Monsters of Rock Cruise (Feb 11-16, 2018)

It was down to the wire for me and my buddy to work everything out to be able to go on the eighth annual Monsters of Rock cruise. We literally booked ten days before departure and got lucky by snagging a mid-ship, mid-deck cabin location (prime location for multiple reasons) from someone who had just recently had to cancel their reservation.

It was an early morning as we left St. Petersburg at 6:45 AM for the drive down to Miami. Thankfully no highway or vehicle obstacles prevented us from making it to the port in plenty of time to get checked in and actually had to wait a few minutes until the staff began the actual boarding procedure – once we set foot on board the rock adventure began. The entire experience is based on and around fan interaction with the band members as you never know who is going to be getting on the elevator with you or sitting at the table next to you in the dining room. Within the first 30 minutes being on board as we were exploring the ship we shared an elevator with Todd La Torre of Queensrÿche, the next ride with Rick Allen of Def Leppard, and I offered an open seat next to us and actor, comedian and fellow metal head Jim Florentine sat down with us and had dinner the first night. And speaking of the whole 80’s immersion experience it was pretty awesome that whoever puts the cruise together also had the forethought to play classic 80’s movies and TV shows on a non-stop loop for extra added entertainment value with the minimal time spent in the cabin before passing out from exhaustion each night.

And exhausted each night I was – my final count was seeing 44 bands and 2 comedy sets in 5 days, sometimes having to leave one show before it was over in order to catch the next band on the schedule that I wanted to see. In the days just before the cruise departed the show schedule had been released and as with any sort of event where there are so many bands playing in a condensed period there is going to be some set time overlap so you might not be able to see everyone that you want to. It mostly comes down to which band(s) do you want to see the most, learn the layout of the ship and the fastest way between the different venues and plan accordingly from there. There was at least one instance for me where I had to decide between three different bands all starting within fifteen minutes of one another at literal opposite ends of the ship. Had I not needed to stop for nourishment in order to sustain basic human functionality I would have been able to see a couple of more shows but overall I was very pleased with all of the performances that I did get to see, the meet and greet pictures I got with the bands and I 100% would like to go on next year’s cruise.

I was a teenager in the mid 80’s and I grew up listening to the majority of the bands on board and had even seen a few of them before, including the first band I ever saw live back in 1984 when Autograph opened for Van Halen, so watching Autograph play certainly took me back in time. When I first looked into this cruise and saw the lineup was filled with bands that I liked I would have said my excitement culminated with The Iron Maidens being onboard (an all-female tribute band to the mighty Iron Maiden and a band I had always wanted to see since I had discovered them a couple of years ago). I can say with certainty after the cruise while The Iron Maidens were most certainly a musical highlight I was most blown away by a band that I had never even heard of before or even really noticed in the lineup. I just happened to catch the Beasto Blanco set and I was totally blown away – this band freaking rocks, their stage show is beyond wild and since I have gotten back I have yet to listen to anything other than their tunes.

Day one started off as mentioned learning where all the different venues were, running into a great majority of the artists on board and just as the boat sailed off from the dock the tunes started on the pool deck stage with the Jared James Nichols band. Throughout the evening I saw Kix, Kickin Valentina, John Corabi, Pretty Maids, Autograph and for me the highlight of the day was the set by Lynch Mob, featuring guitar god George Lynch of Dokken fame. He had always been a favorite musician of mine from back in the day with his blistering speed I had always considered his solo in Dokken’s “In My Dreams” as the quintessential kick ass solo of the 1980’s and seeing him just absolutely shred right there in front of me was an unreal moment.

Day two had us at the island of Coco Cay in the Bahamas and after a tour around the island we ended up sitting a picnic table away from Steve Harris of Iron Maiden & British Lion as we feasted on Lunch. There was a stage set up on the island and we checked out most of the set by Budderside with a perfect tropical setting of palm trees and turquoise water behind them – it was rock paradise. The rest of the day was one continual highlight as I got to see sets by Winger, an acoustical performance by Tesla, Lita Ford kicking ass, Doro Pesch of Warlock fame with her tremendous vocal abilities, Queensrÿche played a flawless set, Y&T was a band I had always wanted to see but the highlight of them all was finally getting to see The Iron Maidens play. After what had been a whirlwind day, their set did not even start until Midnight and any bit of tiredness I had instantly went away as they jammed into their set. Musically if you were to close your eyes and just listen to them you would swear you were at an Iron Maiden concert they are that spot on exact to the real thing.

