keel sets over the next couple of days. Finding myself with more idle time than in past years due to my “relax” goal this cruise it was refreshing to not be running from end to end to catch a show and allowing me more time to socialise.
Black Star Riders were a little late getting going on the pool stage, as to be expected given the earlier issues. Drinking and socialising with friends new and old was such a great time, this is something that I never allowed myself to do as much in the past and when Black Star Riders came on we had a sizeable group collected near the back of the crowd. Ricky Warwick has a great, powerful voice and I’ve been a fan of his since discovering The Almighty way back in 1991, a band that still sits high on my all-time list. Black Star Riders were tight along with Ricky as it should be considering the musicians forming this “supergroup” such as Scott Gorham (Thin Lizzy), Damon Johnson (Brother Cane), Robbie Crane (Ratt) and Jimmy DeGrasso (Y&T). Black Star Riders were burning it up with energy during this awesome set that was the final nail in the coffin of losing my voice. Check out Brian Ronald‘s photo gallery of Black Star Riders MORC 2015 and watch for concert videos coming soon to Decibel Geek’s YouTube Chanel.
From there the party continued, some folks heading off to another show and some different folks joining. My friend even bought the MORC bass guitar that was for sale at the merch booth! Very cool sir! These couple hours of the evening are quite fuzzy in the ole memory banks, but I assure you that a good time was had! At some point I recall passing by the pool stage, probably after stuffing my face with more carbohydrate laden late night munchies in the buffet, during Honeymoon Suite‘s set and pausing for a couple of songs.
My next show of the day and actually the final event aboard the MSC Divina for this Saturday April 18, 2015 unless you consider late night drinking an event, was Y&T. Another group that sits comfortably in my top fave bands of all time, Dave Meniketti‘s voice has not lost its edge, neither has his guitar playing for that matter! Y&T are a marvel to witness live and I’ve had the pleasure of doing so on several occasions now, including on my birthday in Toronto last year! They use no backing tracks whatsoever as Dave has admitted in concert on several occasions, they are 100% all live creating a much more organic listening experience for the audience I think. Classics like “Black Tiger”, “Meanstreak”, “Don’t Stop Running” and “Lucy” graced the setlist and I thought to myself “After 40 years in the business Dave Meniketti deserves the honor of the sail away concert instead of Tesla. Fuck Tesla, the theme of the day apparently!” Brian‘s photos and Meister‘s videos both coming soon.
Time for sleeping now……well maybe just a nightcap and stroll around the top deck to see if I can find more trouble to get into. Even with all the drinks tonight I haven’t met my drinking quota today (although I’m not complaining at all to those that were kind enough to extend me a beverage or two), lots to catch up on tomorrow.
PHOTO CREDIT: Brian Ronald 2015