Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Kellybeez at Cayamo: Wednesday


Wednesday, February 6
The full report is here. Excepts below.

First look at Brandi Carlile

Brandi and cellist Josh Neumann took the stage about a half hour late yesterday, maybe because of the rockin' of the boat. No, not the music, the literal rocking of the boat. whew. Brandi remarked she was glad she wore her purple tennis shoes instead of the high heeled cowboy (she said cowboy, not me) boots, due to the uneasiness on stage.

I will confess that she is the least researched of my headliners. I guess I went on the recommendations of the others in the "Who Are You Looking Forward To The Most" thread in the Cayamo pre-cruise forum. There are people from Australia and the UK who jumped on this boat for the chance to see Brandi, and I did look at her stuff on YouTube, per fellow and gal cruisers. In a way, I'm glad that she and Josh were the duet I met in the Caribbean Lounge last evening.

With that caveat, I will say that while Brandi is truly and most mightily her own voice, I could detect a helping of kd lang with a dollop of Ricki Lee Jones, peppered by generations of torch singers and the songs of young women trapped in their unfinished lives, yearning to break free and be a damn fine appreciated woman. Amen, sister!

On planning a schedule
Sitting on the deck as we line up in the glorious blue port of Cozumel, waving to the other cruisers and wondering how lazy I should be today. I may need to rest up for John Hiatt, my six o'clock intimate gathering. Did I mention that tomorrow at six is Emmylou? Friday, Shawn Colvin and Saturday is Patti Griffin. Is there an anticipatory limit on a human being?

It is hard not to think ahead to what's "Just Around The Bend" (thanks Earache), yet the balance of being in the moment and planning ahead can be illusionary on this ship. It is not so much planning to see specifics rather than trying not to miss anything. There ought to be large dry-erase bulletins in each stateroom to map out the must-sees and fill in the gotta-sees, then pepper with the wanna-see and, of course, the why-not-sees can serve standby, just in case. And this doesn't even take into consideration the running into a band/artist/jam while walking to and fro to these other destinations.

4 comments:

dangerouslytalented said...

This girl has more talent in her lil finger...i just bet she's a fiddler....

wonderbabe said...

Wow! Now I want to see Brandi!

Anonymous said...

here is feedback I sent to Sixthman who run the Cayaamo cruise.....

To Sixthman Management,

I spent a few hours writing this. I hope you will read it.

The Cayamo cruise was very good. Obviously a lot of talented people at Sixthman worked very long and hard on the preparations to make it so successful. However, it could very easily be 200% better in 2009 and more of a real “singer songwriter” cruise.

Here in no particular order are my complaints, suggestions and praises, and a list of performers I recommend for Cayamo in 2009:


When Gaelic Storm played in the casino the first night they attracted a bunch of very drunk folks one of whom jumped up and down constantly ignoring the continual warnings of her boyfriend, and sure enough she jumped with cowboy boots onto my girl friend’s foot and almost broke her toe. The last thing I expected of my fellow passengers on this cruise was young very drunk girls wearing cowboy boots on a ship. There was also almost a fight between two drunken guys right in front of the band and the band members had to stop playing and talk the guys out of it. The band seemed experienced with dealing with fights and drunks. This crowd was obviously having fun (and we were all there to have a great time so I can’t fault that) but they also completely blocked access to the corridor going back to the Red and Black and Adriatic lounges and some people actually gave up on going to the late shows in those two venues because they didn’t want to fight all the drunks to get by (same thing the next night) and they didn’t know of another route to take. Sixthman and security personnel were no where to be found. After several of us complained at the Sixthman desk Wednesday, this was finally controlled by yellow shirted security starting Wednesday night.

Gaelic Storm is the type of band that could play on ANY Carnival Fun Cruise not just a singer songwriter cruise - they were OK for the casino type environment and a drunk crowd but not good to have been located where their inebriated and aggressive fans would block access to the rear half of the ship and where folks who were not their fans could not escape their frenzied sound while gambling. They are a fair bar band and talented instrumentalists, but not a serious Celtic band (if you don’t understand that you just won’t understand anything I have to say) and the few songs they composed themselves (songwriter cruise remember) were just about drinking. Having Gaelic Storm on this cruise at this location was not a good thing and not controlling the drunken passengers the first few nights in the casino was a very bad thing.

