Memories: My First Rock Boat Moments

Last night, I found myself at Target in the “travel size” aisle, which can only mean one thing: THE ROCK BOAT IS NEAR!!  With just about 75 days to go until TRB14, I am in two states of mind:  1)  Sheer panic that I haven’t gotten back on that work out train that I promised myself that I would this year so I will love myself in pictures and 2) Utterly excited for what is always the best week of my year.

I went on my first Rock Boat in 2003 with a group of 10 friends that have these days scattered due to marriage, kids, and life.  Anyway, I had no idea then that The Rock Boat and the community that surrounds it would ten years later be the source of my favorite memories, turn me on to ridiculously good music, introduce me to people all around the world who have become my best friends, and ignite a passion for “discovering” and helping to promote unknown bands.

There’s a lot I remember about my first Rock Boat, but there are two vivid music memories that today I would call “Rock Boat Moments.”  The kind of moment that is so awesome that everything else around you goes quiet.  When you catch yourself holding your breath because you literally forgot to breathe.  So because it’s almost Christmas and you can never have enough nostalgia (and for Miranda, who I am trying to convince to come on her first Boat)… My first Rock Boat moments.

1)  Meeting Cary Pierce from Jackopierce.
Backstory: It was 1993.  I was a freshmen in college and being exposed to all kinds of new stuff after living a relatively sheltered first 18 years. I bought the very first AWARE compilation from the campus bookstore, and Jackopierce’s “Vineyard” was track 3. My obsession with the song was instantaneous – the hopeless romantic in me pictured falling in love with a boy during a summer romance and having him chase me until I agreed to stay on the Vineyard for the year with him (ironically, the first boy I met at WC, who ended up becoming a very good friend, had a summer house on The Vineyard).

Ten years later, I find myself on The Rock Boat, where Cary Pierce, one half of Jackopierce, is playing. I’d seen Jackopierce a few times, but never in a million years did I think I would ever MEET them.  I’d met an amazing couple at The Rock Boat pre-party the night before, and we went to see Alex Woodard play within a few hours of getting on the Boat.  While we were sitting at the show waiting for it to start, Cary walked right in front of

me.  I mean five feet from me.  I gasped as he walked by, and Gina looked at me and said, ‘What?”  I said, “That was Cary Pierce!”  She asked who he was, and I gave her the short version of what I just said above.  So she goes, “Well, you have to meet him then!”  and leapt out of the booth to chase him down.  The next thing I knew, Cary freaking Pierce was standing in front of me.  “Hi, I’m Cary,” he says.  And me, ever brilliant…. “I know.”  Anyway, he was a complete sweetheart and asked if I wanted to take a picture.  I just nodded.  And here it is…

Me and Cary Pierce, The Rock Boat, 2003.

Me with Cary Pierce, The Rock Boat, 2003.

I love this picture for so many reasons.  First of all, it was probably my very first “personal” Rock Boat moment. Secondly, Cary is just the most adorable thing ever.  Thirdly, I look like a 5 year-old on Christmas morning. Could I be cheesing any harder? Look at the way I’m holding my hands together!  And finally…I was SOOO skinny, and I LOVED those pants.

2) The Edwin sings in the casino at 3 AM moment. No, really.  It was 3 AM.  This will make sense to some of you.
Backstory:  The summer after my sophomore year in college, Rob made me a tape of a band he said was going to be huge.  They were called Hootie and the Blowfish.  By the third week of my junior year, I’m pretty sure the girls on the hall were considering evicting me from the dorm because I played “Let Her Cry” approximately 50 times a day.  I set about learning everything about them… which led to Edwin. And a new obsession was born. After I moved to North Carolina in 1998, it became pretty easy to see Edwin regularly, and he rocketed into my Top 10 musicians of all time.

So, two days in on the Boat, I’d met a fella (we’re still friends today!), and we’d spent the better part of the evening sitting in the back at a few shows … and we ended up in one of the dining rooms eating pizza at 2:30 in the morning (Emerson Hart sat two tables over from us…I lost my shit) before we parted ways.  As I tipsily walked my way back toward my cabin, I was coming down a hall when I heard a very familiar voice singing… It was 3 AM, and I came around the corner and ran smack into Edwin McCain playing with another musician (Francisco Vidal, for all my TRB folks reading this) in the casino bar.  There might have been 20 people watching him.  I stood there, transfixed, watching this performer whose songs I knew inside out, sing to me and a handful of other people like we were the only people in all the world.  He was clearly having a blast, and while he has probably had many more nights like it in his time, it is a moment that I will never forget, and one that will always live in my best memories.  Edwin’s back on The Rock Boat this year… can’t wait!

There really is nothing like The Rock Boat.  Sixthman, the company that started The Boat almost 14 years ago, has created an experience that is truly unmatched. I go on this trip, and just know that these types of moments are going to happen…not just once, or twice, but over and over again. Because it’s happened year after year for me. Writing out these memories that live in my head only makes me all the more excited about heading back out on the high seas with great music and great friends … and more Rock Boat moments.

