For six years now, I’ve ventured out on an annual musical adventure on the high seas called The Rock Boat. The company that puts on this fabulous event, Sixthman, markets it as “The World’s Largest Floating Music Festival.” It’s true – it is. 4 days. 25+ musical acts. Lots of adult beverages. It’s a giant party.
But it’s become so much more.
In 2003, I went on “The Boat” with a group of friends that I no longer see that often. I had a blast. I saw more music than I thought possible. I met Cary Pierce on my very first night (and nearly DIED – CARY PIERCE, are you kidding me?). I met Brian VanderArk. I discovered Alex Woodard. I made new friends. But perhaps the biggest thing for me was finding a community of people that were, by and large, just like me. People who live and breathe for the music that colors their world. I felt accepted – and I was hooked.
I went back in 2004, sans my big group of friends, but with an acquaintance from Charlotte who I knew through a band we both went to see on occasion. I knew she was a fan of one of the bands going on the Boat that year and asked her, on a whim, if she’d want to go. She didn’t hesitate and today, Michelle is one of my closest friends, and I credit The Rock Boat for bringing us together.
That story can be repeated over and over and over again. Christy – met her because of The Rock Boat. Gail – met her through Annie (who I met through Brad…who I became better friends with because of The Rock Boat). Cory, Erinn, Liz – met through Scotty on The Rock Boat (who I met when I was at the beach with Michelle and Gail). The Pruitts – met through Annie, became friends because of our music connections and the Rock Boat. Stacy, Mindy, Jen, Kim, Nikki, Lee, Peter, Josh – all Charlotte friends that I never would have met had it not been for The Boat in some way or another. There are dozens of other friends I’ve made on The Rock Boat, and with each of these people, I share a rabid, insane love for music that not too many other people in my world can understand.
There’s just a kind of communion that happens on The Rock Boat…and you can’t know it until you’ve been through it. You can be given the stories, and understand watching musicians that don’t normally play together rock out a cover of a Bob Dylan song, or think you understand being in a room of 300+ people singing along to the same song – and overtaking this as-of-yet relatively unknown band while they watch from stage with total awe as the crowd sings their song. But until you’ve been on that Boat, you can’t understand it. You just can’t.
I had decided prior to going that this year’s Rock Boat would probably be my last – for a host of reasons that I need not discuss here. So, needless to say, I set out with an intent to make this Rock Boat special. And it totally lived up to my expectations. From spending quality time with those friends I only get to see once or twice a year to amazing, intimate musical performances, it was a great ending to the year (err, or maybe beginning to 2010? One or the other!). The weather decided not to cooperate, but honestly, who cares about the weather? Yeah, it would have been nice to have some sun and shows on the Lido Deck…but none of us were there for the weather. So Sixthman shuffled lineups, we adjusted, and the music played on….
And for four days, my world was perfect. Surrounded by friends and music I love, floating away from the “real world.”
I’m a little sad to be back.
So, to mark a week of being back on dry land, here’s my list of my Favorite Musical Moments of TRB X – in no particular order:
Green River Ordinance’s First Candelight Lounge Set: Last year, I saw the GRO boys live for the first time, after being a fan for almost two years. It was awesome to see them play, meet them and hang out with them – and they were the hit of The Boat! So it didn’t surprise me when their first set in the “small room” was packed to the gills. Nor did it surprise me when the WHOLE ROOM sang along with the boys when they sang “On Your Own” – sans microphones. It put a huge smile on my face watching their faces – they were NOT expecting it, and it was a truly magic moment. Can’t wait to watch these boys rocket to super stardom this year! (And as a little aside, huge congrats to GRO’s lead singer, Josh Jenkins, who just tonight got engaged to his sweetheart!)
The Songwriter’s Panel Getting Giddy Over Will Hoge Singing “Baby Girl”: One of the things I adore about The Rock Boat is that a lot of the artists are friends. And if they aren’t already friends, they have this insane respect for each other’s work. Sixthman tries hard to give the fans unique experiences, and this year, they put together an all-star songwriter panel – Marc Broussard, Pat McGee, Jim Bianco, Stephen Kellog and Will Hoge. We all know my love for Will’s music, but watching the other artists on the panel gush about Will and his song “Baby Girl” was just downright … affirmation … of my love for the man’s music. Oh, and singing him sing “Baby Girl” wasn’t too shabby, either. More video for ya…listen to Pat McGee and Stephen Kellogg go on about the song and dancing with their daughters. It’s adorable.
