Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Voyage of the Damned: Bands and Cruise Ships

In a sad corner of my mind, I envisioned stepping out of my cabin on the Carnival cruise ship Imagine at the same time as the person across the hall. As I pull the door shut behind me, I turn and lock eyes with a middle-aged guy in an old pair of swim trunks, no shirt, unshaven, with a dingy beach towel over his shoulder. We look at each other for a second. I know that he knows that I know who he is. By the look on his face, he's either resigned to the inevitable exchange, or silently daring me to say something. But I nod, and he nods and we deliberately walk in the opposite direction down the hall.

This guy is Rob Thomas and I've stupidly booked a ticket on the "Matchbox Twenty Cruise" to Nassau, Dec. 6-9. I then wake up screaming.

That was the scene I concocted after getting a press release about the latest in a rash of 90s bands taking to the high seas with the promise of the most exciting, intimate fan-band experience anyone who grew up in the last decade of the century could imagine.

For nearly $1000, you can sail from Miami, Fla. to Nassau and get in on Matchbox Twenty performances, photo-ops, Q&A sessions, evening deck parties, and I suppose the thrill of reaching for the same bagel as drummer Paul Doucette.

A few weeks back, The AV Club wrote up a similar announcement for cruises featuring Sugar Ray, the Spin Doctors, Smash Mouth, and others. I can't shake the weird sad feeling I got reading about it because whether or not playing cruise ships is becoming an increasing viable or profitable option for bands, the concept is still imbued with the same tragic stink as landing a guest spot on The Love Boat. Washed up old acts turn up on the cruise ship circuit, right? So how weird is it when the bands that soundtracked middle school (or high school) are setting sail on the musical equivalent of a Viking funeral? I thought we had at least another decade.

A certain father of mine suggested that maybe the bum association with playing cruise ships might be fading. If Matchbox Twenty can pack a cruise ship with the same loyal fans who pushed their September release North to the #1 spot on Billboard's Hot 200, who cares? Maybe it's not sad and weird. I have no idea. I did dig up an item from Carnival's archive of press releases that described a partnership with Maroon 5 where the band played a concert before the maiden voyage of the Carnival cruise ship Magic... but it doesn't seem like they actually got on the boat. In 2008, John Mayer played the Carnival cruise ship Victory with Colbie Caillet and Dave Barnes, and then did it again about a year later with other acts. But if I remember correctly, that was mostly chalked up to 'John Mayer doing something weird again.'

To this point, I'm unconvinced as to where exactly to file "cruise ship gig" in any given artist's career highs and lows. As much as I still have a great amount of affinity for MB20– they were my first concert, after all–  I'm going to avert my eyes from whatever this thing winds up being.

Then again, money earned from both land and sea is still green. And hey, a cruise could be fun, right?

1 comment:

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