More Rock Boat:  What the heck is The Rock Boat? | Okay, so what bands are playing this year? | Damn, I need to book a cabin.

The Rock Boat Recap

Every year, I come back from my annual rock n’ roll adventure on the sea with great intentions of writing about the experience…and every year, I fail. Epically. I think I have decided that it is relatively impossible to explain it to someone who has not experienced it. Take 30 artists/bands – most of them amazing – add many of my closest friends, a dash of margarita (and other beverages), the sunshine, and Caribbean air and you’ve got a recipe for something magical.

It was a terrific lineup this year and I feel like I saw more shows this year than I ever have before… And, oddly enough, spent more time with more friends than ever before. Rather than try to sketch out a day-by-day, I’m going to tackle my highlights (these are not in any special order):

1. Finally seeing Green River Ordinance live. After two years as a fan, the ultimate high point of TRBIX was getting to see this amazing quintet from Texas on stage. They were everything I knew they would be and more… It was such a treat to chat with them and get to know some of them, too. They are all such great kids, especially that J Whiskey fella. 🙂

2. Scott Feil’s Fan Club. Seriously, Scotty has got to be the most loveable…and loved…guy on earth. And his friends are all fantastic people. Erinn, Cory, Liz, Sujka…it was awesome spending time with you! And Scott, of course. Darlin’, is it possible for me to love you anymore? I’ll be eternally grateful to Will Hoge for bringing you into my world…

3. Aslyn. I’ve always managed to catch pieces of her sets on the Boat and last year, finally managed to work in a full set. This year, three of them. Aside from having a phenomenal set of pipes, there is no singer out there who I think captures the range of emotions women go through in a truer way. I can’t stop listening to The Dandelion Sessions.

4. Tonic. Back together. On The Rock Boat. Need I say more? “Mountain”…TWICE! Kevin’s shout outs to CW on his drum kit were a touching tribute to a musician who left us too soon.

5. Carbon Leaf…in particular, covering “Livin’ on a Prayer” and the whole entire Boat singing along at the top of their lungs. I got up the nerve to talk to Carter (3 double margaritas in) on the last night. Still can’t get near Barry without going dumb.

6. The rest of the Boat FINALLY getting how amazing Sam Thacker is. And Stephen Kellogg saying (about “The Last”) “I wish I’d written this song.” Yay… Sammy’s rock star is shining bright!

7. Lee and Peter. So glad I met these two fellas at The Heyday show back in October. Spent lots of time with them on the Boat… Happy they are my neighbors in Charlotte. Lee… breakfast at Panera soon!

8. Time with “my girls” & Mr. P. Michelle, Gail and Marc..I adore you all. Thanks for understanding me and being just as crazy in love with the music as I am.

9. Trevor Hall & Tyrone Wells. Both new for me, both wonderful. Can’t wait to get to know their music better!

10. Chocolate Melting Cake. Most likely better than sex.

11. Emerson Hart. This man’s live performances leave me speechless every time. There are very few musicians whose songs touch me in the way that Emerson’s do. And live…he is just so dynamic. Sujka called it…Part concert, part comedy show, part Dr. Phil session. All wonderful.

12. Gareth on board. The only person who can instantly make me smile just by walking into a room.

13. PAVE THE WORLD! I’d lost my voice by night two…Michael Tolcher was rocking it in the very crowded, very smoky casino bar. No way that he was going to hear me hollering. So I begged Lee to yell my “Pave the World” request. Tolcher: “You know what, I’m gonna do that for you!” The only thing that would have made it better would have been Christy singing along next to me. “The aliens are coming! What? The aliens are coming….Pave the world!”

14. Hanson sing along. On the last night, at Aslyn’s show, a Hanson and his wife ended up standing next to us. Aslyn asked the girls to sing one part, while the boys were to sing another. And that little Hanson sang along, smiling the whole time. Was nice to see one having a great time without being hounded by fans.

15. Wideawake and The Kin singing together. Scott Leger with Aussie brother harmony? Quite possibly perfection in music.

16. Katey and Scott airport time. I only get to see my friends from Birmingham once a year, and we’ve made hanging out on flights to and from TRB a tradition. I can only hope that when and if I meet my Mr. Right, we have as great a relationship as Katey and Scott do.

17. Inauguration. Watching Barack Obama become the 44th President of the U.S. was going to be emotional for me no matter where I watched it. But watching it in a room full of people who shared my pride in the moment was nothing short of beautiful. Applause every time they showed Obama or Biden. I actually teared up. There’s no place and no other people with whom I’d rather share the day…

There’s so much more, but nothing that I write can do it justice. It’s truly the most amazing experience every year. And despite losing my voice, getting an average of 3-4 hours of sleep a night, and spending ENTIRELY too much money…it’s SO worth it. BEST.VACATION.EVER.

Bring on Rock Boat X.