Chelsea Williams Rockin’ Out in the Elevator Bank: I caught glimpses of Chelsea’s sets on the Boat, but unfortunately, she conflicted with almost everyone I wanted to see, so I never got to see an actual full set. But I did catch a moment that I wish I’d gotten on video tape, something that truly captured the spirit of The Boat. I was walking up the stairs past a dining room and there was a crowd forming in the elevator bank outside the dining room doors. I stopped when I heard the opening chords of “Wonderwall” being played, and watched Chelsea jam out – no mic, no amps, just a girl and her guitar – surrounded by about 50 Rock Boaters. When she got to the chorus, the whole crowd of us broke into the song with her. It was just downright cool. I didn’t get this on video, which I’m bummed about…but you should all go listen to Chelsea!
Augustana’s Acoustic Set: I’m a pretty huge Augustana fan. Christy got me started on them back before “Boston” was a hit and I’ve loved them ever since. Their latest album, Can’t Love, Can’t Hurt, was definitely one of my favorite purchased in 2009. It’s a little less overdone than All the Stars and Boulevards, a little more mellowed out and my speed. And despite what you’ll hear others say about their first performance on the Boat, their acoustic set on The Boat was stunning. Particularly their performance of a new, yet-to-be-recorded song called “Hurricane” that will be on a new album later this year. I managed to get right up in the front row to watch the whole set and got some video.
Will Hoge’s Whole Second Set in the Candlelight Lounge: Having Will back for my last Rock Boat was, to be cliche, a dream come true. Will was on the ’04 Boat, which is one of my most treasured Boat experiences. And his last set on that ’04 Boat is legendary – long time Rock Boaters still talk about it. Well, I think Will and the band’s last set on this Boat is one that people will be talking about for a long time, too. The guys put on a blistering set – rock n’ roll at it’s finest. And they dusted off some gems and mixed them in with classic Will stuff. My favorites included “It’s a Shame,” which I haven’t heard in FOREVER – and Will totally shredded on the guitar during this one, which was awesome; “Sunshine Burn,” a song that has once again become a rarity in Will sets; and ending with the song that started it all for Will on TRB, “Carousel.” It was a perfect set.
Carbon Leaf covering “Born to Run”: Seriously, was NOT expecting this out of Carbon Leaf – and I love me some Leaf! The opening chords to this classic Springsteen song – and one of my all time favorites – are fairly unmistakable and when it started, I swear to you, I must have jumped 5 feet outta the booth. And then, Cory and Erinn came running over from the other side of the room, Stacy jumped up to dance with me, and Elizabeth, Jason and Traci turned around from a nearby booth to point at me as if to say, “This one’s for you!” I danced. I drank Guinness. I celebrated the moment with friends. It was a great slice of time for me – can’t you tell? (Thanks to my friend Elizabeth for capturing this on film…err, or memory card, as the case may be!)
I have to follow this whole “Born to Run” spazz moment with a little aside…after this show, I went back to the cabin to get a friend some Dramamine and was walking back to see the rest of Stephen Kellogg’s set when I ran into Mr. Hoge himself and his wife in the hallway. I was a little embarrassed and, at the same time, touched that he remembered my love for The Boss (although he was sitting only three booths over when said dancing maniac was released) – when he saw me and said, “Hey, how’d you like that last Carbon Leaf song?” I think it’s pretty funny that one of my all time favorite artists knows who his competition is for “all-time favorite.” Will, if you’re reading – I may love Bruce to bits, but you’ve got him hands down on live shows. You are my #1 reigning king for number of live shows seen. Going to cross that 60 mark this year! 🙂
I’m hugely sad that this will probably be the last “Rock Boat Recap” that I ever write….I wish I could do the event justice. I wish I could give all of you that have never had the chance to be there just an inkling of a feeling of what it’s like. But words on screen or paper could never fully capture the energy and spirit of “The Boat.” The Rock Boat is the place that for six years has brought me untold happiness, laughter, peace, love, soulmates by the dozen, and endless beautiful music. It is, and will always remain, my Mecca.