Never mind the bollocks, IT’S SHIPS ‘N DIP WEEK!

Alright, well, best to open with the letdown (at least for you, gentle reader): we didn’t perform. Now, if you’d asked me beforehand, I would have said I wanted to perform, and of course, if asked, the others and I would have leapt at the opportunity. That said, I think it worked out for the best. It was nice to spend a couple days as a relative face in the crowd, especially since we retained the Second City card for introduction purposes when needed. (I don’t know if it’s insecure or shallow, but I do like to establish myself as a performer when I’m introducing myself to other performers.) Plus, having done and seen a show or two where the crowd was clearly there to see other people, I don’t think we were missing out on much.

And it left as unencumbered, which was great, because there was oh so much to do!

Day 1:

Fairly shortly after getting back onboard and taking a little shluffie, things kicked off with the Barenaked Ladies sailaway party. It was quite fun. It took place on the pool deck, so it had the feel of (and indeed was) an outdoor concert. Lots of people standing and grooving, and it was amazing to look around and see (and feel) how the crowd on the ship had gone in a day from Cocoon to Logan’s Run!

(Author’s note: I hope that got a giggle, because I struggled with that one. I wanted to say The Bucket List, but thought that might be too dark in its accuracy. It also occurred to me that Children of Men is actually a better counterpoint to Logan’s Run, but the characters were too young to illustrate my point. This writing thing ain’t easy, I tells ya!)

So after that, I dashed down to my room to watch the first half of the Super Bowl, and watched through Uncle Boss’ halftime show. (It’s a long story, but suffice it to say, there’s a slightly alternate universe where my family and I visit with Bruce Springsteen for the occasional holiday.) Having enjoyed that thoroughly, I dashed off to see some rock legends of my own: Sloan!

Now, I’m not saying that Sloan and Bruce Springsteen are entirely equivalent, but in my high school and university years, Sloan was pretty much the band for me, and I believe I own more albums of theirs than of any other band. So, for me, this was big!

And they didn’t disappoint. They were playing to a fairly small crowd for the theatre (they were competing with the Super Bowl, after all), but it was quite rocking. I recorded it all on my Flip, and so as to leave the video unsullied, I remained fairly stationary, so that interfered somewhat with my rocking out, but now I have it. And will have it forever.

I then dashed back to my room to watch the end of the game, continuing my ongoing streak of passing up opportunities to see Great Big Sea for free. (I believe this streak began in 1996, when they were playing a free concert at Concordia’s Frosh Week, and a bunch of us had gone to see the Violent Femmes open for them. And then left, probably to eat poutine and drink. No regrets.) Looked like a pretty exciting Super Bowl! If Sloan isn’t playing at the same time, I’m totally going to watch it next year!

Late night was Boothby Graffoe, a comic songster big in the UK (who met everyone at the Edinburgh Festival). He was funny, but it was hard to follow, as I was sitting with loud Australians and there were ever louder drunks behind us. What I heard I liked.

Then to Crew Bar, to compare notes with everyone else. Everyone was buzzing. There was some discussion of whether to take part in the naked photo, but in the end, everyone demurred. Probably for the best.

Day 2:

A day at sea, so the shows started fairly early. The first thing I saw was Sean Cullen’s “The Sean Schau.” The man puts on a hell of a show, Toronto funny men Pat Thornton and Mark Hickox were featured, and his song “Cacheevo” brought down the house.

Next show for me was Butterfly Boucher out on the pool deck. She was very good, not to mention, ahem, cute. (Have I mentioned that I’ve spent over two months largely with the cast of Cocoon?) Sadly, she got rained out fairly shortly into her set, which was a bummer.

It was also the beginning of a streak of bad weather, made all the more painful because, idiot that I am, having not used my jacket or sweaters the entire time I’ve been here, thought I’d save myself some packing by sending all those particular clothing items home with my parents. The dark side of comic timing, folks.

