Sunday, December 9, 2018

Blues Cruise Bliss - Concerts at Sea

The great and crazy thing about blues cruises is that they provide hours and hours of back-to-back kick-butt performances and FUN, and they do it all ON THE OCEAN!

    You can gawk in one direction and see the blazing sun dipping into the Pacific.

Then turn your spinning head to see a musical performance bringing down the house on the outdoor pool deck.

   Ruthie Foster's Quintet is a marvel, performing here at sunset. 

You can also chill in the Crow's Nest lounge atop the ship listening to, or jamming with, amateurs and pros, sometimes twice a day. Very popular.

               Then turn and see albatrosses gliding behind the ship.

      And you can do this most of the day and all night.

The Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise entertainment usually begins by 11 a.m. The last scheduled act starts around 12:30 a.m. and ends ---- whenever. I have yet to stay up past 4 a.m., but the most zealous blues fans don't surrender to fatigue until dawn is breaking and bacon fumes waft from the galley.

Impromptu jam sessions are a huge part of the musical scene, occurring in large venues and small, on the pool deck, lounges or in intimate piano bars. Maybe elevators. All over the place, people are making music, unscheduled and inspired.

One of my favorite 2018 cruise moments: At a piano bar, two members of the California Honeydrops improvise with pianist Bettye Jo Miller w/Mack Davis. Lech Wierzynski, left, is the Honeydrop's lead vocalist and trumpet player. He's flanked by clarinetist Leon. The Honeydrops wowed me big time.  Especially the multi-talented Lech, who, in this shot, had just put down his trumpet and is making eye contact. Hi there!
Indefatiguable Bettye Jo Miller and Mack Davis.
Musical entertainment began the moment the ship left the embarkation port, in this case, San Diego. It continued until the party ended early Sunday morning when blues cruisers were forced to vacate at the same dock. Our cruise began Oct. 28 and ended Nov. 7, 2018. It was the best!

       For an official wrap-up of this cruise, click this link.

On our sweet little veranda, leaving San Diego in our wake. PK appeared to be checking my heart, which was pounding with anticipation. We're about to visit ports of Cabo San Lucas, on the tip of the Baja Peninsula, then into the Sea of Cortez to Laz Paz and Loreto. Photo credit: Steve Lambros
But honestly, Blues Cruising is all about the music. Cool excursions on land and sea are offered, but so are in-port performances by on-ship musicians.

Smaller towns, such as Loreto, are visited by just a handful of cruise ships during a typical season and go all out for a cruise ship crowd. 
We enjoyed a fun day in Loreto, browsing the colorful shops and
  dancing with the locals. Musicians from the ship performed at
several different venues around the town.
This little guy was itching to dance, and soon he was boogying with his friends.
Billy Branch is blowing his sweet harmonica into our faces in Loreto. Loved it!
The scenery was A-OK traveling south from Loreto down to La Paz, the last of 3 ports.  
    Rev. Peyton and his Big Damn Band included only a drummer and his wife on the unlikely washboard. The Rev. is a big damn presence and produced
big damn sounds that drove dancers to their feet.

Mindi Adair and the Boneshakers performed at the Cabo Wabo club in Cabo San Lucas, although this photo was taken on the ship. She was one of at least a dozen artists we had never heard of before the cruise and are now fans.  
Tommy Castro and the Painkillers are Blues Cruise regulars. Great stuff!
On regular cruises, you can't count on running into anybody on your wavelength. On a blues cruise, common wavelengths vibrate like crazy around musical performances, creating as much excitement as the waves beneath the boat.

My new friend Gail and I became pals when, after standing a few minutes in a crowded venue, I invited her to step in front me so she could see. We were both boogieing in place, although the dance floor was vacant. "Come'on," she said, "Let's get the party started!" I followed her to the dance floor and the party ensued.

Here's another dance story. I was rockin' around the pool deck, as usual, with about 100 others and caught the eye of this fine woman. She sent her daughter to ask, "How old are you? My mom wants to know." Ha! I'm not the oldest person out there, but I may be one of the more rambunctious. I admitted to being 73 when her daughter introduced me. I saw her the next day and she flashed me this radiant smile. She has 20 years on me. She declined my dancing invitation, although she was having a wonderful time. I hope to still be rockin' out at her age. 

The great band Los Lobos was a headliner. Here they're playing on the Main Stage, which is a large theater accommodating 700 people or more.  Photo credit, Michael McGrath

Blues legend Taj Mahal, with the Phantom Blues Band, still wows his fans. He performed several times in the larger of the ship's seven venues.  Photo credit, Michael McGrath

G Love and Special Sauce, a condiment that  G Love actually makes. He did a morning cooking demo on the ship. Morning shows included interesting stuff such as this. Also, on this cruise, a couple of musician panels discussing such things as how the blues music scene is evolving, and how participants got their start. Best of all, however, was the first morning's 10:30 a.m. tribute to Aretha Franklin. Photo credit, Michael McGrath

Here's the crowd the first morning of the cruise at the main stage, a theater-like venue. They're listening to 20-some musicians creating a rousing and emotional tribute to Aretha Franklin. Although men performed,  women were the heart and soul of this extraordinary show. All before lunch.

The women included Deva Mahal, one of Taj's daughters.

And Zooey Mahal, another of his progeny. 

Interested in cranking up your fun meter? Check it out.
 2019 Blues Cruise  

In case you hadn't noticed, I am recommending blues cruising to any adult who loves blues, rock, Americana, funk, jazz, Zydeco, etc. etc., and especially people who love to dance, sing, or play an instrument or two.

I don't get paid for this. I'm just a cheerful kind of person trying to tell you that if you have the time and $$, you oughta try this. Or perhaps another music-type cruise. Get out the ol' bucket list and write it on there.

PK and I have been on three blues cruises, and we will doubtless go again. 

The only hazard is that afterward, ordinary life can seem way too dull, resulting in an affliction most blues cruisers know: PBCSS 

A post about an earlier blues cruise and the sad aftermath. I have PBCSS right now!
Blues Cruise and the Post Blues Cruise Stress Syndrome 

In the end, it's all a beautiful blur.