Day three we were at sea for the day and I had a whole slew of kick ass shows ahead. Again there were so many highlights. I saw Kix, Winger, Doro Pesch and Tesla a second time, with this time Tesla playing an electric set. LA Guns played a blistering set as well as the Firehouse and Great White sets were ones that again took me back in time with their timeless anthemic tunes. Comedy sets by Don Jamieson and Jim Florentine resulted in many laughs. British Lion was incredible – I was not familiar with their music going in other than knowing that Steve Harris was in the band and I came away from this set a definite fan and was looking forward to their second show later in the cruise. A second show seeing The Iron Maidens was again the musical highlight of the day for me with them digging deeper into the Iron Maiden catalog than the night before for some true classics. This was the evening where the scheduling conflict forced me to sacrifice one of the three bands that I wanted to see but were all playing at once. It totally was a ‘first world’ problem to have.

Day four we were in Labadee, Haiti, again with a stage set up on the island where we jammed to the tunes of Heavy Mello after exploring the island. One highlight of this stop was a picture opportunity with the aforementioned guitar god George Lynch whose Lynch Mob show was the first one up once we got back on the boat. Once again Mr. Lynch dazzled with his wizard like fingers on the guitar neck, this time Lynch Mob even went into the Dokken discography for a couple of songs and that was pure bliss for me. This day I saw both LA Guns and Great White for second time and sets by Vixen, Tyketto, Madam X, and Lies, Deceit & Treachery. The musical highlight of the day and the entire cruise was checking out the Beasto Blanco set. The band started off with their self-titled song and I was instantly blown away by how heavy they were compared to the 80’s rock them of the cruise – being a Chief Metal Officer and lifelong metalhead there was no issue with me with some heavy metal. The band features Alice Cooper’s daughter Calico as a co-vocalist and I must say she puts on one hell of a wild stage show (as one would expect with her ‘creepy’ upbringing), ripping the limbs off of mannequins on stage with a sultry evil demeanor. Their entire set totally kicked ass to the point where I want to see them again and have had their YouTube videos on constant replay since I got home from the trip.

 

The fifth and last day was again at sea and another full day of shows ahead. This day I saw Keel, Dangerous Toys, Rough Cutt, Lillian Axe, Rhino Bucket, Pink Cream 69, Junkyard, the Atomic Punks, and a second set with Pretty Maids.  I also saw the second British Lion show and again marveled at the legend Steve Harris playing right in front of me and this set solidified the band earning me as a fan. The musical highlight for me was seeing Lita Ford’s second show. Another musical legend just wailing on her guitar and with her lungs and by the time I walked out of the last show of the day I was thoroughly worn out from a most amazing five days and nights of literal nonstop rocking.

Mixed in throughout the various shows and spread out over each day were the meet and greet and picture opportunities with each band. The lines got to be quite long for these and this is where it is definitely worth the extra expense to book into one of the ‘Silver’ or ‘Gold’ VIP room packages. The VIP perks included can and will make a rather large difference in your cruise experience when it comes to early access to the various seats in the different venues and being first in line for the band photos (there was at least a three hour line to have your picture with Steve Harris and his band British Lion). Of course as long as you are polite about it and not interrupt an artist when they were eating then it was easy to acquire a picture, an autograph or at the very least converse with the various artists on board as you roamed the ship.

The entire trip was a blast, I saw some great performances by some amazing musicians. I got to rock out to tons of great music that took me back in time and got some incredible pictures to remember the memories with. The fun did not stop once I got off the ship as I had previously purchased a ticket for The Iron Maidens concert in St. Petersburg not knowing I was going on the cruise so it was a total added bonus to have a sixth straight night of killer tunes. It was also concert history for me as it was the first time I have ever seen one band three times in a span of just five days. \m/

Monsters of Rock Cruise (Feb 11-16, 2018) /

Hatebreed | November 29, 2017 | State Theater | St. Petersburg, FL.

Hatebreed destroyed everything in their wake with their performance at the State Theater. The tour was billed as “20 Years of Desire & 15 Years of Perseverance”, paying homage to their first and second studio albums, so it was with great anticipation in the days and weeks leading up to the show knowing the set list would favor heavily from those two kick ass releases. Continue reading “Hatebreed | November 29, 2017 | State Theater | St. Petersburg, FL.”