That evening, I faced for the first time my (or “the”, because it was somewhat universal to our cast and other crew) Sarah McLachlan / BNL dilemma. It basically boiled down to this: these shows were ticketed, so for us to go was somewhat a delicate affair. I mean, the tickets were free and only intended to make sure that everyone onboard got a chance to see that particular doublebill, and as turned out to be the case, if we were willing to take the cheapest of the cheap seats (in terms of quality, that is) or usher, it wasn’t much of a problem. It just took a little doing.

The more personal dilemma I faced was whether to see those mainstage shows, with the big crowds, the big names, and the big cash value, or stick to the smaller rooms with the indie, alt-rock bands that are generally more to my taste (which would also be guilt-free, as there would be no chance of taking a seat from anyone who’d want it more, plus planning-free, which also appealed to the lazy man in me). In the end, I chose the latter option. Rock ‘n roll!

(I heard they were awesome, though, especially Sarah McLachlan. I will over the next few weeks quell my disappointment at not having seen her with some videos Ashley took and the occasional Humane Society ad.)

Another factor in the decision was that The Weakerthans were playing in the Spinnaker Lounge that first night, and I knew that I was going to have to see Ian fairly shortly, and he would cry if I told him I missed it. So I didn’t. And they were introduced by Dave Foley, which was a bonus for me. At any rate, they were very good, and I left wanting more. Like Oliver Twist, if he knew how to rock.

I don’t know why I bothered writing that in what’s going to be a really long post anyway.

I raced off to say The Odds on the pool deck, which was rained out. That sucked. (Don’t worry, it ends well.)

The late night entertainment was Kevin McDonald’s solo show. On a cruise where I was mostly geeking out on music, it was nice to also have some comedy legends to go full-nerd on. It’s generally the curse of the comic that we all want to be rock stars, and while I still believe that to be true (it certainly kicks in for me when I’m watching live music), there are comedy rock stars, and at the top of that list, written in nerd blood, the Kids in the Hall.

The show itself was interesting and unexpected. A lot of funny moments in what ended up being a fairly serious autobiographical show about his career and his relationship with his alcoholic father. But some good funny, and of course a fair bit of Toronto talk, with mention of Second City (we “whoo”ed), Theatresports (I “whoo”ed), Humber College (I contemplated “whoo”ing), the Rivoli (I nodded contemplatively), etc. At the end, as our whole cast was there, we thought it would be a good time to introduce ourselves to Dave Foley, but as the people just ahead of us tried to engage him, he let out an “I really have to go to the bathroom.” That effectively dissuaded us for the night.

In a bit of a stroke of luck, Craig Northey was accompanying Kevin McDonald’s show, and so came out that the Odds were playing at Bar City after the show. Nate and I went down and rocked out with them ‘til the wee hours. As it turned out, Kevin and Dave were rocking out right in front of us, but respectful lads that we are, we didn’t bother them.

Day 3:

This was our Cozumel day. We spent a laid back day at the No Name Bar (the standard crew hangout), but pulled by currents and my pioneering spirit, I went further afield with my snorkeling than I had before. In my travels, I came across some more underwater wreckage (I think this one was a building at one point), and saw a crazy number of fish. It was pretty amazing.

Getting back onto the boat, Chris Murphy of Sloan was standing in front of us in line with his family, but I played it cool. By which I mean said and did nothing but point subtly and whisper to Mike “Sloan!” Though Ashley did say “Ooh, look,” when she realized a few minutes after I had, and I said “I know,” so if he was listening, I suppose he knew I knew. Oh, celebrity encounters!

Our first show of the night was another version of The Sean Schau. As we were waiting, Mike stepped up and introduced us to Kevin and Dave. I mentioned the “Whoo!” for Second City, and that I was the one who “whoo”ed Theatresports. We talked a little about Toronto and life on ships. Unfortunately, our chat was interrupted by the start of the show, but still, it happened! It surely did.

