Monsters of Rock Cruise Pre-party – Miami, Fl – 3/1/2024

This was far from a normal pre-party day for me as I decided to take the scenic route to get to Miami, and sadly it really wasn’t very scenic, just a lot of highway that pretty much looked the same…I started my journey to Florida at about 3 am the previous morning and flew into Orlando where I very thankful for Budget Rental car’s fast break counter after some deicing delays in my home of Pittsburgh.

My journey continued to Cocoa Beach where I visited one of my closest friends who met her partner on the 2020 cruise and subsequently moved to Florida.  After our lunch, I continued on to Daytona where I enjoyed a stay on the very blustery beach before seeing Vandenberg and Geoff Tate at the Peabody Amphitheater.

We’d already caught Vandenberg just weeks prior, headlining a show in Cincinnati at The Ludlow Garage and saw Geoff Tate at Jergels back in September, but we couldn’t resist the opportunity to catch at least one show on this double-headlining tour. Such a shame that the majority of the dates accessible to us had clashed with our cruise. Vandenberg continues on in the Netherlands in support of their latest album SIN and Geoff Tate continues on throughout the states and on to Europe later this year.

Naturally, being in Daytona left me a good four-hour drive from Miami (that was more like 5 or 6 with traffic) and it was a long day of travel before finally being able to drop my car and my bags and head to the pre-party at Magic City Casino in Miami, Florida.

I had requested the early shift at the door and assisted with scanning tickets and greeting and wrist banding the many cruiser guests who were pouring into the party while DJ Will was warming up the growing crowd with some era appropriate metal jams in anticipation of Ted Poley’s band who would kick-off the event at the main stage and I arrived with just minutes to spare before that shift.

We’d just caught up with Ted and drummer Ben Hans for an acoustic performance a few weeks prior and were really excited to see this show as he has now joined forces for Ohio-bred guitarist Neil Zaza who we last saw on the road with the Nelson brothers at Picktown Palooza in Columbus, Ohio. We were pleasantly surprised by the background vocals added by Theresa Marie and the addition of Tyson Leslie on keyboards (but he wasn’t able to make this initial performance due to travel issues).  Ted’s band also included longtime drummer and friend Paul Del Boccio and bass player Marc Dube, who was with Ted on the last cruise as well.

In related news Ted Poley has postponed a few shows billed with TNT’s Tony Harnell in Thomasville, Stroudsburg and Providence due to health issues. Both artists have been advised not to perform and we wish them well as they rest and recover.  We point you to their social media for specifics, but as it has been addressed publicly we will comment that Ted Poley is still undergoing treatments for “a 2.2 cm kidney stone” and Tony Harnell is resting up from “vocal chord stress due to singing extensively following a bronchial infection.”

While I did miss a few songs waiting for my shift to end and chatting with cruise family that I hadn’t seen since the last April as I made my way to the stage, it was still perfect timing as Ted was on one of his regular crowd visits singing and hugging and greeting fans with microphone in hand.  I was thrilled to capture those magical moments and even grabbed a hug for myself.  And this was just the beginning of a magical night at the casino with our Monsters of Rock Cruise family.

The fun continued with Jason Bieler and Jeff Scott Soto’s acoustic performance upstairs in the stands, which we are told also featured a guest appearance from bassist Sean McNabb (but it was hard to make out more than the number of strings on his instrument given that there was no lighting on the stage).  But despite the lack of spotlight, the band played on and the jokes rolled off their tongues as always, and we waited patiently and then did a bit of yelling to capture a photo of the dynamic duo (we knew they’d thank us later). The duo can be found performing a few select dates together this spring, as Jason is joining forces with his Saigon Kick bandmates once again (we hope it lasts) and Jeff is hitting the road with Art of Anarchy.

Back on the main stage, the evening continued with the loudest band of the evening, Rhino Bucket, which brought KIX guitarist Brian Forsythe on board, much to the delight of the many KIX fans who are still mourning the band’s retirement.

And, as we continued to greet our long lost friends, enjoy the food truck fare (well as much as you can enjoy a dry chicken sandwich that took 30 minutes to procure), and take as many photos as possible, we knew there was a surprise coming for us. And as expected that surprise was worth waiting for. Hardcore Superstar took the stage with the energy we’ve come to expect from the Swedish fan favorites.

Their appearance at the pre-party and on the cruise was foreshadowed by a huge grassroots campaign of requests from the self-titled “Loud Minority” who literally begged to bring these guys on board again.  With the recently announced permanent departure of drummer Adde Moon, they had a fill-in replacement behind the kit, but their line-up remained consistent with frontman Jocke Berg, guitarist Vic Zino, and bass player Martin Sandvik.

I found a place in the crowd with a good enough vantage point to capture some shots and enjoy the surge of energy that a Hardcore Superstar performance brings, but soon found myself wavering by the time Y&T took the stage to close the evening off strong.

Luckily there are many great vantage points in the stands, and I found one overlooking the crowd to take in the enormity of our kick-off crowd before calling it a night and retreating to my hotel for what would be the best night sleep I’d have all week … follow my full cruise coverage at @ThePureRockShop to learn why.  In the meantime, you can check out our coverage from last April’s Monsters of Rock Cruise out of Port Canaveral here and watch our video recap with Paralandra’s Casandra Carson who stowed away and made a few guest appearances with Jeff Scott Soto and Heaven’s Edge on the boat!

Day 1 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 3/23/2024.  All event photos are property of photographer Kara Uhrlen and The Pure Rock Shop.