Iron Maiden – Tampa 6/11 and Tinley Park 6/15

Last year I had the opportunity and good fortune to be able to see Iron Maiden shows in both Florida and Illinois and when the new US leg of their tour was announced I jumped on the chance to do so again this year.  These would be my fourth and fifth Iron Maiden shows and even though knowing ahead of time the set list would be the same at shows only four days apart that in itself was in no way a deterrent to see this legendary metal band so soon a half a country away. Continue reading “Iron Maiden – Tampa 6/11 and Tinley Park 6/15”

Metallica Live – July 5th (Camping World Stadium, Orlando, FL)

Metallica lit the Orlando sky afire with their mammoth stage production when they brought their “Hardwired…to Self-Destruct” tour to Camping World Stadium on July 5th.  Four massive screens, seemingly a hundred foot tall, was the backdrop of a simple stage layout where the four metal horseman absolutely electrified a crowd of forty thousand plus with over two hours of pure in your face metal brilliance.  Continue reading “Metallica Live – July 5th (Camping World Stadium, Orlando, FL)”

Three months into ‘Hardwired… to Self-Destruct’…

As a longtime fan of Metallica, literally I was hooked the first time I heard them the day ‘Master of Puppets’ was released back in 1986, I held so much hope of the potential for the rest of ‘Hardwired… to Self-Destruct’ to kick-ass and rank up as one of their best releases after Metallica strategically unveiled three singles leading up to its release date. I was up in Minneapolis just two days away from seeing them live this summer when I got a listen to their first single ‘Hardwired’. I immediately felt I (and many other longtime diehard fans) finally had the old raw and hungry sounding Metallica thrash sound back, like I was listening to a bonus hidden track that had been discovered after all these years on ‘Kill em All’. I mostly enjoyed ‘Moth into Flame’ as a solid new jamming song and thought ‘Atlas, Rise!’ was just absolutely their best song in years, if not decades, which I had almost overplayed it to the point I was thankful the band released videos for all of the news songs in the days leading up to the actual release. The section starting about 3:12 into ‘Atlas, Rise!’ leading up to Kirk’s solo is that exact raw, crunchy, heavy old school Metallica sound that I have been so hungry for in their new music. All I could think was these first three singles are really freaking good, please let the rest of it kick ass too! Continue reading “Three months into ‘Hardwired… to Self-Destruct’…”

Slayer / Anthrax / Death Angel (9/27, Orlando, FL)

 

As a long time Slayer fan I can tell you that purchasing a ticket upgrade and attending their sound check was about the second coolest thing I have ever experienced in my concert going history behind going on the Motörhead Motörboat cruise last year. I had some reservations after spending what I did for the upgrade as leading up to the show I saw videos from other stops on the tour where those that also upgraded their ticket posted video and it was not the entire band that was out for the sound check, instead a couple times the guitar tech for Kerry King was the one playing. Continue reading “Slayer / Anthrax / Death Angel (9/27, Orlando, FL)”

Metallica (Aug. 20, 2016, Minneapolis, MN)

To say that I had waited a long time in between Metallica concerts is an understatement. I, along with the majority or North America, have patiently waited as we fans have not had a proper tour by the metal icons in almost seven years. When the show in Minneapolis was announced back in March it was just a goof when I thought about trying to get in on the fan club pre-sale. So when the allotted time came and I scored some good lower level tickets, it was both instinct and impulse that trigged my finger to click on the ‘Buy” button. The first thing I did after the purchase was calculate out exactly how many days that the count would end in between Metallica shows for me – 2513. Two days after the fan club pre-sale once tickets went on general sale 50,000 tickets sold out in under ten minutes. Continue reading “Metallica (Aug. 20, 2016, Minneapolis, MN)”

“Weird Al” Yankovic (June 3rd, 2016)

 

The best way that I can describe seeing Weird Al live is that he puts on a show, not a concert. Weird Al has the ability to parody songs and engulf me into his performance that in any other instance I would not care to listen to the original. I can only describe his show as a comical musical journey filled with multiple hilarious costume changes and a very tight backing band that joins Weird Al with his non-stop energy on stage. This was my third time seeing him and each time I have been thoroughly entertained.