First guest: Chris Murphy. And he and Sean Cullen recreated the David Bowie and Bing Crosby encounter which I hold so dear. I loved it, and in fact, it was extra exciting for me, because in a conversation with the cast over the holidays, I’d cited that as my favorite Christmas song, only to be met by blank stares by half the cast, so there was some vindication there. They carried on to do Bowie and Crosby doing “Under Pressure”, with Sean Cullen as Bing Crosby doing the Freddie Mercury part. Hilarious. Plus topical for us, because Mike and I had spent a few days previous (not constantly) debating whether it was more a Queen song with David Bowie (my position) or a David Bowie song with Queen (his.) (It resolved itself with Mike visiting Wikipedia and conceding that my case had more merit. Victory!)  All-around great.

After that, it was Sloan on the pool deck. I was quite bummed I couldn’t get anyone to go with me, but they were competing with Sarah McLachlan on the mainstage, and it was a tad nippy. Sadly, it wasn’t just among my associates that interest was muted: there were maybe eighty people there. But their loss was my gain. I stood two feet from the stage and enjoyed some good swaying and slapping my legs (my version of dancing).

My personal show highlight: I caught the drumstick flung by Chris (as I will start calling him now)! Well, more accurately, I tried to catch it, it hit me in the chest, and I picked it up off the floor, but still! I spent the rest of the show drumming against my leg (“Look at me, I’m Def Leppard!”), and I got the set list after to complete the collection.

After the show, I went over to Lindsay, a new YC (code name: Lady Bug) and fellow Canuck (Whitby, if memory serves) and we geeked out together. Emboldened by my holding of the drumstick, I figured this would be my best opener to talk to Chris, and Lindsay, who was somewhat worried about going over (there was some confusion as to how present YCs were allowed to be at shows), offered to be my photographer. So we boldly made our way over.

While we were waiting for his throng to clear, we found ourselves chatting with Doug Elliott of The Odds and his wife, Sherry. They in fact approached us, as Lindsay was taking care of their kid. They were lovely and engaging; you’ve got to love Canadian rock!

I introduced myself to Chris, it came up that I was with Second City (alright, I’m sure I worked it in, sue me…), and he asked me if I’d seen him in the Sean Schau, and I fully geeked out on him. (I realize I’m overusing that phrase, but I’m trying to cover a lot of material here, and it seems to fit.) Then we took the picture you see here, which not only do I love as a picture of me with the frontman of one of my favorite bands, but I think it nicely encapsulates the relationship of rock to comedy. And yes, he’s twirling the drumstick which I now own and am going to build a shrine for.

At this point, more fans drifted in wanting their pics, I lingered for a bit, then said “Catch you later,” to which he said “See you, Dan.” That’s right. He retained my name. (It’s most likely gone by now, but still, it made me smile.

So I ran into my room to look at the picture, smiled at it (my eyes are so red!), ran out to see the Odds on the pool deck, and realized I’d locked myself out of my room (first time!) After a very unimpressed security guard let me back in, I grabbed my key card and joined the Odds already in progress. They rock. I’d forgotten how much they rock. I’ll have to make a conscious effort to rediscover them, because they put on a hell of a show.

Then Acid Wish came on. In glam wigs and costumes, they were surely the world’s greatest cover band since Mute Apricot. I don’t think I knew them, but there was something very familiar about them…it was the ODDeSt thing…They rocked out ‘til 2:30 a.m. or so, all classic rock, including a 40-minute encore which was just one song melting into another over and over. Adding a touch of surreal to the occasion was an artificially buxom young lady (I’m thinking a well-preserved 40) who popped out of the hot tub, and was doing sexy dancing for the whole show. I give her points for endurance, and for not stopping even when the songs might have suggested a rest. (I can now say I’ve seen sexy dancing to “Rainbow Connection.” I slept the sleep of the righteous.

Day 4:

This was a sea day, and I took it appropriately easy, doing laundry, a bit of reading, generally decompressing.

The evening began with me bumping into Chris at dinner. He said “Hey, Dan. Chris.” That’s right. He reintroduced himself to me. Like I was a real person, and so was he, and I might have forgotten his name. Wild! And reassuring that I hadn’t been all superfan scary. We chatted like people are wont to do, and then I toddled off to eat.

