Report: Cayamo Cruise 2010 (Day 3)

 

For
Tuesday, Feb. 24, we hoist anchor in Belize while rocking out with the WPA, Gregory
Alan Isakov, Rachel Yamagata, Steve Earle and Luke Doucet – plus a special covers-rich
throwdown by Stephen Kellogg and The Sixers.

 

By Lee Zimmerman / Photos by Will Byington

 

Ed.
note: This week BLURT contributor Lee Zimmerman is on the annual Cayamo Cruise,
which as you’ll read below boasts a who’s-who of roots and Americana
artists playing for (and mingling with) fans traveling on a five-day cruise
through the Caribbean. Fittingly enough, the
event’s called Caribbean on Cayamo
2010: A Journey Through Song. Internet connection willing, Zimmerman will be
filing a report each day, so keep checking back to find out who was twanging
the loudest, who was singing the sweetest – and who Zimmerman was rubbing
shoulders with the hardest. Go here to read his report from Day 1 and here for
Day 2. Incidentally, you can also read his report from last year’s Cruise
elsewhere at the BLURT site.

 

It’s gonna be another long day…

 

Try as I may, there’s no sleeping in. For starters, there’s
the booming voice over the intercom that’s suddenly managed to pierce the quiet
sanctity of our stateroom. “Good morning, ladies and gents, and welcome to Belize.” It’s our cruise director, of course, who I’m
convinced they’ve hired due to his cheery, charming English accent and not
because he’s aware that on these kind of cruises, people like to sleep in late
and aren’t especially anxious to hear a cheery, charming English accent – or
any other dialect for that matter — at eight in the morning. Okay, so going
to bed at 12:30 AM the night before hardly qualifies for any semblance of
rowdy, all-night partying… but as far as I’m concerned, it’s close enough to
qualify.

 

Regardless, Alisa is anxious to venture ashore, and our
neighbors, the Judges, are game, so we dutifully shuffle over to the
ever-accommodating buffet line, grab a bountiful breakfast and make our way to
the point of disembarking in order to grab a tender to the mainland. It’s a
little disconcerting that the ship has opted to have a safety drill at the same
time, one that simulates one might happen if suddenly the ship collides with an
armada of Sudanese pirates, but we’re assured that all’s well and Sudanese
pirates rarely, if ever, venture into this part of the world. We do make one
stop on the ship prior, however — that being the spa which Alisa scopes out as
a place of refuge, just in case, said Sudanese pirates do defy the odds and
attempt to take us all hostage.

 

That place is the ship spa (how many times have you read
accounts of pirates coming aboard and demanding anyone remove the hot rocks –
or is it hot coals? – from their backside in order to play hostage. Rarely
happens, right? (Note: I never understood how hot rocks can cure any ills. It
seems like these spas can say anything to that effect, and as weird as it may seem,
still convince their patrons that it would cure their ills. I can almost
imagine that if I go into a spa one day, there will be a sign advertising a
grilled cheese treatment, wherein they put me, the spa-ee, between two giant
pieces of seedless rye bread, pour American cheese over my naked body, and
claim it’s a cure for a hernia.)

 

In this case, the treatment
that draws my attention is acupuncture, which of course is a commonly accepted
medical practice, mostly among people who actually believe it can be painless
to have up to four dozen needles piercing all parts of your body including
certain nether regions that you’re reticent to even touch yourself… in public
that is. (Of course, speaking for myself, no part of my body is off-limits at
this particular time of my life.) Even so, there’s a flyer claims that there
are innumerable symptoms that might make one a candidate for acupuncture,
although one category draws my attention in particular. Should you suffer from
persistent diarrhea, projectile vomiting, emitting noxious fumes and/or gasses,
and a whole list of other stuff I simply couldn’t bring myself to read, you
then are a prime candidate for acupuncture. I mentioned to the spa hostess –
all of whom seem to be oriental and speak slowly and reassuringly – that I
wouldn’t think that sticking needles into any person prone to explode, such as
it were, might be a good idea. Yet, try as I might, I couldn’t get them to see
my point. “These needles are as thin as a hair and they don’t hurt,” one of the
oriental ladies said in that slow, reassuring accent. Okay, whatever, I
conceded, but if I’m getting the treatment and I hear there’s also someone
there who’s come in demanding acupuncture to cure his or her persistent
diarrhea, projective vomiting, or tendency to emit noxious fumes and/or gasses,
I want to be an entire deck – or perhaps entire ship – away.