I think the red shirted staff of Sixthman is 99% attuned to rock bands and rock cruises and not at all the right group of staff for a singer songwriter cruise. Also, Sixthman chose a lot of bar bands and bar singers who were not talented enough to have been invited on a singer songwriter cruise. Much of this poor talent was from Atlanta so you possibly let your home town friendships influence the choices to “fill out” a schedule. It is not bar singers who you should be choosing from; it is the performers who are on the folk club circuits like the places Patty Griffin and Shawn Colvin have always played in around the country. It is just obviously not your kind of music. You just didn’t demonstrate that you know enough about contemporary folk music and singer songwriter music as it is appreciated across the country to have had the right performers…sure one or two country western performers thrown in the mix and maybe a loud group for the late night drunks is OK but you overloaded the talent line-up with Nashville and Atlanta types.

You got the headliners right, but get some staff that is better educated in the genre to choose the talent for this cruise next year - and for talent below the level of the headliners get a much better and more mature quality of performers and songwriters. Too many of the lower-tier performers had lyrics and guitar skills of almost laughable immaturity and that is why they probably play in your local bars and don’t sell CD’s nationally. Seriously, very few could do more than basic strumming of their guitars. Virtually none had distinguished voices or singing styles. Most were young and just starting out on what will certainly be short careers - I can only think of about three who were over 35 years old and had lyrics to reflect their maturity. Don’t get me wrong – I go see and enjoy a lot of very young singer songwriters and age is not a pre-requisite of my enjoyment and passion for the genre or my passion for buying a lot of CD’s, but some level of talent and good lyrics must be a prerequisite.

If for example a performer doesn’t have CD’s available at Amazon then they probably are not good enough to go on the cruise next year with the exception of just a very few you could gamble on like Chris Janson and Holly Williams who are just starting out. But then don’t be so stupid again as to schedule a Holly Williams at the casino stage at 11:30 at night for such a subdued and intimate music style (really, what were you thinking?). You could have used the cigar bar also called “the ionic bar” on Victory as an additional large but intimate venue and you should not have barricaded it off from the passengers several nights because it was the singular pleasant refuge on the entire ship for a quiet cocktail with friends.

I had fully expected that I would purchase about 10 CD’s on the cruise by the performers I was not familiar with, but I did not buy a single one because the talent was just not there. Surprisingly, a significant number of the performers did not even have their own bootleg CD’s to offer because they were just starting out - and really not worthy of performing on the cruise.

When I heard two acts introduce themselves as having been on tour with the Allman Brothers and Lynyrd Skynyrd last year I knew immediately that Sixthman did not understand how to book a singer songwriter cruse. We all came on Cayamo expecting performers who had toured with singer songwriters not with southern rock groups (even though those two particular groups have remained among my favorites for 30 years).

People came from all over the world and all points of this country and Canada to see the headliners and all you offered in addition and contrary to our expectations was overwhelmingly the styles popular in Nashville and Atlanta where folk music is not king. Nashville songwriters just need to be able to rhyme catchy phrases and evoke the common man’s experience – sounds trite and harsh but is true. It is a different expertise to produce a good country song than it is to create a catalogue of work respected in the contemporary folk and singer songwriter world. Yes, I know it was not all southern performers, for instance there were a couple of NYC performers and I may have enjoyed Ari Heist’s songs (I had heard of him before the cruise and I had seen but not bought his CD’s) but I only saw him at the Casino stage and I could not hear and understand a single word of his songs due to all the noise of the crowd. It was a big mistake to have a quiet solo act like him at that stage. When I tried to see him in the Red & Black lounge it was full. There was a woman performer I saw from NYC who was just terrible.

We left a lot of the smaller venues disappointed after affording every performer about three songs to demonstrate some competency as a songwriter, instrumentalist or as a singer. Sure every performance had folks applauding and often enthusiastically but each performer arrived with their own following of passengers in the room too. Also, a lot of the applause for the poor acts was just because the average passenger on this Cayamo cruise was so respectful – after all you could hear a pin drop during all the headliner concerts – is that the case on your other cruises? I bet not. Learn from that.

It was such a shame that Shawn, Emmy Lou and Patty all had to have uniformed security at their sides whenever they left their rooms. If you had booked all the right acts there would not have been any passengers who would have been threatening to them in the least. I would say that 85% of the passengers were there for the pure singer songwriter performers. It was the 15% of passengers who came as fans of the inappropriately booked Atlanta bar bands and bands who tour with rock groups that made the environment uncomfortable for these headliners. Even some of your own staff when off duty were a little too interested in drinking and partying rather than appreciative of any of the performances (just check your own staff blogs to confirm this). Your staff were all very nice, helpful and polite when on duty however, and I don’t fault them for wanting to have a great time – but put those staff who just want to party on the rock cruises instead.

