How do you sum up, or put into words, THE most unforgetable experience of your life? Well, I am going to do my best to do just that for you. I was a part of the 2nd ever Monsters Of Rock Cruise, dubbed The Lost Weekend. It was the first cruise of any kind for me and it turned out to be all that I imagned and more.
Official Pre-Party @ Exit 66 in Ft. Lauderdale - 3/15/13
Rewind a little bit to Friday, March 15th, the day before the cruise. My friend Lynn and I flew into Ft. Lauderdale the night before and I was more than ready by the time the evening rolled around.
I met up with Hair Metal Mansion staff reporters Jamie and Dayyami for the very first time in person and we were off to Exit 66 for the official cruise pre-party. We got there and there was already quite the long line wrapped around the outside of the venue, waiting to get in.
As we were talking with others and waiting, guess who pulled up and got out of a taxi.. none other than the lovely Lorraine Lewis of Femme Fatale! No surprise that everyone gathered around her. She couldn't have been any nicer or sweeter, it was awesome to meet her and what a way to get the night started!
After a little while, Enuff Z'Nuff kicked off the festivities inside on stage with "Heaven Or Hell" and played more of their staples like "Baby Loves You", "Love Train", "Fly High Michelle" and "New Thing" being among the highlights. They also included a cover of The Beatles classic, "Come Together". After running into a number of good friends for the first time in person, we were all anticipating the next act to hit the stage.... JSRG!
Featuring reunited Vixen members Janet Gardner, Share Ross, Roxy Petrucci and Gina Style. I was excited to see the Vixen girls live for the first time and they did not disappoint. Sounding top notch and looking just as good as ever, you could tell they were having a blast being up on stage, playing together again. The majority of their set was made up of tracks from the first two major-label Vixen albums, including "Rev It Up", "How Much Love", "Love Made Me", "I Want You To Rock Me", "Love is a Killer", "Bad Reputation", "Cryin" and of course "Edge of a Broken Heart", among others. They had some surprises like a cover of Sammy Hagar's "Mas Tequila" and a little medley of "Pour Some Sugar On Me" and "I Love Rock N Roll". Share Ross got up front for the lead vocal duties on a cover of Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World".
~JSRG courtesy of Dayyami~
Everyone in the crowd had fun, as did the band, even breaking out the beach balls where they would toss em into the crowd and people would throw them right back on stage. One of the balls Janet kicked was about an inch away from my face, but I still love ya Janet! Also we noticed the cast of Ex-Wives of Rock on a balcony up above the stage waving down at the crowd and watching the show. It was a fun night and a taste of the craziness that was to come!
Saturday, March 16th - Monsters Of Rock Cruise Day 1
~TESLA courtesy of Melanie~
I'll fast forward past the long process of boarding the boat - going through all the lines, waiting, going through another line, and more waiting and get to the good stuff. When we finally got on board, we made our way to our cabin and had to wait for the safety meeting, but after that, it was ON! The 2013 edition of the Monsters of Rock Cruise officially kicked off with the Tesla performing on the pool deck, as we started to sail away! All my prior worries about being on a cruise and getting seasick were totally gone as I was immediately into the rock n roll heaven that was MOR.
~TERRY ILOUS OF XYZ/GREAT WHITE and I~
I really wanted to catch XYZ live and in person for the first time, so that's what we did. we made our way down to Bar di Poeti and were treated to an acoustic set of some favorite XYZ staples like "Face Down in the Gutter", "Come On N Love Me", "Souvenirs" and "Inside Out". As I mentioned on the radio show, for me, Terry Ilous has one of those powerful unique voices that could sing a phone book and keep you interested. I've seen him with Great White a couple times prior to the cruise and I'm glad I was able to catch him singing with XYZ. Talked with Terry a bit afterwards and he said they were having some technical issues where they couldn't even hear themselves, but from where I was sitting, we heard them just fine and he sounded great as always. A stripped down acoustic set like that was a cool start to the party, but by that time I was ready for a full out rock show and of course, I couldn't miss KIX! Lynn wanted to stay back and catch the first Russ Dwarf set.
Kix were set to play Carlo Felice, which was the main theater of the ship and I made it there plenty early, running into my friend Tammy, we went in together ready to rock. It was a really nice place with seats on two levels, but also plenty of room for people who wanted to rock out in front of the stage. Kix have been at the top of my "must see" list ever since I've been into this music and I'd always hear all the time how they would always steal the show at all the festivals... they definitely did not dissapoint and really blew me away!
