The mayhem began on Thursday, October 12th as the sea of black invaded the Avalon in Hollywood just across the street from the Capital Records tower with a pre-party featuring Armored Saint and U.F.O. exclusive to cruise guests and special guests like Metallica’s Kirk Hammett who joined U.F.O. to close out the evening with “Doctor Doctor” and “Shoot Shoot.” And the fun continued with an after party at the Rainbow Bar & Grill where a lucky winner walked away with a Megadeth guitar.
Despite official news that Dave Mustaine would not be able to join the band due to health concerns, Megadeth’s Dave Ellefson, Kiko Loureiro, and Dirk Verbeuren were on-board and accessible to a few thousand metal fans thrashing through the pacific. With morning coffee, a 5K fun run in San Diego, jam sessions, guest appearances and clinics, the band wasn’t hard to find. While disappointing that full band was not intact for the inaugural Megadeth cruise, it was promising to hear from Mustaine during the the pool stage Q&A that he’s planning to see us on the next MegaCruise. More importantly, as the post cruise crud has plagued many who attended nobody can question Dave’s decision to sit this one out and kick cancer’s ass!
Appropriately, Vic Rattlehead greeted cruisers on the pool stage in anticipation of the official sail away kickoff featuring Metalachi and later Corrosion of Conformity who played up against the first of two packed-in Anthrax performances in the theater. Beasto Blanco got up close and personal with fans in the Spinaker lounge, as did Toothgrinder later that evening, as Doro and Overkill closed out the night on the pool stage.
Curiosity always brings one to visit late-night Karaoke with Brian & Izzy and while not as well attended as the MORC events we have come to love, those who got there early enough were treated to a humorous adaptation of Faster Pussycat’s “House of Pain” featuring guitarist Ace Von Johnson on lead vocals that first evening, as well as some outstanding “Gong Show” performances later in the week.
With a long day in port in sunny San Diego there was much to do on board and off. Logging in some 20,000 steps on my Garmin, I woke up early to run with Kiko & Luc before greeting John 5 at the Spinnaker to take his photo experience pictures, and later took an Uber to the nearby San Diego Zoo. While some cruisers opted to tour the USS Midway or catch another U.F.O. show in port, there was plenty to keep busy with on the boat including Q&A’s with Doro, Anthrax, John 5, COC, and DragonForce. But, the talk of the day was when John 5’s only performance was stopped by the San Diego police who threatened to arrest our captain for the noise…
While a little instrumental bluegrass wasn’t in the cards for the pool stage, the band played on in the Bliss Karaoke lounge within the hour. John 5 and The Creatures wrote things off as a night to remember as they hammered through a medley of riffs from Queen to Van Halen to Nirvana and a little bit of Megadeth’s “Symphony of Destruction” in honor of our hosts.
Ironically, members of Megadeth were apparently jamming themselves for a packed-in crowd at the Spinnaker before MecaniX took the stage for their own tribute the band. Somewhere in between Metal Church was performing in the Stardust theater with an appearance from some little green men with a birthday surprise for guitarist Rick Van Zandt. Saving the best for last, they ended the show a killer duet from frontman Mike Howe and Queensryche’s Todd La Torre on “Fake Healer.” Then, Death Angel closed things off from the pool deck just after we set sail for Mexico as our awesome captain undoubtedly raised his middle finger to the police.
For those who were awake for our day at sea, there was beer with Charlie from Anthrax, painting with Dirk from Megadeth, and a clinic with Kiko to start your day, more Q&As with Metal Church, Overkill and Beasto Blanco, and mid-day performances from Phil Campbell & The Bastard Sons jamming on solo material and Motorhead favorites and Suicidal Tendencies, who brought the mosh to the pool stage twice this cruise.
Trivia, a corn hole tournament, live DJ and Karaoke, you’d almost think we were on a normal cruise, until you catch up with Queensryche, Anthrax and Overkill, Death Angel, and Metal Church for your evening entertainment. Other highlights included Don Jamison’s comedy show in the Spinnaker and a metal edition of Tyson Leslie’s Rare Hare in the bliss with guest performances by Todd La Torre (on both drums and vocals), Chuck Garric (on vocals) and stowaway surprises with Brandon Cook from Black N’ Blue, Dakota Denman from Denman, Patrick Stone and Sam Koltun from Budderside, and Ace Von Johnson from Faster Pussycat among others invading the stage for some Metallica, Megadeth, Pantera and more just before Brian and Izzy took over the lounge for Karaoke.
By this time I’m not sure who was up in time to catch Dave Ellefson’s breakfast jam or Eddie Trunk’s show on Sirius that didn’t venture off the boat in search of tacos and tequila in Ensenada, but I opted to sleep in and eat breakfast at lunchtime before being a fan and getting some meet n greet photos with Doro and Testament. Next was an encore performance from Queensryche on the pool stage with a slightly different set, and frustrating interruptions from the ship’s intercom that actually led to more crowd participation…and then, this was when scheduling became tricky because while Armored Saint and Tara Lynch were gearing up for their already overlapping and only performances on the cruise, an All Star Kiss Jam was to begin in the theater as more than forty musicians were rehearsing for an evening of KISS classics and running well behind schedule.
Not sure what to do other than grab my camera as Dave Ellefson and Frank Bello treated us to some cuts from their side project Altitudes & Attitudes, and take in the fact that members of Megadeth, Anthrax and Testament were all jamming out to KISS songs at the same time, seriously when have you seen anything this cool before?
Notably, the show’s ringmaster appeared to be the multi-talented Charlie Bello from Anthrax, who kicked off an evening with rotating members that included Megadeth, Testament, Death Angel, Beasto Blanco, Suicidal Tendencies, Doro, Ellefson’s solo bandmates, Carla Harvey from the Butcher Babies …the list went on until the evening closed with “Rock and Roll All Nite” where the stage flooded with everyone in the house, including the infamous Band of Broads dressed and KISS and ready to join the party!
As all good things must come to an end, our final day at sea was packed with more of those special fan experiences, Toothgrinder on the pool stage, another theater performance from speed metal warriors DragonForce, and an insane line-up of fans waiting to meet Overkill, Anthrax, Phil Campbell & The Bastard Sons, and Queensryche in one shot during the final photo experience of the cruise.
Meanwhile Dave Ellefson was in the Bliss lounge and Doro was in the Stardust theater before Suicidal Tendencies brought down the house on the pool stage once more. Lamb of God had then packed another theater show before the costume parade congregated in the Atrium, and finally, Beasto Blanco ended the evening with a band in the theater, playing so late that karaoke was already shut down. It turned out that the only late night options were the Casino or the Irish Pub, where we eventually enjoyed some late night snacks along with the band, before packing up our final belongings and waiting for Norwegian to kick us off the ship!
So, as I reflect on the inaugural MegaCruise, I must admit, I wasn’t sure if I’d be a bit out of my element partaking in a thrash metal cruise. As a veteran of Monsters of Rock, I knew that I would be in for one hell of a ride, and that it really didn’t matter who was on the boat.
As expected, I loved seeing my current favorites, enjoyed experiencing new bands, and couldn’t have had more fun revisiting bands that I haven’t listened to since high school. Was it perfect, no. Was it fun, Hell Yeah! And, I for one can’t wait until February to see my cruise ever-expanding cruise family again, and I’m certainly praying for Dave Mustaine’s speedy recovery so that planning for another MegaCruise will set sail soon after!
Follow us @ThePureRockShop for the latest news on hard rock and metal music locally including upcoming performance from U.F.O. and Last in Line at Jergel’s, a halloween show with the lovely ladies of Vixen, and L.A. Guns in November.