And what was the deal of some local Atlanta magazine trying to promote itself on the cruise? Why did we need to be exposed to that and to what point? That magazine alone was allowed to video tape venues – why is that and to who’s benefit? Did they pay Sixthman? You should make your money from our payments not from vendors who are then permitted to compromise the performances and the Cayamo experience to the detriment of the passengers.

You let this magazine serve its own purposes by changing the special bonus concerts with Patty and Emmylou into their own interviews – they even video taped the interviews (I know because I had to give up my good seat that I had rushed to get to their video guy). I am sure there will be a publication of the interview transcripts in this magazine which is nice and self serving for them and you folks in Atlanta that read it, but it was done at the cost of cheating us who paid for a bonus concert!!!

My personal #1 expectation for something really special on this cruise was for the bonus concert.

You used the bonus concert to entice us to sign up for the cruise early as the only way we could possibly get entry to the concert of our first choice artist – I signed up on the first day possible as a result. And then you cheated us out of a concert by changing it to an interview. We all expected a really special and memorable concert by our favorite performer for just their best fans. First we were made aware just a month before the cruise that these concerts would only be 45 minutes long and then you changed them to interviews to only the benefit of some Atlanta magazine and you didn’t tell us that until we were already in the room waiting for the concert to begin. I still just can’t get over how you did not provide the one thing you hyped to us the most and raised our expectations for the most. The one thing I was most looking forward to and the one aspect of the cruise I believed I was probably paying an extra $ premium for, and first you made it only 45 minutes long and then you secretly and arbitrarily cancelled it altogether for an Atlanta magazine. Shame on you for that.

Is there some compunction to force an Atlanta influence into every Sixthman cruise even if Atlanta’s current scene isn’t blessed with or attracting the real talent of a particular genre to live there? If Cayamo is going to be a cruise to cater to or feature the style of music popular mostly in the south east like your past rock cruises have mostly been, then please advertise it as such next year and don’t “fill-out” the schedule with Atlanta bar performers in December and January after we sign-on based on the selection of the headliners in the previous July, because this adds passengers who as an audience are out of congruity.

I met and had discussions with countless passengers from all over the world on this cruise and I venture that not a single one of them had ever heard of Sister Hazel nor would they be likely to attend even a free concert in their home towns of the “Sixthman Partners” Earl Klugh, Lynyrd Skynyrd, or Barenaked Ladies. But these are the musicians that every Sixthman staffer I met was into. Even the waiters on the ship recognized we are a different crowd than your other cruise passengers…you just didn’t figure it out entirely when you booked the supporting talent. What was Earl Klugh doing being scheduled on a singer songwriter cruise? Let’s face it, you don’t have any “Sixthman Partners” that compose and perform sad, quiet and introspective songs like Patty, Shawn, Lyle and Emmylou all mentioned on stage that they do. You need to reach out and get someone on staff for the booking of Cayamo in 2009 who really understands and loves the singer songwriter genre and who can endear you to some new “Sixthman Partners” who are appropriate for Cayamo.

Brandi Carlisle told us all that she left two of her band members home and she had to apologize for her own limited instrumental skills and that sure made me feel like you must not have paid her the rate for a normal and first class performance. Also Patty Griffin did not bring her whole normal touring band. You should be certain next year we don’t get similarly cheapened versions of any of the artist’s normal tour performances. If I thought that would be the case, the last place my girl friend and I would want to see them would be on Cayamo at such great expense of over $3,400.00. At least Lyle Lovett did bring a full and first class band. I don’t know if John Hyatt normally toured as a solo act in 2007 but I do not think he did – he was great but did we get cheated to see less than his customary performance too? You should have contracts for the artists to be obligated to bring their full touring bands or tell us not to have normal expectations. If we are to receive an abridged, “unplugged” or solo version of any headliner’s act then advertise it that way!

Attendance at the headliner shows dropped off noticeably more and more each night which should be a demonstration to you that there were too many groupies on board of the lesser acts who did not even know of or appreciate the craft of the 6 headliners. You need the lesser acts to mirror the headliners and to be true and at least somewhat accomplished singer songwriters and instrumentalists. Let the drunken young girls in cowboy boots be able to identify that they should sign up for a different cruise with Sixthman – and for that to happen you have to not invite any Atlanta bar performers or groups who tour with rock groups like Skynyrd and the Allman Brothers.

Another suggestion is to have people at least somewhat knowledgeable about singer songwriter music and the performers on this specific cruise at your information booth instead of young folks who are part of Sixthman only because of their attraction to rock cruises. And don’t have 20 year old girls there trying to listen to 40 and 50 year old passengers complain about clearing a path through the drunks and avoiding fights – they had no concept of that. They said having to push through drunken crowds is normal on your other cruises. Also, give out deck plans so folks can find their way around.

