Monsters of Rock Cruise – Day 2 at Sea – 3/3/2024

Ok, so we admittedly stayed up way too late on the first night and like most were happy to ease into day two with the Bloody Mary Hangover Jam in Studio B.  This is such a cool concept as people will do most anything to get “free shit” and while the show begins with just Joel Hoekstra and an acoustic guitar, it always ends with a stage full of special guests rocking out to Whitesnake.  This morning was no exception, as Joel was joined by Brandon Gibbs, as well as Y&T’s Mike Vanderhule and Aaron Leigh

Joel Hoekstra can be found on the road with Brandon Gibbs (who also performed with him in the Star Lounge on the cruise) with a regional show at MVP in Cincinnati coming up on April 13.  He also joins VK Lynne, renowned for her work with stOrk and The Spider Accomplice on her third single from new solo record , The Spider Queen. This latest release, “There is Nothing,” came out earlier this week and was written by VK Lynne as she delves deep into the realm of hard rock, featuring the Joel on lead guitar and Marco Pastorino (Serenity, Temperance) on guest vocals. 

Not partaking in the bloody mary’s themselves we needed some fuel to start the day right from the windjammer, and stopped by the pool stage to catch Kaleido where fans could be found sunning themselves in the Caribbean sunshine and enjoying the high-energy blend of rock, punk, and pop led by Christina Chriss with Joey Java on drums, Cody Morales on bass and Drew Johnston on guitar.

The band broke into the scene in 2020 and has performed on Kiss Kruise and Shipwrocked, so it was about time we had them on our cruise.  And, my local followers may recognize the band because their music has soundtracked promos for our Pittsburgh Pirates baseball team.

Captain Ted Poley followed Cooking with Rockstars in Studio B while Dangerous Toys started soundcheck on the pool stage.  I did my best to be in two places at once before getting in line like everyone else on the cruise to meet Ace Frehley for the first time and to get group photos with April Wine, Extreme and Joe Satriani.  This was by far the biggest photo experience crowd and I was a bit thankful that I wasn’t working at it.  We missed all of Y&T’s second show and even some of Treat’s show in Studio B, but we got some great photos from the amazing team that works tirelessly to make those memories happen!

While I chose to sit back and enjoy Treat, I made it a point to go to both of their shows as they are one of the best bands that many have never heard of out of Sweden.  As they celebrate 40 years, I thoroughly enjoyed singing along to favorites from their extensive catalog like “Papertiger,” “Get You on the Run,” and “World of Promises,” which is probably why my voice was already wavering at this point.

We squeezed in yet another photo experience before heading to the pool stage for what was promising to be the best show on the cruise…we had it on high authority that The Darkness featuring frontman Justin Hawkins and his brother Dan on lead guitar, Rufus Tiger Taylor on drums, and Frankie Poullain on bass were not to be missed.

However, I feel like I really have missed out on the past two decades of fun with The Darkness.  Why didn’t anyone tell me sooner! From Justin’s high jumps and headstands to Frankie’s wardrobe, we were immediately drawn in.  They sound like Queen (and how could they not, Rufus is Roger Taylor’s son), they have the energy and charisma of The Struts, and their songs are still spinning in my head, especially “Get Your Hands Off My Woman” and “Givin’ Up.”

And just when I decide to put the camera away and enjoy the show, Justin jumps on someone’s shoulders and makes his way through the crowd straight into a hot tub for an epic guitar solo. And holy shit, I was right there to capture it all.  Let me tell you, word spread fast that their second performance was not to be missed after that surprise!

This was one of the few nights where I sat down and enjoyed dinner with friends in the dining room, and as such I missed the first performance by Accept and the second performance from TUFF, which is disappointing but sometimes you do need to try to fit in a meal or two to keep going at such speed.

We were back to the pool stage to catch our friends Enuff Z’ Nuff with special guest Tyson Leslie on keyboards.  The band now consists of frontman Chip Z’ Nuff on bass and vocals, guitarists Tory Stoffregen and Jason K. Herman, and drummer Joe Corson.

They offered up a great set of Enuff Z’ Nuff classics as well as a few favorites from their Beatles album Hardrock Nite, and lots of smiles as it was a beautiful night sailing through the Caribbean.  For more on the story behind that album, I’d encourage you to check out our 2022 cruise recap with Chip here.

We then went from MORC alumni to another new addition, Ace Frehley. We heard that forty percent of the cruise guests were new to MORC and we gather that Ace had a lot to do with that as they likely migrated from the KISS Kruise. In fact, one fan, Candy Hendricks Brundage replied to our social post on the topic and noted that she is “totally hooked” and that “it’s the family I didn’t know I had or needed!” in reference to our MORC family.

