It’s tradition to have a 5K fun run in Cozumel, Mexico when we get to port (or another city like Jamaica or Catalina), and I know it sounds like a crazy thing to do…but we enjoy our fun runs and often we find that musicians join us for the fun as well. Our host has traditionally been Luc Carl and there’s usually a Facebook group in advance of the cruise. This year, we tried to make it happen on our own and a few did gather. Sadly, I woke with a migraine (likely from dehydration) and found that extra sleep and breakfast on the pool deck at the hangover jam seemed like a more appropriate way to spend my morning…
I knew that Gabbie Rae and Dino Jelusick were on the boat, and was excited to see them perform with Joel Hoekstra and his jam band featuring Greg Smith and Jordan Cannata from Tokyo Motor Fist.
What a great opportunity to hear some Whitesnake cuts with Dino taking the lead like “Fool for Your Loving” and “Is this Love.” The Bloody Mary set included “free shit” as is customary and some fun covers like a cover of “Love Me Two Times” by The Doors and “Listen to the Music” from The Doobie Brothers where Dino could be found using the high-tech teleprompter that was his cell phone to get the lyrics right. And while Joel didn’t hang around after long for autographs, he later invited fans to find him at the merch booth for some face time.
Later, I finally caught the band Bad Marriage from Boston, which I’ve been hearing a lot about the past few years. They performed on the pool deck as we continued to soak up some more sunshine in Mexico. The band is Jonny P (lead vocals), Ian Haggerty and Mike Fitz (guitar), Todd Boisvert (Bass) and Michael Delany (drums). Formed in 2015, Bad Marriage comes out of the gate swinging their hard rock hammer with both fists, laying down their blistering boogie with soaring vocals and heavily swung rhythms.
Give them a listen and learn more about the band at BadMarriageMusic.com. If you didn’t check them out, you’ll have a chance to catch them on the Mountain in August along with another Boston favorite, Shot of Poison, who’s frontman Frank Pupillo debuted on MORC at late night Karaoke singing a duet with Bad Marriage frontman Jonny P.
And speaking of blues-infused rock, I said it once, and I’ll say it again, these guys were by far one of my favorites on the cruise. I settled in for an afternoon show in Studio B with the Electric Boys rocking my world to the tune of “Groovus Maximus,” a welcomed addition to the set. And of course I got to hear my other favorites again from the opening of “Psychedelic Eyes” to the finale of “All Lips n Hips.” I actually can’t even type out these song titles without singing them in my head. I hope we see these boys again really soon!
I spent my afternoon working at the photo experience which featured TUFF, Lit, and Tokyo Motor Fist, and had the pleasure of shooting my good friends from TUFF. There are certainly advantages to working with people you know, for one, you can boss them around and get down to business, and so we did. With the exception of my first shoot with John 5 who was one guy wearing dark sunglasses on MegaCruise, I think this was the easiest photo experience I had to date, because TUFF was so fun to work with. A big thanks to Chase, Stevie, Billy and Tod T for all the great pictures!
After my work was done, we ventured to the sports deck (yes there is a sports deck with a flow rider surf machine, basketball court, rock wall ,and more). And, I had the opportunity to meet up with my friends as their son Jake Hawkes was practicing for the surfing contest later that afternoon. The contest is near and dear to my heart as both of my daughters have scored a trophy in past years, and it was great to see that the tradition continued with DJ Will at the mic. And, even greater to hear that young kids continued to beat out the standup surfers – sorry Jake!
Later that afternoon we were treated to the third and final Vandenberg show. I really need to point out the kindness of my wonderful friend Eileen, who brought me up front with her once again after I’d finished shooting from the pit. In fact anyone who made room for me to join my friend deserves a big thanks!
Anyone who saw my face during the show realized how big a deal that was to me. I’ve always found that this cruise opens up opportunities that don’t happen at regular performances, but getting handed the mic by Mats a second time, to sing an entire line from Led Leppelin’s “Rock and Roll”!!! Elated doesn’t even come close to explaining how I felt at that moment, and as promised, I attacked poor Mats with a huge hug when I found him watching Nestor afterwards on the pool deck.
Nestor is another band that was new to me. I had friends trying to jump on the boat at the last minute just to catch them live, so I knew that I had to catch a show, and I wasn’t disappointed.
When I reached out to the band they said:
“It was great! Really a dream come true! We had a total blast playing the MORC and are overwhelmed by the response we got from the crowd and all the awesome people on board. And you can quote us on that!”
So it turns out that Nestor are five childhood friends who formed a band over three decades ago in their hometown of Falköping, Sweden. The band is Jonny Wemmenstedt (guitar), Mattias Carlsson (drums), Tobias Gustavsson (vocals), Marcus Åblad (bass), and Martin Frejinger (keyboards).
Now the rockstar dreams of their youth have been revitalised and once again the band embraces influences from the music of their youth with tongues-in-cheek and a lot of heart. Originally founded in 1989 but only releasing their first album Kids In A Ghost Town in 2021 it is Nestor’s mission to restore the glory of rock!
Their acclaimed first album sent their fans on a journey back in time to the 80s, both in sound, spirit and in visuals with their stunning music videos, everything completely self produced.Their album is also nominated for a Swedish Grammis in the category Hard Rock/Metal and will be re-released in a deluxe edition containing brand new bonus tracks later this year by Napalm Records who recently signed the band to their label.
As many will recall when we first started talking about this sailing, we were calling it the Alice Cooper cruise, and why not, the legendary Alice could fill the ship himself. And it was expected that he would fill the Royal Theater, so they designated RED and BLUE shows to give everyone an opportunity to get time with this beloved villain.