My first concert of the night was The Weakerthans in the Stardust Theatre. It was a tad disappointing, actually, relative to their Spinnaker show, as they didn’t do too much to fill the space, but not a bad show. And they opened their encore with “One Great City!”, much beloved to the Toronto Hershfields as the “’I Hate Winnipeg’ Song” (sorry, Grandma), so that was pretty fun.

I kept up my streak of passing up Great Big Sea and went to see the Mountain Goats. Quite heady stuff that I think I want to hear more of. I was enjoying it, but I can definitely see it taking multiple listenings to absorb. But while the songs were all really good, the between-songs banter was absolutely incredible! If the whole show had just been him introducing songs and never playing them, I would have been content. An underrated skill, to be sure.

The late night show was Kevin McDonald and Dave Foley. It was inevitably disappointing, given my expectations; I have only my own geekiness to blame. They were doing all archival material, more or less a greatest hits show, and being the fan that I am, I could have stepped in for either of them without missing a beat. And I must admit it was a touch sloppier in terms of props and tech than I would have liked, which was somewhat distracting. And of course, every other time I’d seen them live, it was in front of packed houses who worship them, not eighty-percent-full houses that were mostly casual fans or people just looking for something to do. All those caveats aside, it was still fun, some good laughs in the adlibs and snafus, and always educational to see how the big pros do it.

I got to bed at around 1:30, making it the earliest night for me of the cruise.

Day 5:

Having been denied by inclement weather our trip to Great Stirrup Cay, Norwegian’s own private beach island (and reputed slave graveyard), we spent the day in Key West. Fairly early on, I was faced with the choice of either going to Hemingway House, one of Ernest’s last homes, or Sloppy Joe’s, birthplace of the Sloppy Joe. I stand by my choice, and believe that Papa would have made the same choice in my position. (And by “Papa”, I mean Hemingway, not my father, although now that you mention it…) I of course had the Sloppy Joe, and Mike and Nate both had the same, so it was a bonding thing. And six-toed cats are creepy. So stop judging me already!

After that, we wandered around a bit searching for a key lime pie for Nate (it ended up -being of the on-a-stick variety), then walked up and down Duval St., the main strip. A lot of strip clubs and T-shirt stores, and what I’m pretty sure was a whorehouse. At the very least, I’m thinking a house with all the windows shuttered and a sign out front saying “Adult Entertainment” is of ill-repute. In lieu of a picture of that, here’s the boys and I at the southernmost point of the continental U.S.

Pretty south, eh?

Then it was time to take advantage of an extra day in the States with the traditional phone calls. It was during one of these calls that I had my first Chris Murphy encounter of the day, and yes, I intend to share them all! Alright, this one was just a smile and wave, but still, encounter! It somewhat salvaged the phoning experience for me, because the payphones I was trying then forced me to choose between the one where the receiver cut in and out and the one without a working 3. (I later managed to find a phone in actual working order, but no one was home. Quel dommage!)

With time running out, I dashed off to the Hemingway House, had a quick gander at it and the lighthouse across the street, then back to the boat. Key West, I hardly knew ye.

First concert back on board was The Mountain Goats again. They were good, but I was all sleepy. What I stayed aware of my surroundings for, I liked. Then the girls and I got chatty with Kevin McDonald, which was very nice. He’s swell. And I finally got some pictures with him, which I will treasure. I think this one is my favorite:

Where you see “out of focus,” I see “dreamlike.”

How you like me now, Stinkpot?!?

There was a little time to kill, so we went for a little wander, which led us to meet up with Pat Thornton and Jared Sales at the bar. It’s nice to know that should I ever have to introduce myself to Pat Thornton again, at least I’ll have a clear context to bring up. We wandered some more and caught the Guitar Hero Tournament final. I hate to admit to being blown away by fake musicianship when there were so many actual rock stars around, but the guy who won, playing “Tom Sawyer”, was incredible. And clearly has too much time on his hands.

