Train Cruising 2017

Our now annual gig, the Sail Across the Sun Cruise hosted by Train, took us from Tampa, Florida, to Costa Maya, Mexico and back last week. Cruises are easier for me when I lay low, sleep a lot, and focus on playing each of our three shows as best I can. I'm also less prone to jump overboard.

the view from my balcony
Wednesday: Unfortunately, I'd caught a cold, and this day was the worst of it. Coupling how I felt with the embarrassment of being late for the meet up left me in a pretty crappy mood. I was glad that we weren't performing on the first night of the cruise, so I took a couple of naps around the lifeboat drill and dinner, and then went to bed early.

Before we'd even left Atlanta: I was kicked out of the TSA Precheck line because "they use new scanners" and that my saxophones would not fit through. The TSA lady sent me to normal security (wait through another line, take my shoes off, take my jacket off, take my laptop out) only to find...the same scanners. My saxophones fit fine. Mark Dannells took a guitar through TSA Pecheck and they checked it by hand. Thanks a lot.

Thursday: Our first show was scheduled for Thursday at noon on the pool deck. The morning yoga class finished at 11 AM, giving us an hour to completely set up and soundcheck. It turned out to be a pretty stressful experience; the usually reliable stage crew was not very useful (unless sitting around backstage chain smoking is somehow useful), the backlined gear was in pretty rough shape, and we had a few emergencies to troubleshoot (Monkey had a bad cable, and I had a bad channel in the mixer I was issued and a volume pedal that didn't work). Once we began playing, things improved somewhat, though I ended up with a really weird in ear mix--probably a combination of the outdoor acoustics and borrowed gear.

Thursday night, Train had a show (also on the pool deck) with guests from the other bands on the ship. I was chosen to play Careless Whisper and Born to Run. I was fine at the rehearsal, but the gig was a different matter. For one thing, I chose to use a regular cane reed instead of a synthetic, and when we hit the humidity, it had all the spring and stamina of damp notebook paper. Instead of in ear monitors, we used a wedge, and mine happened to have a lot of guitar in it! I used my wireless microphone, though, and at the time, it seemed like I was having an issue with it dropping out (I tried through both songs to find the sweet spot by moving in a hula hoop sized circle behind the wedge, to no avail).  Maybe it wasn't--nobody mentioned it to me, but it felt that way. I haven't seen any video of my performance on the internet, so let's agree that it was magnificent, and I won't bitch anymore about my reed.

photo cred: Alyssa Olson
From there, I met up with the rest of the band--teppanyaki in progress. More rice, please.

Enough disappointment for one day! Back to bed!

Friday: When I awoke, we had reached our only foreign port of the trip: Costa Maya, Mexico. Costa Maya appears to be a port built exclusively for the cruise industry--a nook of touristy shops (tequila, diamonds, and t shirts) cut out of the Mexican jungle south of the Yucatan Peninsula. There's really nothing else there. I did a lap so that I could say I got off the boat in Mexico, but there was nothing interesting for me.

One benefit of this stop: enough people got off the boat that the internet was dramatically faster and I was able to call home.

Saturday night's show was in the theatre. Better crew, better conditions, better show (except for one sustain pedal, which would stop working if you held anything for more than four seconds). This gig was epic! I had a great time, and played really well--in fact, everybody killed it. We were on fire this night.

I was so pleased, I even did a victory lap around the boat.

Saturday: Our only non-musical obligation was an 11 AM meet-and-greet. Two hours of being silly, signing autographs, and posing for pictures.

That afternoon, we had a photo shoot on the front deck of the boat.

photo cred: Zach Wetzel

photo cred: Zach Wetzel
Immediately following, I sat for an interview for a documentary that is being shot about us.

Saturday night, we were supposed to be back on the pool deck for a 10 PM show, but weather forced us back into the theatre. This one felt like an encore from Friday night's big show. Pretty close to the energy we had the night before. One volume pedal did not work, which was right on my average.

photo cred: Michelle Anderson
photo cred: Zach Wetzel
Sunday: The end! After we finished our show, I quickly packed up my suitcase, tagged it, and set it outside my door for pickup by the luggage guys. The magic of this is that it will be waiting on the dock beside the line for customs, and I won't have to drag it off the ship myself. With two saxophone gig bags, a backpack, and a pelican full of gear, I welcome the opportunity for someone else to deal with my suitcase.

Unfortunately, my suitcase was not there when I arrived. I checked the other groups of luggage, but it was gone. The cruise ship people assured me that it would turn up and they would send it to me.

While on the shuttle to the airport, I got a phone call from a guy who said that an overly aggressive porter had accidentally grabbed my suitcase as well as his and thrown both of them in a cab to the Tampa airport. He had time, so we agreed to meet at the Delta counter.

At the airport, I encountered the documentary guys...and my suitcase! What luck! They were as surprised as I was.

We're back in Atlanta for a few days before heading off to Texas. See you there!

Thursday, February 23, House of Blues in Houston
Friday, February 24, Aztec in San Antonio
Saturday, February 25, ACL Live in Austin
Sunday, February 26, House of Blue in Dallas

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