The energy from frontman Steve Whiteman and all the members is really unmatched and it continued from the beginning of their set til the end. Steve is also one of the funniest frontmen out there too, keeping the crowd laughing and you can tell he's having just as much fun as we were. "No Ring Around Rosie", "Cold Shower", "Lie Like a Rug", "Sex", "Cold Blood", "Girl Money", "Don't Close Your Eyes", "Blow My Fuse", "Midnite Dynamite", among others, were all covered and I enjoyed every minute of it! Afterwards, I remember running into the rock goddess from KNAC.com, Diana Deville, and she was with Wendy Dio, the widow of the late great Ronnie James Dio. Meeting her was an honor. Went back to the Bar di Poeti to find Lynn and she said she really enjoyed Russ Dwarf's set and I told her I needed to catch his other set in a couple days and I did just that. More on that to come.
But while we were hangin' around there, Ron Keel was setting up for his acoustic performance and that's where I got to meet him for the first time. We have talked online before, supporting each other's radio shows and I gotta say, out of all the rockstars I met on the ship, there was no one cooler and more appreciative than Ron Keel. To hear that I of all people, am an inspiration to HIM in radio, wow, just couldn't get any cooler than that. Very humbling. I knew he would be playing with Keel another time, so after talking with him for a little bit, Lynn and I ran back up to the Pool deck and watched Y&T from above.
~Y&T courtesy of Dayyami~
Perfect view and as expected, Y&T sounded amazing. They are one of the bands that you know will never disappoint, Dave Meniketti is one of the most talented all around artists out there, doing the vocals and lead guitar work. We caught part of their set, I remember getting there for "Midnight In Tokyo", "Contagious" and a few others. The crazy part about the cruise thing was having to run around to different parts of the ship, because of overlapping sets. So after watching some of Y&T, I headed back down to the main theater (Carlo Felice) and watched the 80s rock queen, Lita Ford on stage for the first time... what a way to top the night off and it was only night one! Lita looked good in her tight red leather outfit and I remember rockin' out to a good mix of classics and new stuff - "Gotta Let Go", "Back to the Cave", "Falling In and Out of Love","Devil In My Head", and "Living Like a Runaway", just some examples. The highlight was when Ron Keel surprising joined her on stage for a duet of the big hit ballad, "Close My Eyes Forever".
Sunday, March 17th - Monsters of Rock Cruise Day 2
The first full day of the cruise and we spent the whole day at sea! The first show I caught was Femme Fatale at noon on the Pool stage. Of course I couldn't miss Femme Fatale, led by Lorraine Lewis! Femme Fatale now features an all-girl lineup... Lorraine recruited guitarists Courtney Cox & Nita Strauss (both of The Iron Maidens), along with bassist Janice Tanaka and drummer Rachel Rine. With Lorraine sounding real good, the girls tore through a set of songs from that Femme Fatale debut from '88, highlighted by MTV singles "Waiting for the Big One and "Falling In and Out of Love".
For the last few songs, Athena (Tommy Lee's sister) sat in on drums and did a fantastic job. The Femme Fatale girls were some of the coolest and most fun to be around on the ship. The set ended with a stage dive from Lorraine... yes, a stage dive into the crowd! She said that was a first for her.
A good portion of my time was spent walking around and hanging with so many great friends, that's really what the best part of the trip for me was.
Somewhere along the way I ran into Harlan Hendrickson, who is one of the guys behind the cruise and the host of the Monsters Of Rock Radio Show. I met him briefly at the pre-party, but this time we got to talk a little more and he confirmed that Tom Keifer did not make the trip, but there would be a cool jam featuring the other Cinderella guys and members of other bands the next day. More on that to come.
I remember catching part of the Dangerous Toys set on the Pool stage, and then I would have like to have seen Tesla's acoustic performance in the main theater, but the next Meet & Greets started at 2:30 and I wanted to be up there for that a bit early and I'm glad I did! It turned out to be very cool and a peek behind the scenes of what it was like with all the media people before everyone else came in to meet the artists.
Big shout out to the crew at Rockin 101, an FM station in MN, who have been supporting of HMM for so long and it was great getting to meet Morgan, Izzy, Larry and Shannon. Scheduled for that time around was Saxon, Lita Ford, JSRG (photo still to come), Femme Fatale, Helix and John Corabi. Got the chance to talk with Lita for a couple minutes before the meet and greet started and she was very friendly. Made the rounds to be in the official meet and greet pics with the bands on the couches. After that, I went down to the main theater (Carlo Felice) for a special acoustic collaboration between Stryper's Michael Sweet and original TNT singer, Tony Harnell. What a treat that was, two amazing singers that sound better than ever, covering rock classics from the likes of Queen, Zeppelin, Boston and Nazareth.