For obvious reasons, this was the most restricted access we’d seen at any show, the aisles were clear especially house right as Nita Strauss would eventually make a theatrical entrance. And it was also the biggest production of the cruise as you’ll see from the larger than life puppets, stage lighting, and of course sound…
When the stage was unveiled and Alice Cooper and band made that iconic “Feed My Frankenstein” entrance that even those who’ve never seen him live know all too well from Wayne’s World, you couldn’t imagine that the sound would go out, seriously! As someone at the soundboard noted, “you can’t make this shit up!”
The band had continued to play hearing themselves through their monitors as the house sound was completely lost, and eventually Alice walked off the stage in angst. I wasn’t too put off by the delay as it enabled me the opportunity to find a nice opening a few rows back with a clear view of the center riser that Alice uses to showboat each performer. Not front row, but perfect for sitting back and enjoying the full set while snagging the occasional photo.
One cool thing about Alice Cooper is that he allows each musician to showcase their skills and he always hires the best musicians. His current band has been intact for a while now and features guitarists Ryan Roxie, Nita Strauss, and Tommy Heinriksen, bassist Chuck Garric who of course would later be found fronting Beasto Blanco, and drummer Glenn Sobel.
It’s not surprising that there were quite a few Alice Cooper band alumni on board including Kip Winger, Paul Taylor, Reb Beach, and Greg Smith, but from what I’d heard, guest appearances were haulted for the BLUE show after the explosion that occurred during this performance. I can’t say for sure what happened behind the stage but for fans it was rather inconsequential. They returned quickly and powered through an impressive set of favorites that spanned decades.
I often find it hard to explain the energy that this band delivers. There’s something so unique about the way their fans join in unison, singing the melodies. It is like there’s a power that comes from the surge of the voices of the crowd that I’ve never seen. I noticed this the first time I caught them live at the Welly in the United Kingdom and it was even more apparent as I walked through the rising voices of the crowd that night on the pool stage.
A friend noted that the needs to write some songs with “ooo’s” but it is so much more than that. I’d suggest checking out some video of “Battlegrounds” to see what we’re taking about (and don’t forget to follow our Youtube Channel), but better yet, check these guys out on the Mountain, because as promised they’ve confirmed that they are going to make it up to us and come visit Tennessee in August!
KIX was over the top as always and their sound was crazy loud in Studio B, but luckily they went on as scheduled this time and no difficult decisions needed to be made. So happy to see Jimmy Chalfant behind the kit again as his fill in Will Hunt was keeping busy on the boat with Slaughter. And of course the infamous Mr. Whiteman could be found fronting the band with Brian Forsythe and Bob Pare on guitars and Mark Schenker on bass.
There’s definitely a reason why these guys had everyone waiting around for the show that first evening, the KIX band is always one of the best shows on the boat. Living in Pittsburgh, we get spoiled with a Christmas-time show each year (this year it was November) and now they are adding a new venue, the Lamp in Greensburg to the list with a finally rescheduled show on April 8th.
Enuff Z’ Nuff was next on my agenda, and unfortunately they started late, so I couldn’t catch the full set and missed “Fly High Michelle” which notoriously turns into a jam fest. So, I hope someone on social can fill me in on what I’d missed. However, I was there early as some friends introduced me to the balcony view and we could still see the streamers over the lights from Alice Cooper’s show earlier in the Royal Theater. Of course as our friend Chip put it in his interview with The Pure Rock Shop, when Alice Cooper opened for them, nudge nudge, wink wink.
All I’ve got to say is you’ve got to give that interview a listen, because the most memorable part of that show for me was watching Chip walk out with those glorious angel wings on. Just listen to hear the full story…the set list was also pretty cool, as they kicked things off with the “Magical Mystery Tour,” in honor of their new album Hardrock Nite, which celebrates the Beatles. Looking forward to catching them again with Pretty Boy Floyd this summer.
Competing for our attention, Beasto Blanco could be found on the pool stage with celebrity parents in check and a massive crowd gathered to see what tricks they had up their sleeves this time in the way of lasers, fog, and over the top theatrics.
From hair pulling to flag waving, and our course a few “Hell Yeah’s,” these guys delivered. Favorite’s from the set included “Machine Girl,” with Calico Cooper taking center stage and Chuck Garric’s anthem “Grind,” as the two took turns leading the charge. Looking forward to catching Beasto Blanco again in Philadelphia at the newly rescheduled Masquerade at the end of July.
The evening concluded with Faster Pussycat performing in Studio B. Notably, Faster Pussycat frontman Tamie Downe had one of those special cruise moments himself, when he joined the legendary Alice Cooper on stage to sing “School’s Out.”
For more coverage from the cruise, check out the pre-party re-cap as well as day one, day two coverage and day 3 coverage, and visit our archives for interviews with Joel Hoekstra, Ryan Roxie from the Alice Cooper band, Erik Martensson from Eclipse, Steve Whiteman from KIX, as well as interviews with Beasto Blanco’s Brother Latham and a tag team interview with Calico Cooper and Chuck Garric.
Our latest interviews including cruise recaps with Chip Z’ Nuff (Enuff Z’ Nuff) and Adrian Vandenberg (Vandenberg), as well as interviews with Chris Caffery (Spirits of Fire, Savatage, Trans Siberian Orchestra), Roy Cathey (Cold Sweat, The Fifth) and an interview with Olli Herman (Reckless Love)!
Follow us @ThePureRockShop on Facebook and Instagram for more local show coverage like Buckcherry and Alice Cooper, Firewind and Dragonforce, Firehouse, and Slaughter, as well as festival coverage including more from the Monsters of Rock Cruise and upcoming M3 Music Festival in May in Baltimore and Masquerade in Philadelphia in July.