Being the metalhead that I am, I am not ashamed to admit just how much I have enjoyed his music over the years and going a step further that I actually prefer some of Weird Al’s versions to the originals, especially ‘Smells Like Nirvana’, the parody of Nirvana’s original ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’.  I captured Weird Al in his Curt Cobain outfit during that song and with the lighting behind him he has an almost heavenly glow around him.

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His parodies of hit songs are beyond catchy and even now, weeks after the show I find myself listening daily to his ‘White and Nerdy’ version of “Chamillionaire – Ridin’ (Dirty)”. He performs most of his songs in their entirety but in an effort to fit in as many as possible from his vast discography Weird Al throws in a couple of medleys which he and his band have perfected over the years. He has so many awesome parody songs and his own original music that is the only way he can even try to fit in every fan’s favorite that they came to hear. For most songs the audience knew his parodies word for word and were singing along which adds to the overall experience.

In between songs (the costume changes), video displays show funny mock interviews from “Al TV” in montages that flow right into the next song and hilarious busts of laughter erupt from the audience as Weird Al and the band appear in the next costume arrangement. His parodies cover just about every big hit on the music charts since the early 80s and his music is not only fun but educational as he tutors while singing about proper word usage in the song ‘Word Crimes’, a parody of ‘Blurred Lines’ by Robin Thicke. The costume changes are one of my favorite parts as it really sets the tone for the song and the videos playing alongside the stage, and Weird Al is very adept transforming into each character along the way.

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It was an audience of all ages as Weird Al’s music is clean and family friendly. He and the band engage the audience throughout the entire show with their antics, costumes, facial expressions, musical and vocal abilities, and Weird Al takes a couple of roaming trips through the crowd to engage unsuspecting audience members.

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Weird Al is also famous for closing out his shows dressed as Obi-Wan Kenobi accompanied by Darth Vader and a group of Stormtroopers on stage who dance as he sings ‘The Saga Begins’ to the tune of ‘American Pie’ by Don McLean we hear the story of “…this here Anakin guy”.

Mahaffey Theater

I highly recommend seeing Weird Al as it is such an entertaining evening to a point that if it was your first time you almost regret not having seen him before it is that much fun. I never stopped smiling the entire show and even with a solid two hour set list I wish he had time for more. I have seen literally a ton of bands live over the years at many different concerts and I would most certainly rank Weird Al as one of my all-time favorite live performers. \m/

 

Set list:
Fun Zone
Tacky
Lame Claim to Fame
Now That’s What I Call Polka!
Radio Radio (Elvis Costello cover)
Perform This Way
Dare to Be Stupid
Fat
First World Problems
Foil
Smells Like Nirvana
Party in the CIA / It’s All About the Pentiums / Handy / Bedrock Anthem / Another One Rides the Bus / Ode to a Superhero / Gump / Inactive / eBay / Canadian Idiot
Wanna B Ur Lovr
Eat It / I Lost on Jeopardy / I Love Rocky Road / Like a Surgeon
White and Nerdy
Word Crimes
Amish Paradise

Encore:
We All Have Cell Phones
The Saga Begins
Yoda / Yoda Chant

“Weird Al” Yankovic/ June 3, 2016 at Mahaffey Theater, St. Petersburg, FL / Website / Twitter / Facebook

 

Volbeat “Seal The Deal & Let’s Boogie”

Volbeat was a band I discovered back in 2009 when someone posted one of their videos in a metal forum that I read. After reading they were described as a mix of Elvis, Johnny Cash and Metallica, I had to give them a listen and wow was I blown away by how kick ass this band was. I really liked their unique sound and crunching guitar riffs and digging further into their discography they had at the time I was hooked on them and their sound right away. Continue reading “Volbeat “Seal The Deal & Let’s Boogie””

A Night with The Scorpions (5/7/2016, Atlanta, GA)

From my first steps into Chastain Park Amphitheatre I knew right away this was by far the coolest venue I have ever been to for a concert. The amphitheater was located within Chastain Park which is the largest city park in Atlanta. The band shell was set at the bottom of a sloped hill and the outdoor bleacher style seating extended upwards to where the whole venue is nicely tucked into its own little bowl and the sound would perfectly reverberate off of the curved slope. Tables were set up in the pit and lower part of the orchestra section as this venue allows guests to bring in their own food and beverage and many of the locals we saw had elaborate setups with prepared trays of food, tablecloths, candles and coolers full of whatever they wished. Continue reading “A Night with The Scorpions (5/7/2016, Atlanta, GA)”