Black N' Blue was up next on the pool stage and wow, did they ever deliver! Was really looking forward to seeing them and they did not disappoint. One of the bands that doesn't really tour at all these days, so that's why MOR is so special, bringin' these bands back! These days Black N' Blue consists of 4/5 of the classic lineup - Jaime St. James, Jeff Warner, Patrick Young & Pete Holmes, along with Shawn Sonnenchein who fits in perfect as the replacement for Tommy Thayer, who has been doing well in another gig called KISS. I loved every moment of the set and the rest of the crowd did too, playing all the BnB favorites like "School of Hard Knocks", "Autoblast", "Stop the Lightning", "Without Love", the big ballads "Miss Mystery" & "I'll Be There For You", "We Got the Fire", "Nasty Nasty" and of course the breakthrough MTV anthem, "Hold On To 18". Jaime St. James is a great frontman and you would never know they don't play together a whole lot these days, fantastic performance. Too bad one of Black N' Blue's guitars went missing, I mean who would do something like that and how the hell did they get off the boat with it? What a shame.
~KEEL and I~
~Y&T and I~
All that sounds like a complete day right there huh? Well it was only around 5:00pm by then! We probably got a quick bite to eat in the FABULOUS (lol) cafeteria. Then it was time for the next Meet & Greet already. I eventually got to make the rounds and meet everyone; Tesla, Kix, Keel, Alcatrazz, Y&T and Stryper. But when I first got there, I was informed by April that they were short staffed on the photographers to shoot the bands with the fans, so I had to step in and took a few of Tesla with the fans before the other photographer took it from there. Tesla singer Jeff Keith had his little boy Joe Bob there sitting on the couch in the band photos. You could tell what a down to earth family guy Jeff is. Tesla guitarist Dave Rude wasn't there and still am not sure why he was not on the cruise.
Went back down to the pool stage and I remember running into Courtney Cox from Femme Fatale. Courtney is a helluva guitar player and we're the same age (23). Always cool meeting someone around my age that lives for this music like I do. Took off with her to the pool stage cause she was very excited to see Saxon play! Having heavy metal legends like them on board was great.
To be able to catch the entire Queensryche set in the main theater, I left early to be there for that and wow, amazing performance! New singer Todd La Torre left everyone impressed with his vocal ability, even Lynn, who was skeptical, even admitted he has the pipes! They blew everyone away and I honestly didn't hear a negative comment from anyone about it. It looks like Queensryche has found the right guy for sure, playing a set of the old-school material that everyone loved 'em for in the first place.
~FRANK HANNON courtesy of Jamie Leigh Hunt~
Later on, I remember rockin' out to part of the Loudness performance on the Pool stage and then running to catch the last part of Tesla guitarist Frank Hannon's Party Ninja's All Star Jam in the Zebra lounge where Ron Keel joined 'em doing some Zeppelin, correct me if I am wrong on that, trying my best to remember every little detail for you guys. The night was capped off by rockin' with Y&T again, this time in the main theater and then going up to the pool stage one more time for the Vixen girls in JSRG! Couldn't see them enough and it was a perfect way to close off the night.
Monday, March 18th - Monsters Of Rock Cruise Day 3
Day three of the ultimate rock n' roll vacation, was another first for me... the first time I stepped foot on land out of the country! Nothing was going on around the boat til later that evening, so Lynn and I spent a little time on the beach of CocoCay. It was the perfect day for it, beautiful weather and the hot sun (which I paid for later, lol), but Great White played a very special, stripped down acoustic set right there on the beach! Can't get any better than that, it was truly rock n roll paradise. Acoustic versions of classics like "House of Broken Love", "Once Bitten Twice Shy", "Save Your Love and also their newest single, "Hard to Say Goodbye".
~EDDIE TRUNK courtesy of Melanie~
The first thing happening when we got back on the boat was the performance dubbed, "Cinderella & Friends". With Tom Keifer not making it on board, no one knew what to expect from it. Even though it was a bummer not to have Tom on there, it provided the opportunity for a once in a lifetime jam session. The other three Cinderella guys; Jeff LaBar, Eric Brittingham and Fred Coury were joined by a bunch of guests from other bands. They played a mix of Cinderella songs and a lot of cool covers as well. Opening with "Gypsy Road" with Jacob Bunton from Adler on lead vocals. Yep Jacob was on the boat with us! Adler for MORC 2014 anyone? Jeff Keith from Tesla doin' "Highway to Hell", Spike from the Quireboys doing a few tunes including a great take on the Stones classic, "You Can't Always Get What You Want". Other guests throughout the set included Jason McMaster from Dangerous Toys, John Corabi, Ron Keel, Taime Downe from Faster Pussycat and a surprise appearance by Britny Fox/Doro drummer, Johnny Dee. Only on MOR could we see an all-star jam like that! It was great to see the artists coming together for a rare performance like that for the fans.
