It's taken me a while, but finally here's my little compilation of photos, videos, and other memories from the wonderful time I had during Ships & Dip V. Thanks to everyone for sending in the raw materiels!
OK ... Day 0
No photos - we arrived at the airport hotel and I met up with Jimmy C and Tyler at the hotel bar and I remember some good hugging taking place. And Jim seemed to be pretty involved in a huge midnight snack at the bar. Pasta if I remember right. Also got to meet Patrick from Sloan and had a nice conversation with him.
Getting acquainted with the boat. My first time on such a thing. And it was weird. Also got to meet the Odds (been a fan for a long time) and met up with Gord from Sean Cullen's band, who I know from seeing him rock out in Toronto at the Gospel Sunday. It was a relief to see Andy C in good spirits (he was very sick with a stomach bug the day before). Enjoyed part of BNL's sail away show. Then my first show of the week in The Fyzz Lounge. Not ideal to be playing a keyboard for the show ... it took me most of the set to get used to the feel and the sound, and to playing with the band. We hadn't rehearsed at all as a band.
It was me on keyboard, Andy on vocal, percussion and accordion, Jim on Hofner bass, and Tyler on drums and a guest vocal on "If You Were My Girl" ... which was the definite highlight of the set for me. He came over to sit on the piano bench with me and added some real colour to the song. Here's a nice photo of the two of us on that one.
And the set ended with me getting a bit more loosened up with a few laps around the dance circle in the middle of the audience. A nice start... but I felt a bit disconnected from the band and my own piano playing. I knew the challenge was going to be loosening up with the audience and getting tight with the band for the upcoming shows. I don't remember too much musically from that first show. I joined The Brothers Creeggan for a few songs during their set at Bar City. It was such a joy to play a real grand piano for these songs. I had definitely been traumatized by the keyboard. Wow! Is Ed Robertson a nice drummer. He's got a real pocket. It was fun to play with him. I also watched a bit of the Great Big Sea set that night. They were playing in the Stardust Theatre (the main venue) and I was immediately struck by the incredible energy this band has. And they seemed so honest in their enthusiasm. Definitely masters. I was inspired. I couldn't stay for the whole set, and I didn't get to see more of them during the remainder of the cruise. Bummer....
Breakfast outside at the back of the ship ... I managed to have mostly healthy breakfasts that week. Lots of prunes and figs and yogourt and green tea. Some more exploration of the boat. Sarah and I checked the indoor fitness gym, though it would still be another few days until we worked out. I took a few hours to wander around the boat and I ended up in the hottub. That loosened me up a bit. I remember thinking ... what do I do now? Definitely a fish out of water. It would take me a few days to relax. I was also a but uptight about my upcoming performances. This is something I have to work on ... being able to enjoy the moments when I'm not performing and trust that I'll be able to get my stuff together before a performance ... but when I'm just out there living ... live! Okay, so during my exploration on the 13th deck Andy popped out of a door and told me to follow him. He showed me the Star Bar, with its free grand piano. He was practicing a Butterfly Boucher song. We went over a few of my songs and "Stuck" by The Brothers Creeggan ... which they never ended up playing! Later on that afternoon I got the chance to see most of the Sean Shau. It was very entertaining! I love Sean Cullen's humour. I loved the version of Foreigner's "I Wanna know What Love Is" that they did with Brian MacMillan. By the way, doesn't his voice sound so much like James Taylor's? Brian's, I mean. In a very good way. Anyway, after this I got word that the Sixthman production people wanted to speak to me about my show in the Atrium that night. They were concerned about the band playing with me ... they originally thought I'd be playing solo on the cruise, and the Atrium was meant to be for solo performers. So they decided to move my show back to the Fyzz so that they could accomodate the band. Fine with me. Crappy keyboard ... but great band. So a little compromise. I was a bit concerned about people getting the update on the venue change, but when I got to the venue, there were lots of folks there. Awesome. But where was the band, and where was the sound man? 10 minutes to the show. Where were the guys? I asked the MC to walkie talkie and find out where they were and got wind of the fact that the BNL soundcheck was running late and that's where they were. i ran to the Stardust to see where they were at and Jim told me that he was really sorry but he and Tyler had to soundcheck with Sarah McLachlan and they wouldn't be able to make my show. Andy would though. Anyway, there still wasn't a soundman at the Fyzz, so I wouldn't even be able to get the crappy keyboard working even if I wanted to. Which I didn't. I decided to move the show back to the Atrium. 