Then my third Sloan concert. Chris was doing some pre-show banter, and as he walked past me to go to the bathroom, he said “Hey, Dansy, how was my timing?” So flattered was I, I stammered out some approval. The concert itself was of course delightful, Sherry (the Odds wife mentioned earlier) came over to me, and we chatted and danced, and I got to see, for what I believe was the first time, “Underwhelmed” performed live. (Which was funny, because I’d been trying to make Nate feel better all week about The Odds not playing “Heterosexual Man” by saying that I felt his pain because Sloan wouldn’t be playing “Underwhelmed.” Oops!)

And then after the show, I gave Chris a “Great show, Chrispy” (hey, if he can call me “Dansy”…) and reassured him about a joke he’d told that the audience didn’t seem to pick up on but that I liked.

Then another Sean Schau, the personal highlight of which was Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland singing “Winterlong”, a song I’ve always loved. I left while he was vamping waiting for his last guest to show up (it was very good vamping, but The Odds had started by that point.) I stayed ‘til the bitter end of The Odds / Acid Wish, which was about 4:30. In terms of intangible highlights, I think I will always remember the teenage boy trying to pick up a woman far out of his league (think Avril Lavigne if she was a Barbie doll) with a Bud Light, and then when he was rebuffed, offering it with a disdainful “Here” to the plainer girl next to her.

I had one last chance to get my picture with Dave Foley, but at the last second, he was called away to tend to a drunken musician who clearly needed tending to, and rather than make a pain of myself, I opted to just take a mental picture. Click! (After all, I know I met him!) I said a quick goodbye to new buddy Chris, went to bed, clicked my heels three times and said “There’s no place like the Norwegian Jewel. There’s no place like the Norwegian Jewel.”

And sure enough, when I woke up, I was there. Again.

I think I’m going to print some of those pictures for my wall…

7 Responses to “Never mind the bollocks, IT’S SHIPS ‘N DIP WEEK!”

  1. Dave Pearce says:

    See, we had two cruises like that…one was Rosie O’Donnell’s gay-couples family cruise, for which we were turfed FROM THE SHIP, and the other was the jam-band Moe, which rocked, but certainly wasn’t stocked with EVERY BAND I LOVED IN 1995!!

    You lucky bastard.

  2. Prince O Maine says:

    Mute Apricot may ride again- can’t let this Acid Wish claim our crown!

  3. Jo says:

    Didn’t Great Big Sea play Frosh Week in 1997? I could swear you were living on Ave des Pins then…

  4. Dan Hershfield says:

    Indeed, I believe it was. It was a Frosh Week activity, but not our Frosh. That’s what threw me off.

    I was chatting with Jon, and he also remembers it that we didn’t see the Violent Femmes, that Great Big Sea was actually opening for them, but I remember it the way I wrote it up. Tiebreaker?

  5. Jo says:

    Here’s how I remember it (though I’m sure others would disagree): we saw The Pursuit of Happiness (is that the one with the guy who looked like Sam?), the Rheostatics canceled so Jon was bitter, and we all left before GBS and henceforth missed the Femmes. A footnote: I’ve seen Great Big Sea twice in Philly, and they’re not only a lot of fun, but very friendly if you shmooze your way backstage. But sounds like you’ve had your share of partying with rockstars…

  6. Dan Hershfield says:

    Based on that, here’s my modified memory (or possible memory): we all left before Great Big Sea, this I remember. But Jon seems to recall Sam and I not being at the apartment afterward (ahem), so I’m thinking we lingered and returned to see the Violent Femmes.

    And the bitterness I’m remembering wasn’t at the programmers for putting the Violent Femmes first but was actually at the Concordia frosh for leaving as they were coming on.

    I think that’s it.

    Oh, and for the record, years later, I saw the Rheostatics for free too! (Well, at a square named for Mel Lastman, so it cost me some of my soul, but still…hooray for Canadian rock!)

  7. Jo says:

    Hehe…I remember Jon and I having the place to ourselves, too.
    Speaking of Canadian rock: if you’re back on land, come South for the Hip in Philly in May!!

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