To cool down a little bit, I left the pool stage and caught a little bit of Nelson's set in the main theater, they sounded good. People were excited to see drummer Bobby Rock back in the fold, as well as Joel Hoekstra from Night Ranger who was on guitar for the performance. After a little of that, I ran to the other side of the boat to see Femme Fatale again.... yep, again! You know by now how much I love the girls who can ROCK and they most certainly did...from what I seen, the Pigalle wasn't the best place to catch a show, due to there being no stage it was ground level with everyone else and once you had people up there, good luck in seeing the band at all, lol, but I found a nice spot to the side.
I remember watching some of Stryper on the pool stage, and they sounded phenomenal. Michael Sweet's voice never ages and I've always thought that Oz Fox is one of the most underrated guitarists from that era. I would see more of their set at their 2nd performance the following day.
A helluva night was still ahead - Lynn and I caught all of Faster Pussycat's set with an overhead view on the pool stage - what a party Taimie and the boys always bring! The crowd loved every second of it and we did too. Never get tired of P-p-pussycat! From there I caught some of the Dio Disciples in the main theater. What a top-notch tribute to the legacy of the legendary Ronnie James Dio, with a set made up of tracks from his career with Rainbow, Sabbath and of course Dio. Unfortunately Tim "Ripper" Owens couldn't make the trip, but Mark Boals sounded amazing on "Rainbow in the Dark" and others. While Oni Logan (Lynch Mob) did a great job on vocal duties as well. The rest was rounded out by guitarist Craig Goldy, bassist Bjorn Englen, keyboardist Scott Warren and Simon Wright on the drums. I found out later that the Dio Disciples raised $16,000 on the cruise for Ronnie James Dio's Stand Up & Shout Cancer Fund. Amazing.
We also couldn't be on this cruise and NOT catch Canada's own, Helix! So we did just that over in the Pigalle lounge. Even though the space was confined, Brian Vollmer and the band sounded great and it was awesome to hear those Helix favorites live for the first time. They put on quite a long set, with some of the highlights being "Gimme Gimme Your Good Lovin", "Good to the Last Drop", "Deep Cuts the Knife", "Heavy Metal Love", "Wild in the Streets" and of course "ROCK You", among others. Next up was Queensryche on the pool stage - another killer set, they mixed in a couple different ones that they didn't play the first time around and Lynn got to hear her favorites like "Walk in the Shadows" and "Jet City Woman".
While the night was over for Lynn, it wasn't for me! Keel had a late scheduled for the main theater and that's where I was. As the common saying on the ship went, "I'll Sleep When I'm Dead"! Ron is a great frontman and one of the hardest working guys in rock n' roll. He really commands the stage and appreciates the fans like no other, as do all of the band. Keel was great, with a mix of classics and new material as well; "I Said the Wrong Thing to the Right Girl", "Somebody's Waiting", "Speed Demon", "Because the Night", "Rock N Roll Outlaw", "Tears of Fire", "Looking for a Good Time", "Push and Pull", "The Right to Rock" and the title track to the latest Keel album (as well as the name of Ron's radio show), "Streets of Rock & Roll".
Tuesday, March 19th - Monsters of Rock Cruise Day 4
The 4th and final day of the cruise was kicked off with Captain Jack's Shotgun Wedding on the pool deck. My friend Susan and her husband Nick renewed their vows and what better place for a rocker couple to do so, than on the ultimate rock n roll vacation!
We were stopped in Nassau for the day, but decided to hang around on the ship this time. The day really got started around 4:30 when Saxon took the stage in the main theater. But I stayed up on the pool deck for another performance from Kix! As I said this band was on the top of my "must see" list and I wanted to see them as much as possible. They put on another crazy, energetic set and even threw in a couple different tunes that they didn't play the first time, such as "Same Jane".
~FASTER PUSSYCAT and I~
~DANGEROUS TOYS and I~
~Original TNT singer TONY HARNELL and I~
I then made my way up for the final meet and greet, it featured Dangerous Toys, Black N' Blue, Queensryche, Faster Pussycat, The Quireboys and Tony Harnell. Getting to hang with Queensryche a bit before the whole thing started was great and ex-TNT singer Tony Harnell was very cool as well. I told him what an amazingly cool performance it was with him and Stryper. He brought up TNT and I asked him if it was weird or awkward to be on here with your former band an their new singer. He said not at all and they actually had dinner together the other night. So good to know there's not any bad blood there. Next up on the schedule was "Cheap Thrills" and I had no idea who that was at the time, so I skipped it. But it wasn't til after the cruise that I realized it was an artist named Brandon Gibbs joined by Cinderella members! Well damn! If I would have known it was the Cinderella guys, I would have been there for sure.
