Trust me, this is no ordinary cruise; if you've ever been on a normal cruise, the Simple Man Cruise will blow that experience to pieces. Put on by Sixthman, this four day cruise sailed to Half Moon Cay, Bahamas. Normal cruise rules do not apply. There's no formal dinner. Yup, that's right. No wearing a silly tux and a fancy dress just to go to dinner. You can wear whatever you want to dinner...as long as you have pants and a shirt on. Some of the waiters even let lose this year and danced on the tables and sang, "What's Your Name." Ha!
Some of you may be a little curious or put off by cruises like I was. I couldn't imagine being on a boat for days or only being able to go on land for a few short hours or having to get a ball gown just to go to dinner. Let me tell you folks, cruises are a lot better than I had expected. Granted, I had the privilege of going on a themed cruise, and that's what I would recommend to you.
Being stuck on a boat with legendary southern rock act, Lynyrd Skynyrd, certainly doesn't suck. But there were also plenty of other amazing bands booked to play like .38 Special, Molly Hatchet, and Marshall Tucker just a name a few. But Sixthman didn't just book big time acts; they also booked some lesser known bands that totally stood their ground along next to the big boys. And since all of you know how amazing the big acts are, I'm going to focus on the lesser known bands.
One of those bands is Blackberry Smoke. These southern rocks boys from Atlanta, GA are one of the main reasons my fiance and I decided to go on this cruise in the first place. They are by far one of the greatest bands I've heard in a long time, and they are some of the nicest guys you'd ever want to meet. They're a great blend of country and rock and know exactly when to bring out the most of each genre in their tunes to make it work perfectly. Blackberry Smoke has been busy touring with ZZ Top for the last few months and have had a few scattered dates with Cross Canadian Ragweed (and Slash has even gotten on stage to jam with them!). They're also booked to play at my wedding (Be jealous. Be VERY jealous). Blackberry Smoke was actually the first band to play on the first day of the cruise, and they got the party started off right!
One of the biggest and most pleasant surprises was a band called Leslie. Hailing from South Carolina, this trio returned to the Simple Man cruise this year with their dirty, classic rock. I have no f-ing idea how I missed Leslie last year (I totally remember seeing them running around the boat, but I never got a chance to see them live), but boy am I glad I saw them this year! There was quite a buzz about them from the moment I stepped on the boat and got my fruity drink with the umbrella. Everyone was telling me how great they were. These boys also did a fine job of promoting themselves; I'm pretty sure they put flyers on just about every other cabin door on every floor. This year, there was no way anyone was stepping off that boat without knowing who they were. And everyone should know who they are because they are THAT good.
I wasn't sure what to expect from three long haired, skinny white boys, but what I got was a slap in the face. It's very rare that I go see a band I've never heard of and am actually impressed. Leslie impressed the pants right off of me. They attacked their instruments like freaks and made some glorious music. I don't know how else to describe their music to you except to tell you that it sounds like they took the basic elements of everything you love about classic rock as you know it and made it dirrrrrty. It doesn't really sound like anything you've heard on the radio, and that's another thing I love about them. Leslie is fresh but dirty at the same time.
Go check out some of their stuff: www.myspace.com/leslierock. If you're not impressed, then you should probably get your hearing checked. Seriously. (I apologize to all of you who may have read this excerpt at Hard Rock Hideout. I just couldn't think of something new to write because Leslie leaves me speechless.)
The cruise wasn't just a sausage fest. There was a stunning red head on board who crooned like a reborn Janis Joplin. Her name is Heather Luttrell. You may have seen her on Rock Star: INXS. She didn't win, and it's a good thing; she's much better on her own. Her music is country, folky, rock. Listening to Heather sing gives me goosebumps. She's so incredibly soulful and powerful. Although she's a lady, she sings about things that most ladies don't dare admit to: drinking, breakin' hearts and bein' bad. It's quite a breath of fresh air to hear a lady spill her guts about these things.
The most overrated band on the cruise was Bang Camaro. This band takes gang vocals to a whole new level. According to their myspace page, there are 13 lead singers (I only saw seven on the cruise). Yeah, you read that right: 13 lead singers. Although I do like their music, the vocals kinda killed it for me. It's just hard for me to wrap my mind around SO many lead singers. And from what I could hear, all those vocals don't really serve a purpose other than being a really great gimmick. There were no harmonies; every one sang the same thing at the same time. On the last night of the cruise, there was an "All Star Jam" where each band got up and performed three songs and invited whoever they wanted on stage to jam with them. Bang Camaro got on stage and sounded like a total train wreck, mostly due to the fact (I'm assuming) that they were f-ing hammered. One of the singers got kicked off stage because he was so drunk he fell and almost knocked a stack of Marshalls off the stage and into the pool. For all the hype that I heard about them, they didn't live up to it. But they just appeared on Conan O'Brien and graced the latest cover of Billboard Magazine, so what the hell do I know.
I could swear that there were musicians playing in almost every space imaginable on this cruise ship. That's what so great about this cruise: no matter where you go, there is always great music to listen to. It was awesome to see musicians just getting together and jamming. Bands who were booked to play on the cruise even let some people who weren't booked get up and jam with them during their sets. And some people who weren't even booked to begin with lucked out and actually got a few time slots to play. It's a wonderful feeling to know that no matter where you go or who you go see, you're going to see incredible musicians playing incredible music.
(L-R:Trey & Scott - Scott Little Band, G. Wyld - Snowblynd, Charlie Starr - Blackberry Smoke)
There were only a couple of disappointments this year, and it's not even anything worthy of bitching about because they were circumstances beyond any one's control. Ean Evans, bass player for Lynyrd Skynyrd, was diagnosed with cancer shortly before the cruise, so he was unable to attend. I have no doubts that his illness was on the minds of everyone and certainly put a damper on the emotions of everyone in Skynyrd. On the last day of the cruise, Skynyrd usually does an acoustic set out on the main deck. This year, their acoustic set was cut short to 20 minutes due to Rickey Medlocke having an ear infection (which also explains why he wasn't out and about all over the boat this year).
Lynyrd Skynyrd's Simple Man Cruise is one the best vacations this girl has ever taken. Everyone on the cruise is incredibly nice, and you meet a ton of really great people. Plus, you get to rock the F out on the high seas with some really fantastic bands! If you are interested in going on next year's Simple Man Cruise (which I highly encourage you to do), go to http://www.simplemancruise.com/ for updates or to sign up for the mailing list. Also, be sure to check out http://www.sixthman.net/ for other cruises that Sixthman puts on.