Cayamo, heading into the final stretch
We’re on day something-or-other and, since internet is a luxurious extravagance, as I write this, I’m not sure I recall where I left off. So, we’ll just pick up the cruise at the point where Will Hoge rocked the salt right out of the air on the pool deck. Having only seen Will once or twice (solo), I didn’t know what to expect from a full-length rock band show. But, it turned out to be another major highlight of the week. He was the first performer to break the night in when we re-boarded from Tortola, so perhaps the energy was just ripe for his rockstar kicks and guitar pumping.
Brandi Carlile was our mainstage show that night, and she started out strong with master drummer Allison Miller taking the liberty of a minutes-long solo to kick off the set. Alone onstage, Miller ripped and pounded through an athletic solo – the kind you don’t want to see end. But it had to end, in order for Carlile and the rest of the band to come onstage and unleash their fireworks through the first handful of songs. Early in the set was a back-to-back country classics block with “Folsom Prison Blues” (sheer party, with everyone on their feet for the third song in the set) and a stirring version of “Crazy.” I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – I’m waiting for Carlile’s cover album of country classics. Her voice and artistic energy seem tailor made for such a thing. Alas, I think I’ll be waiting a while for that one.
The rest of her set was a run-down of all her crowd favorites, with no new material for this night, and ended with her twin backing band doing their version of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Sound of Silence.”
Living on a cruise ship for a week is a bit like putting a small town in the middle of the ocean. As small towns go, silly, unfounded gossip tends to break out with seemingly little provocation. A startling murmur broke out when, before the show, Sixthman CEO Andy Levine took the stage to joke about the reasons why Brandi may not be returning for a fifth year on Cayamo 2012. No news about the real reason she’s considering not returning, but the crowd seemed to take Levine’s joke about Carlile “hav[ing] some growing up to do offstage” seriously enough that some laughable rumors and speculation circled the ship for the duration of St. Croix day. Enough so that Levine took the stage again last night and, before introducing Patty Griffin, explained he had been kidding in the first place and Carlile is actually a rather lovely person. The sigh of relief was audible. There’s a reason she’s commonly referred to here as the “queen of the ship” – this crowd is in Carlile’s pocket.
St. Croix day brought us back onto the ship to the hard-bagpiping punk-fiddling energy of Enter the Haggis and another dance party on the pool deck. It was Patty Griffin’s arrival, though, which made this night most memorable. Cayamo permits each passenger to choose a mainstage artist they want to see twice during the week, and I had chosen Griffin for my “twice as nice” ticket. Turned out that meant I’d be seeing her back to back at 8pm and 10pm on the same night.
The first set was a low-key singer-songwriter set, with Griffin alternating between piano and guitar. She delivered a handful of very old and obscure selections from her repertoire, a stirring version of “The Moon Song,” which she wrote and never recorded – having handed it over immediately to Emmylou Harris.
Her second set started with “Up to the Mountain” and then quickly welcomed Buddy Miller and his band to the stage for a rollicking full-band set. (Plenty of accordion solos.) Since Miller produced her ‘Downtown Church’ record (which won a grammy for Best Traditional Gospel Album on Sunday), this set pulled heavily from that disc. There were new songs, too, though, and some that she recorded for one of the “many” albums she’s recorded and never released. Together with her first set of the night, this was surely one of the most musical moments on the ship thus far. (Note David Haskins’ recent piece on Patty Griffin’s remarkable streak.)
The ship was rocking so much last night, one of her guitars fell over from its stand in the middle of a song, but she kept going, citing a time she played on a ridiculously hot day in New Jersey, when Sharon Jones went down from the heat but still kept singing. “It’s so hard to stand up,” Griffin told the audience. “If the boat tumps me over, I’m gonna keep singing.”
After that show, we all took to the atrium for the opposite experience – a funk dance party hosted by World Cafe’s David Dye. With a time change occurring toward the end of the dance party, Dye took it 30 minutes or so longer than originally planned. I managed to get an electric slide going for “Play That Funky Music” and enjoyed dancing with some of the NCL and Sixthman staff members before turning in for the night.
Today, we have another full day at sea, with quite a bit of great music ahead. I’ll be kicking it off watching a songwriters in the round event with Buddy Miller, Patty Griffin, Scott Miller, and Dar Williams. Then, Keith Sewell and Steep Canyon Rangers by the pool. Later, Steve Earle and the Dukes, Jim Bianco, Buddy and his band, and who knows what else. Naturally, I’ll keep you posted.