5 minutes to the show. I get Andy to run around looking for percussion. I don't think he knew what I had in mind. Some commotion. The audience is confused and I start spreading some "rumours" that the show is now back in the Atrium. But nothing official yet. And then, Andy and I start stomping and clapping and singing and we get everyone to follow us in time back to the Atrium ... it's going well, only when we pass over the Bar City venue I realize that Christine Fellows (who's amazing) is in the middle of here very quiet set and here I am leading 50 people stomping and clapping right above her ... so I try to get everyone to snap quietly and to the beat of Christine's music. It worked for a while. So we finally get everyone to the Atrium and Andy and I break into "Good Watermelon". The show had officially started. Phew! We do the rest of the show without microphones and I got to play a white piano!!! A magical moment ... in between songs I hit a chord, and then I realized it was the first chord of Billy Joel's piano man. Now ... over the years playing in bars I've been asked to play "Piano Man" countless times ... and me wanting to make sure people took me seriously as a songwriter and performer in my own right I've always been reluctant to play it. And I never was able to figure out that little piano intro to the song, even after working on it at home. But this night, at the white piano in a piano bar on a cruise ship, I closed my eyes and hit every note of that piano intro, so I thought to myself, this is as good a time as any to sing "Piano Man". It was fun! Here's a video of it:
And Jim ended up joining us for the last few songs with his upright bass (is it Bertha?) Here's a video of us getting down at the end of "Great Pop Song":
All in all, a very fun and unique set. We definitely weren't gonna be able to duplicate the energy another night. The set ended with a version of "Wait For the Tea to Steep" and a haunting bowed bass performance from Jim. Here are some of my favorite photos from that show:
It was later on this night that I caught Kevin MacDonald's solo show in the Stardust Theatre. Wow. It was amazing. So raw and dark and personal. It was special to be there for that. And I was sitting in front of Dave Foley.
I slept in because I felt I was fighting something off and wanted to get as much rest as I could. Again ... a little uptight. Sarah and I made our way into Cozumel around noon and wandered around for most of the day. We went to the beach and I smacked my face in the water jumping off of the giant rock-climbing iceberg. We discovered a great musical instrument store in town and talked to the owner for a bit. He played some music on the native guitar-like instruments, I forget the name of it. But it was late in the afternoon and I was in a rush to get back to the boat... thought it might leave without us. So I would have liked to spend more time in that store... it was a nice day in town but Sarah and I both felt that we could have done more. Our friends Gord and Alana rented a scooter and drove around the island and hung out on a secluded beach. He got badly sunburned, but ultimately I was jealous of their adventure. So I was feeling a bit weird before my third set on board. Plus ... after a day off from playing together as a band, it was challenging for me to get in the zone and enjoy the simple act of playing with Jim, Tyler and Andy. This was our first set in Bar City. Anyway, all in all, my least favourite set of mine from the cruise. I was just in a weird headspace. I know the audience couldn't pick up on it, and I probably shouldn't be mentioning it here either. I'm a performer and I shouldn't let on when I have a bad show. Does it take away some of the magic for you as members of the audience? Maybe so. But I figure this is the forum for me to express this stuff. So there it is. We tried an old song of mine, "All your Exmuses", and it was nice to sing the two parts with Andy during the outro. That felt nice. I'd say my favourite moment was during "Rockin' Receptionist" at the end when we all went in to the audience and sang with them. Later on that night Sarah and I sat in the hottub and watched Acid Wish. Great experience ... a new friend Jackie bought me ice cream...
