Music vet and New Times scribe Lee Zimmerman shares observations, insights, and updates relating to South Florida's musical environs. This week, a shipload of fun.
I'm a big fan of music cruises. For me, they are ideal entertainment. You get a bunch of great bands onboard, all the food you care to gorge yourself on, nice accommodations, a friendly service staff, and a party atmosphere like no other. Suffice it to say, these excursions are like traveling seaworthy festivals, except at the end of the day when you've burnt yourself to a crisp, you don't have to go back to a tent and flounder in the mud. Instead, you can beat a retreat to your stateroom, where you'll find your bed all made up, a porter that's all too eager to cater to your every need, and, if you're really lucky, a towel animal to give you that extra added levity.
Really. If you're a music lover or if you just like your entertainment coming at you fast and furious, a music cruise is the way to go. Whether you're ship-faced, full of ship, or just in the mood to kick some ship, it's all good.
Natch, the wife and I couldn't resist the temptation to explore Sail Across the Sun, the inaugural cruise curated by the band Train, featuring a shipload of great bands offering around-the-clock musical mayhem. I have to admit, I was never a huge Train fan -- that's my wife Alisa's domain -- but they were damned good, DAMNED good, and the perfect hosts to boot. And hey, it was a Valentine's Day outing, so it proved a good way to make points with the spouse. Guys, take note for next year.
In case you're not already aware, Train has a TON of hits, so many that even a novice like myself could recognize and groove to the majority of its set list. However, truth be told, there were so many other artists who grabbed my attention, it wouldn't have even been necessary for me to hop on that... train. I even caught some of them twice. That's not to mention the fact that I ran into quite a few artists while cruising along the decks. Holy ship! Talk about getting up-close and personal! The seas were calm, but no matter. Here are a dozen artists who rocked my world.
It goes without saying. Gotta give some love to the hosts, right? And when you're out there on the pool deck, arms raised, swaying and singing along to "Calling All Angels," "Drops of Jupiter," or "Save Me, San Francisco," you will somehow find yourself converted. The fans love them, and for good reason. They genuinely seem to love their fans right back. And hell, they have their own wine. Gotta love that!
2. Yacht Rock Revue
It also goes without saying that I really don't like cover bands. I simply can't understand the need when a good DJ or a jukebox would suffice. However, my opinion might have been changed by this bunch of professional, well-suited, remarkably proficient musicians. For one thing, their choice of tunes, mostly of '80s vintage, were of the category that -- as one of their singers put it -- you either love them or you're lying. And having John Oates -- he of Hall and you-know-who fame -- sit in for a flawless cover of "She's Gone" certainly added a fair share of cred.
3. John Oates
Speaking of Mr. Oates, here's a guy who proved he didn't necessarily need the aforementioned Mr. Hall to shine all on his own. While there may be a certain stigma to being the other guy who's forced to follow the "and" in the duo's handle, Oates showed a range in both his vocals (can you say "falsetto"?) and song choices, clearly demonstrating he deserves the kind of recognition that could take him out from under the pair's shadow.
Oates seemed to be everywhere, sitting in with practically every act, and yet even without reprising anything from the Hall and Oates hit parade (save the aforementioned "She's Gone," which in his solo set, he admitted, is a song he could never top). He impressed with a selection of bluesy, folky, country-sounding selections that one would never associate with the Hall and Oates catalog. While his look back at his trajectory through the '70s and '80s left many in the audience anticipating some of H&O's hits, his off-handed aside ("Ah hell, does that mean I have to play 'Maneater'?") made it obvious that it wasn't going to happen.
4. Secret Sisters
The personification of sibling rivalry in the form of a multifaceted country band gave this sister act a comedic touch. The two Alabama-bred frontwomen spent a good deal of time exchanging snide comments and looks of disdain, but when they blended their voices, the duo became the epitome of sweet Southern soulfulness. Their set was split between songs from their 2010 self-titled debut -- including a remake of the Frank Sinatra/Nancy Sinatra duet "Something Stupid" (which they acknowledged was creepy enough when sung by father and daughter but creepier still when sung by two sisters) -- and songs from their forthcoming sophomore set, which includes a song cowritten with -- wait for it -- Bob Dylan. Based on what we heard, we're plenty psyched.