I live my life at full volume...
…and it was loud,
Loud like a hurricane,
Loud like a roarin’ train.
Yeah, it was loud.
Like a trashcan cherry bomb,
Like a storm before the calm.
It was loud.
Two weeks before the sail date for Kid Rock’s fourth annual “Chillin’ the Most” cruise, we learned John Eddie would be playing a pre-pre-cruise show in our back yard. Had I not been on CTM3, I probably wouldn’t have known he was the songwriter behind Kid Rock’s “Happy New Year,” “Fuckin’ Forty,” and “Lowlife.” I certainly couldn’t have guessed he’d written Sammy Hagar’s “Loud.” But, at the time of the call, I DID know. I also knew we’d been referring to the upstairs balcony as Scott’s “Real Big Deck” since the first time we saw Eddie perform the song on last year’s cruise. To think he could actually play at the house made my heart stop. Momentarily. Then I thought, since delegations from Detroit, Ohio, Texas, and Canada were staying with us before the cruise, the house would be full, anyway. Odds were good we’d also have at least a dozen friends over to see them, all primed to drink and dance the night away. Why not add a live band?
The neighbors jumped on board immediately. We built a 12’x24’ stage, found a canopy to cover it, borrowed and/or rented sound equipment, arranged for friends to bring food, set up tents in the front yard, and invited everyone we knew to invite everyone they knew. On a Monday night – yes, I said Monday – we collected over $1,300 in donations for the band and had almost 100 people in attendance. Some were Kid Rock fans on their way to the cruise, some were local friends from nearby, and some were firefighters who’d come to celebrate our neighbor Rhett Carlo’s last day on the job. Though it wasn’t an “official” retirement party, he decided during the planning process to seize the opportunity to end his 30-year career on a high note. To say it was an honor sharing those moments with him is the understatement of all understatements. Like John Eddie says, “They Don’t Make ‘Em Like That No More.” Cheers, Rhett! It’s a privilege to call you friend.
Guests who didn’t leave after the show departed the following morning, most bound for the pre-cruise “pajama party” on board the Norwegian Pearl. Scott and I stayed home that Tuesday, cleaned up, recuperated, and packed for the following day. Having commenced our celebrations on Friday, when the first houseguests arrived, it was hard to believe the cruise hadn’t even started, yet. I questioned my stamina. And my sanity. At forty-eight, part of me says I’m getting too old for this shit. There’s another part, though, that believes wholeheartedly in the magic of Kid Rock and the dysfunctional family that follows in his wake. This cruise is like Christmas; every year, I feel like a little girl who can’t wait to see what Santa brought.
This time, like every time, Santa didn’t disappoint.
Kid Rock wore pink and kicked off his sail away show by passing out shots of Jim Beam Devil’s Cut to everyone on board. It was a little chilly, but the whiskey warmed us up, and the sun shined bright over Miami Beach as we pulled out of port. Next stop: John Eddie. His first show was in the theater, immediately following the sail away. He talked about the party at the house, thanked me for the hospitality, called my husband “a good sport,” and dedicated “Real Big Deck” to Scott. Shannon Curfman, one of Kid Rock’s back-up singers and a true talent on her own, tapped me on the shoulder after the John Eddie show, thanked me for the invite to the house party, said she was sorry for missing it, and assured me she’d be there next year. She was very gracious, chatted for a few minutes, and gave us a CD (which I LOVE). Growing anxious about being late for a scheduled dinner with the Kid Rock Life Line Admins, I thanked her for finding me, apologized for rushing off, and hurried out of the theater. (I know, I still can’t believe I basically said, “I’m sorry, Shannon Curfman, I’d love to chat, but I’ve got a thing.” I’m such an idiot. Hopefully, she won’t hold it against me.)