I may very well also go on the “Lynyrd Skynyrd” themed cruise with you in 2009 or 2010 – I also like several southern rock bands and I always have and I would certainly welcome a different type of passengers and environment on board for that theme. But the southern music influence that I love is not what I want on the 2009 “singer songwriter” cruise. One of the reasons I am thinking of going on the “Lynyrd Skynyrd” cruise next year is that you did do so many things very well. You really do know how to organize and manage these cruises perfectly – you just need better and more appropriate lower-tier talent for Cayamo.

This may be the best tip I can give you: Go on line and check the listings of who is performing at the singer songwriter clubs across the country like the Ark in Ann Arbor, the Cactus CafĂ© in Austin, Passim’s in Boston and McCabe’s in Los Angeles (I could name many more if you want – I go to a lot of them and I know this music genre) and look for the talent for 2009 cruise there in those listings instead of by cruising the bars in Atlanta and Nashville. In addition to the headliners you can afford to get quality singer songwriters to fill the schedule (you don’t have to just get bar performers and total unknowns who will come on the cruise cheap) – you just need to know the genre and where to look for the right folks with real talent that has been demonstrated and accepted by a national audience already. Don’t go for quantity go for quality.

Virtually every performance and even all the headliner concerts started awkwardly and with the audience still talking because no one from Sixthman ever came out to introduce the acts (except only at the very last main concert and the open mike concerts). Many of the poorer performers did not even tell us where they were from or introduce themselves. In addition to having each act introduced as a courtesy to us and the performers you should post the name of the artist performing at the door to the venue or on a sign on the stage or something. Several times there were unscheduled “mystery” performers at the casino stage and no one ever knew who they were – at that stage especially there should have been a sign. Similarly we never knew the name of the open mike winners when they were on stage. If you had someone announcing each concert they also could have told us various updates when the schedule had changed like when Holly Williams did not show up at the casino stage for her scheduled concert one night – and YOU knew 6 hours earlier that she had missed the boat. At a bare minimum introductions with update information announcements should happen at the main headliner concerts each night.

The only headliner I would want to see you have again next year would be Lyle Lovett, and only because he was so genuinely open with everyone on board and he brought his full and excellent band. Even though the other headliners except Brandi are lifelong favorites of mine, if you repeat any of the others I would probably not come next year. Why would we want to see these particular performers over and over every year on Cayamo when we already go see them quite frequently on land. I do not think you should repeat headliners any more frequently than every other year. That way at least they may have a new CD released and perform all new material.

One really good thing about Cayamo was that every performance in every venue started exactly on time. Bravo!! That was a very significant accomplishment by all concerned. All of the logistics and technical aspects of the entire cruise were perfectly executed. Perfect sound and lighting in every venue. I can’t over state how impressive and gratifying this was. I guess that is why I feel it would be so easy for you to improve on the Cayamo cruise next year by such a significant extent merely by choosing a lot of more accomplished and more appropriate lower-tier performers. Also, the Cayamo web site you maintained all year before the cruise was excellent and extremely helpful in our preparation for our first ever cruise.

If you intend to have some or all of the bonus concerts turn out to be interview sessions again next year you should absolutely make that clear before we have to sign-up in July.

There are tons of great singer songwriters you can choose from for headliners and lower-tier performances and following is a list of just some of them you should know of:



Thanks for reading this,

Richard Williams
El Paso, TX




HEADLINERS FOR CAYAMO SINGER SONGWRITER CRUISE:

Ryan Adams
Paul Brady
Greg Brown
Mary Chapin Carpenter
Bruce Cockburn
Steve Earle
David Gray
Nanci Griffith
Riki Lee Jones
Allison Krausss
Kate and Anna McGarrigle
Natalie Merchant
Keb Mo
John Prine
Damien Rice
Kim Richey
Kate Rusby
James Taylor
Richard Thompson
Gillian Welch

LOWER-TIER PERFORMERS FOR CAYAMO SINGER SONGWRITER CRUISE

Dave Alvin
Tom Dean
Antje Duvekot
Kathleen Edwards
Eliza Gylkenson
John Gorka
The Greencards
John Hammond
Levon Helm
Diana Jones
Kane Welch Kaplan
Lucy Kaplanski
Jimmy La Fave
Patty Larkin
Geoff Muldaur
Ellis Paul
Tom Rush
Richard Shindell
Mindy Smith
Chris Smither
The Subdudes
Otis Taylor
Teddy Thompson
The Wallin’ Jennys
Susan Werner
Cheryl Wheeler
David Wilcox
Dar Williams

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