I went to the main theater to catch Stryper's set, as I walked in they just started playing "To Hell With the Devil" and sounded phenomenal. Another thing I missed out on was the surprise proposal on stage during the Stryper set. Rock photographer Gunner Kal proposed to his girlfriend Holly and I can imagine what an amazing moment that was, and then that led the band into playing the ballad "Honestly". If I knew that was going to happen, I would have stuck around for sure. Still, congrats to Gunner and Holly! Music really does bring people together.
I had to catch the queen Lita Ford one more time and that's what I did up on the Pool stage. After that we went down to the Pigalle lounge and caught Russ Dwarf's set with Lynn. She raved about the first one so I had to catch it this time. Russ sounded really good, with a stripped down set of Killer Dwarfs favorites like "Keep the Spirit Alive", "Dirty Weapons", "Doesn't Matter", "Stand Tall", "Driftin Back" and a song called "Miles", the title track from the Hardroad project he did a couple years ago. Russ still sounds good after all these years and as he said, next time he wants to bring a full band and rock out cause he was tired of sitting down! But it was a really enjoyable set and he was very entertaining, making jokes and interacting with the crowd. It was cool meeting him afterwards and Lynn bought a copy of his new solo record "Wireless".
~GREAT WHITE courtesy of Jamie Miller~
Great White was up next and wow, what an amazing thing it turned out to be. For "Save Your Love", they were joined on stage by Linda Fisher, who is from Rhode Island and is a suvivor of that tragic station fire years ago. Her duet with Terry was very touching and beautiful. It was really something great to see, and was very emotional for the band on stage and the crowd as well, looking around seeing people brought to tears. Linda sounded great and everyone loved it. Rockin' alongside good friends like Jennifer, Roxann and Lyle to classics like "Mista Bone", "Can't Shake It", "Rock Me" and another big highlight was when Y&T's Dave Meniketti and Ted Poley from Danger Danger for "Once Bitten Twice Shy"! What a memorable performance and the perfect way to top it off. Again, only on MOR baby!
To close off my cruise experience, was Dangerous Toys on the pool deck! I hadn't seen them yet and I'm glad that I did. Led by Jason McMaster, they treated the audience to a high engergy, ass kickin set, with songs like "Outlaw", "Queen of the Nile", "Bones In the Gutter", "Gimme No Lip", "Sportin' a Woody", "Line Em Up and of course their MTV hits "Teas'n Pleas'n" and "Scared". I enjoyed taking in the performance with some cool rocker girls from New Jersey - Lisa and Gina. After that I hung out for a while making the rounds to say goodbye to a number of great friends. What made the cruise experience so special for me was walking around and seeing so many familiar faces, meeting so many good friends for the first time and sharing the whole experience with them. It's something I will always remember. For 5 days (including the pre-party) the Monsters Of Rock was the epicenter of the 80's rock world and I am forever grateful to have been a part of it.
- Seeing artists in the crowd watching other bands was very cool. Cool to realize they are fans of the music too and were there to support one another.
- Other artists I got to talk with around the ship; Great White's Scott Snider & Michael Lardie, Scott LaFlamme of Bang Tango, XYZ's Pat Fontaine, Rhino Bucket's Georg Dolivo, Enuff Z'Nuff guitarist Tory Stoffregen.
OTHER PHOTOS/WITH FRIENDS
Great review Andrew! Really enjoyed it...felt like I was there. Maybe next year.
I read this whole review. Great. The Russ Dwarf album is good. I downloaded it onto my phone through Google Play, and have listened to it a few times while working.
It brings back memories with songs like Drifting Back and Doesn't Matter. GREAT!
Thanks for the review.
Loved reading your take on the cruise Andrew! Sounds like you had a great time! We'll try for next year!
Fantastic review Andrew, thanks for sharing.
Sounds like a blast...well, except for the boat part and all LOL!
Awesome review Andrew!! Makes me wish I would have went even more now :) Love all the pictures & seeing so many friends rocking out having a great time together! Your so lucky you got to meet Tony Harnell... such a top notch vocalist & great guy!! Glad you had fun....
Looks like you had a great time! Maybe next year i will get to go and partake!!!
A journey through the glorious 80's!!!