My favourite day. It started with a workout in the indoor gym. Nice. I totally wished I could have done the morning yoga class with Jim, but it was only by lottery. I did a bit of my own routine and then it was Sarah's idea to have a steam. I was in there for a LONG time! But it felt great. Next up I took part in the two songwriter panels with both Steve Page and Ed Robertson from BNL. These were a bit challenging for me because I didn't have access to a piano. So for the first one, Steve's, I played a guitar. And for Ed's I played Kevin Hearn's accordion. Both instruments that I rarely play. Obviously I was a bit more comfortable on the accordion because it's similar to piano. A highlight of the first session was playing "Rockin' Receptionist" with Luke Doucet and Melissa McLelland. Here's a video of that:
And here's a nice photo of Luke and I (we barely got a chance to speak after this set, but it amazing to play with him!):
The rest of the songwriters during this panel (and they were all great) were:
Boothby Graffoe, John Darnielle from the Mountain Goats, John K. Sampson from the Weakerthans, Steven Page from BNL, Melissa McLelland, Luke Doucet and me. Here's a photo of all of us:
I was a bit looser for Ed's panel. Here's a video of "Good Watermelon" from that panel:
And I got to sit next to Butterfly Boucher, whose music I've been a huge fan of for so long. And on this panel was also Craig Northey from the Odds ... I think he had the best rock voice on the boat!! This panel was a lot of fun. The other songwriters were Boothby Graffoe, Chris Murphy from Sloan, Ed Robertson from BNL, Brian MacMillan and Alan Doyle from Great Big Sea (he was a lot of fun!). Here are some more photos from that one:
The rest of the afternoon was spent playing shuffleboard, ping pong, eating, and getting ready for my last official set on the boat at Bar City. I was hoping for a memorable one. And that's what it was!! I had an incredible time playing with the band for this one. We were definitely all on the same page. And we invited up Gord Light and Tim Bovaconti from the Sean Shau for the last 2 songs. They were a blast! Lots of memorable moments during this set. Peter Johnson of Ireland shot most of the show and you can see it all here:
Here are some highlights:
Sweet City Woman
We Should Dance
And here are some nice photos from that show:
I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to play with these guys ... I wanna give a shout-out to Jim, Tyler and Andy for putting so much into these shows!
Later on that night we saw the Dave Foley and Kevin MacDonald show. That was real special and it was amazing to be a part of it in the audience. So unpolished and brimming with juvenile excitement!! I never watched much Kids in the Hall when I was younger (more a fan of Newsradio), but now I'm gonna go and seek out a lot of it!!
Oh yeah, and this was also the second and final Brothers Creeggan set. That was amazing!! My favorite moment was when they played "Grey" from the Sleepyhead album. Ed really nailed it on drums. It was a beautiful version.
We docked in Key West instead of Great Stirrup Kay in the Bahamas. Weather issues. Key West was cool. Once you got out of the touristy area. Sixthman took all the artist out for lunch. That was real nice. The restautant (I think it was called Rick's) was really cool and I think it was the owner or chef or someone who was coming around to make sure we were enjoying the food and he seemed pretty passionate. Nice. And more opportunity to hang out with the musicians and get to know them better. This was a nice memory.
Once back on the boat, we were able to enjoy the last night of shows. I caught a bit of Christine Fellows, and then Sarah McLachlan's final set - which was nice - and then most of BNL's last set. And it was during this set that they invited me to come up during Kevin's song "Another spin" and do some kind of dance routine - which I hadn't worked out at all. It was so nervewracking. I didn't know what I was doing. So I hope i didn't bore everyone. Here is the video of it!
I don't know ...
The rest of the night ... Acid Wish and the final big jam in Bar City (was supposed to be out on the pool deck but the weather was pretty cold). This was awesome!!! Lots of memorable moments. Seeing Chris Murphy rock out on the drums during The Who's "I Can't Explain" ... seeing Kevin Hearn start a number of Led Zeppelin songs on the keyboard ... the finale of "A Thousand Miles" and "Hey Jude" ... when the power went out (they blew a fuse) and everyone finished singing "Hey Jude" accapela and then with the piano. Here are some photos from the big jam (then I have to go to bed because it's 3am now):
OK ... that was the cruise. Amazing. Now on to the next adventure!