Ace sailed with us hot on the heels of his highly acclaimed new album 10,000 Volts which also features Trixter’s Steve Brown who collaborated with Ace on the album including production and engineering efforts.  His touring band includes Gene Simmons solo bandmates Ryan Cook on bass and Jeremy Asbrock on guitar, and Scot Coogan (LA Guns, Lynch Mob, Stephen Pearcy) on drums and vocals.

The band really made all of the difference as Ace was late to the show and his energy was lacking to say the least, and we stuck around to watch the band to be honest as it was rare to catch even Ace lifting his head to engage with the crowd (except when he threw a glass water bottle at them, who does that?).  It is always a blast to sing along to KISS classics, and the smoking guitar is always fun to catch on camera.  But we were wavering (and a bit sea sick) given that the show started so late that host Eddie Trunk was booed off the stage when he announced more delays.  Sadly, we were told that things didn’t go much better in advance of the second show but much was out of the band’s control despite the drama online as someone broke an ankle.

There was another Ace on the boat who stowed away with his former bandmates Faster Pussycat, and that was our next stop after a quick visit to Studio B to check out British Lion. For those who aren’t familiar with British Lion, it was a project started by Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris who wanted to perform in smaller venues when not storming castles and airfields with Iron Maiden.

And if MORC isn’t an opportunity to get closer to your fans, I’m not sure what is.  Harris even gave fans and opportunity to meet ‘n greet him and have an item autographed as part of the cruise festivities which is rare as photo experiences only allow for a quick snap to ensure that everyone who wants a photo can get one before lines are cut off. Personally, I didn’t make it to that event, but I ran into Steve Harris on the pool deck and he was more than happy to take a few photos and sign a picture I’d had with him from the last time he cruised with us.

So when we surfaced on the top deck, Faster Pussycat was already underway, and as mentioned previously LA Guns guitarist Ace Von Johnson returned to his former band as there were travel documentation issues for guitarist Kieran Robertson that prohibited him from getting on this cruise.

While not as dark as previous shows, Faster Pussycat kept the atmosphere fun with fog and wind from our sailing.  This was one of two performances that we caught from the band and between the two, the highlight was their special guest performances from Paradise Kitty and Tyson Leslie which made “House of Pain” our favorite overall (crazy to think that I once joined them on stage to single along with the kitties, Brent Woods, and Don Jamison, believe it or not).

It is rare that Faster Pussycat isn’t the last stop on the itinerary, but the night was still young and the stars aligned perfectly (and perhaps intentionally) as H.E.A.T. finished their show in the Royal Theater with as Hardcore Superstar started after a brief delay.  In fact, as H.E.A.T. frontman Kenny Leckremo instructed we all ran across the boat to catch Hardcore Superstar and I actually got there in time to shoot from the one and only photo pit on the boat before the first three songs were over. So, running shoes really do come in handy for anyone thinking of bringing their stilettos, think again!

Photo pits aren’t everything as you can see from this capture of the crowd at H.E.A.T., the curve of the stage allows for some unique angles from the far corners (although I’m pretty sure I lost most of what hearing I have left capturing this and a few other crowd shots later in the week at Slaughter.)

A double shot of Swedish metal made for a fun evening, I loved hearing the “Hollywood” and “Back to the Rhythm” from H.E.A.T.’s latest release Force Majeure and we could just feel the roar of the crowd at the Hardcore Superstar show given they were pretty much demanded by the loud minority this year.  If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our interview with Kenny and Crash from H.E.A.T. in our archives.

In related news H.E.A.T. keyboardist Jona Tee has just released a New Horizon single with new vocalist Nils Molina (Dynasty) entitled “Daimyo,” with a full album to follow in June.

Related Links:

Pre-Pary Coverage here
Day 1 Coverage here
Day 3 Coverage here
Day 4 Coverage here
Day 5 Coverage here!

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So, watch for continued coverage from this month’s Monsters of Rock Cruise as well as local shows and regional shows with Alestorm, Elvenking and Glyph; Joe Satriani and Steve Vai; Firewind; and Queensryche and Armored Saint shows coming next month.  And in May, you’ll find us at the M3 Rock Festival in Baltimore.

Coverage by Editor and founder Kara Marie Uhrlen posted on 3/24/2024.  All event photos are property of photographer Kara Uhrlen and The Pure Rock Shop.