Dinner at the Japanese restaurant was both entertaining and delicious, and I was pleased that I was neither late nor shitfaced (I was both last year). Sonia Woolf, our fearless leader and founder of the KRLL, did a great job reining us in. It was a pleasure sharing several moments throughout the cruise with her and our fellow Admins. I was especially grateful for the sit-down dinner that night; the buffet line was the only place we ate for the next three days.
Once I hooked back up with Scott, the rest of that first night was something of a blur: New Orleans’ own Trombone Shorty in the theater, Robert James (aka “Junior,” Kid Rock’s son) in the Atrium, DJ Mark EP in Bar City, then back to the Atrium for the Big Rock Show. We tumbled into bed around two, slept ‘til about eight, drank coffee and mimosas with the neighbors on the balcony for an hour or so, perused the schedule for the day, grabbed a quick bite from the chow line, then boarded a tender bound for Great Stirrup Cay, a small, private island owned by Norwegian Cruise Lines that – for this, particular cruise – Kid Rock calls “Redneck Paradise.” It was still a little chilly, but the water was beautiful, and the overcast skies made for great dancing weather.
In addition to the women’s Lucky Bitch and men’s Speedo contests (which provide all the nudity anyone can handle), John Eddie played again on the beach stage at one, The Trews played at three, and Scott Munns played at four. I can’t begin to tell you how hard it is to dance in sand – but I highly recommend it! Back on the boat, we caught Trombone Shorty again at 6:30 on the pool deck, got wowed by Lukas Nelson in the theater at eight, then sampled a little Shooter Jennings and Band of Heathens before hitting the buffet for a late snack. We might have gone to bed immediately after, but we ran into John Eddie’s bass player, Kenny Aaronson, and (later) his sound guy, John DiCapua, and ended up bullshitting and drinking Jack Daniel’s ‘til almost two. Despite being worn out, it was one of the highlights of the trip.
Day two on Redneck Paradise was amazing. The sun was bright, the water sparkled, and the beach was overrun with 2,000 hardcore Kid Rock fans. Everyone brave enough to float on rafts in the chilly, sharp rock-infested water got free beer. I got two (matching, temporary) tattoos! Will Byington, the official photographer, flew a helicopter camera over the crowd for aerial shots. Among the many beach balls bouncing back and forth, to and fro, was a white, inflatable sheep that later showed up tied to the balcony in the theater. There was a guy in a lawn chair wearing nothing but a speedo with a rooster head jutting out the front (thanks for the picture, darlin’!). It was in that atmosphere that Kid Rock played his afternoon beach show. If you’d like to know what he wore, you’ll have to check with someone else; I was having so much fun enjoying the music and the people, I never once looked up at the stage.
Back on the boat, we joined a group of friends on the balcony overlooking the pool deck to catch Shooter Jennings at 6:30. Of all the musical moments on the cruise, the most memorable for me happened when Shooter took over the drums and invited his buddy, Lukas Nelson, to bring his guitar and step up to the mic. Seeing them together on stage was like watching “Willie and Waylon Part II.” My dad was a truck driver and a lover of outlaw country. Their performance gave me goose bumps from head to toe.
Because the lead singer (guitarist?) from The Trews told me in the elevator to see their show at eight, we followed up the windy deck with the theater to see them before rushing back to the pool to catch Lukas Nelson’s 9:00 show. We missed London Souls, Band of Heathens, and Howling Diablos, but had the great pleasure of watching Whodini rock the stage with some badass, old school hip-hop. We ended the night with one last dose of Trombone Shorty, made a quick stop at the buffet, and stumbled back to the room. It was after midnight, maybe close to one, by the time we settled in on the balcony. Within minutes, we heard what sounded like singing. Bad singing. I guessed karaoke. But I think I knew better. We both did. Knowing we still had another whole day to go, I elected to stay in the room and hit the sack. Curious, Scott followed the noise to the pool deck where, seated on a bench under the gazebo, Kid Rock and his son were (somewhat accidentally) entertaining a small crowd with a kind of iPod trivia meets “Name That Tune.” Rock was hammered. Junior was grinning ear to ear. Scott said it was obvious they love each other. I’m sorry I missed it, but tickled Scott was able to be there.
We slept through the belly flop contest and, unfortunately, the Eye Candy Friday Club photo, but caught Lukas Nelson’s first three songs on the pool deck before grudgingly tearing ourselves away and running (vigorously, frantically) to the Flip Cup tournament. Team KRLL won their first match after the opposing team forfeited, won the second match due to obvious prowess and skill, and lost the third match because no one honestly expected to get beyond round one and we weren’t kidding anybody. As a second-year cheerleader (who missed our only match last year while standing in line for a drink), I was simply elated to be present for all three games. GO TEAM!
Shooter and Lukas played the same stage one last time around 4:00 on the pool deck. Kid Rock held court for his Q&A at five, with Junior standing close behind (sporting a video camera and the same broad grin he’d had all weekend). It was exciting to see our good friends participate after being selected as two of the dozen or more cruisers who got to step up to the mic and ask Rock a question. Go, B.J. and Josee! Quotes of the day include, “No, I won’t sleep with you,” “That was funny, right?” “What was the question, again?” and “This is A-murr-ica, we speak A-murr-ican.” Drinking with Tom and Cathy last year was worth every minute, but I was happy we made it to this year’s Q&A.
We saw John Eddie and the band one last time in the Spinnaker Lounge, then watched a bit more of The Trews and the Big Rock Show before – to Scott’s chagrin – I called it a night early. Not that I was thrilled. My knee was throbbing and I was on the verge of seeing double. If I had any hope of getting off the boat in the morning AND having the wherewithal to drive on I-95 for an hour to get home, I knew I should stay off the dance floor and away from the bar. So, Scott rejoined the party and I tidied up the cabin, packed my suitcase and shoulder bag, made a pot of decaf, and enjoyed a quiet cigarette (or two) on the balcony. Listening to the waves crash below, I was grateful for the calm. I thought about the cruise and the pre-pre-cruise and the amazing people we’ve met along this unexpected road. We’re blessed: there’s no truer way to say that.
One of the greatest gifts we’ve given ourselves as a species is music. When we all tune in, the music binds us, lifts us up, and transports us beyond the moment. Few things can take you back to a particular place and time like a song can. Think of Eric Clapton’s “Wonderful Tonight.” INXS’s “New Sensation.” Journey’s “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’.” Stevie Nicks’ “One Winged Dove.” Boston’s “Don’t Look Back.” Sometimes I swear I can smell the wrestling mats tucked behind the gymnasium bleachers, or the vinyl interior of the Duster, with its banana scratch and sniff stickers on the dash and the Visine and mints in the glove compartment. Music makes us smile, laugh, cry, and dance. Together. As the song goes, what a wonderful world it could be if we did that more often.
When I hear a Kid Rock song, I’m reminded of more than a single memory. I think of the people. I think of the friendships. I think of New Year’s Eve and Mardis Gras. Redneck Paradise and Orlando Calling. I think of Detroit and the legends of Motown (and dancing in the Walmart parking lot). I think of the heart and soul of Bob Ritchie and the music he’s introduced me to for the past 15 years, through his songs, his cruise, and through the people he endorses and surrounds himself with – Kracker, Hank, Shannon, Jessie, Cheryl, John Eddie, Ponderosa, Heather Luttrell, The Rhythm Yard, Trombone Shorty, Big Sam and the Funky Nation, The Young Brothers, R.L. Burnside, Robert Bradley… By introducing me to Lukas and the Promise of the Real, he’s even helped me find my way back to my musical roots. Who knew Willie Nelson was THAT cool?! (Thanks, Dad, for making me listen to that crap.) J
Without Kid Rock I might have missed it all. So, thanks for the party, Bobby. Thanks for ALL the parties. As long as you’re at the helm, I’ll be there – with my friends, my dancing shoes, and my hat – ready for you to turn it up loud.