 

 

Fortunately, there would be no reason to worry about that
particular dilemma. We were about to face an entirely different paradox on Belize itself. For those of you who are unaware, Belize has a number of national distinctions. For one
thing, it’s so crammed for space between Mexico
and Central America, there’s barely enough room to write the word “Belize” on a map. Seriously though, it boasts a number
of national attractions – historical ruins, lush rainforests, unspoiled
beaches. And it has the corner on the world’s market when it comes to cheap
tee-shirts that say “Welcome to Belize” in
150 different fonts, many of which have yet to be discovered by the outside
world. Unfortunately, the tee-short phenomenon is the only one that we would
personally witness. That leads to our second bit of educational trivia about
Belize… that being the fact that the country’s main industry, which happens to
be pushy cab drivers hustling to convince the tourists that they offer the best
fares when it comes to taking visitors to view the aforementioned treasures —
tee-shirts included.

 

“Hey mon, I’ll take you wherever you want to go for $10!”

Hey mon, I’ll take you wherever you want to go for $8!”

“Hey mon, I’ll take you wherever you want to go for $5!”

“Hey mon, I’ll pay you – just let me take you wherever you
want to go!”

 

By this point, the only place I wanted to go was Detroit. In fact, I’m convinced that if the U.S. Marines
really wanted to train their recruits effectively, they’d ship them all to Belize, and force them to run the gamut of pushy cab
drivers. Those that made it three blocks without coming to a complete halt due to
being seduced into taking a cab ride to see the ruins at Mata-Hari, or whatever
it’s called, would then be qualified for combat.  As for us, we simply lacked the
endurance.  We fled back to the dock to
seek the refuge of a local bar and proceeded to learn all we needed about the
country’s economy by consuming their locally brewed bear. Be assured however,
that Alisa and I did get our lesson in international customs and geography all
the same. We consumed said beers with our new friends, Chuck and Tracy, who
happen to hail from Canada.  Having been on cruises before, I’m convinced Canada is the only place in the western hemisphere where
pushy cab drivers are not deemed a
national treasure.

 

 

We had to deal with choices of a different sort later. Our
first concert of the evening, set to take place in the Starlight Theater, the
ship’s main venue, was our “twice as nice” show with Emmylou Harris. This is a
special feature of the Cayamo cruise that allows guest to choose a headliner
show they opt to see a second time… hence the title “twice as nice.” However,
other options awaited, including WPA on the pool deck and Darrell Scott, billed
“With Friends,” back in the Spinnaker. Noting the virtuosity of his performance
on day one, we opted to make our return show with Scott and we weren’t
disappointed. Although two of the three “friends’ turned out to be relatively
unknown – Taylor Bates and Sarah Ample specifically-both offered superb songs
of their own. Luke from WPA rounded out the list of guests and offered a
typically virtuoso performance on fiddle to complement Scott’s nimble
fretwork.  Scott also provided the
audience with a sage piece of advice on the art of songwriting:

“The best songs are the ones that come up and tap you on the shoulder when you
least expect it. We as songwriters need only stay out of the way when the songs
show up. We can’t choose them because they show up in their own time.”

 

 

After a brief detour to catch the tail end of a set by the
all but unknown but thoroughly captivating Gregory Alan Isakov in the Atrium,
it was back to the Spinnaker for Rachel Yamagata, who proved to be an absolute
hoot as she delighted the crowd by poking fun at her melodramatic muse. She
also offered a choice anecdote on her adjustment to life at sea. “I thought I’d
be able to stick to my normal routine,” she remarked. “So the first day I went
straight to the gym. But when I couldn’t get in, I went straight to the bar and
I’ve been there ever since.”  After what was
intentioned as a sad song about a lost dog – in which Yamagata made scant
attempt to keep a straight face and brought the audience to hysterics as well –
she brought on a parade of special guests, chief among them Vienna Teng and the
seemingly omnipresent Brandi Carlile. “Brandi used to open for me,” Yamagata
commented. “Now she’s a big rock star and I’m singing sad songs about lost
dogs.”

 

 

Nevertheless, Yamagata and her trio brought the house
down.  “Thank you for choosing me over
Lyle Lovett,” she said to the crowd before making her departure.

 

 

The biggest surprise of the evening was the Canadian husband
wife-duo, Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland. Offering up a flexible
combination of angular blues, sassy jazz and heart-tugging ballads, the two
gave a dazzling performance magnified all the more by Luke’s shredding guitar
licks and ample use of the whammy bar to create some of the most impressive
sonic motifs heard thus far. His licks explore unexpected realms – erratic,
unpredictable, and seemingly out of sync with the melody and yet wholly
appropriate at the same time.  Ending
with a beautiful ballad bearing the refrain, “I adore you,” it was enough to
bring a drinking man to tears. Or in my case, even one who casually imbibes.

 

It was then time to dash downstairs to the Starlight for the
solo set by Steve Earle. Unsure as to the nature of his personality or the
state of his mood, the crowd held their collective breath as Earle made his way
to center stage. He turned out to be quite the showman, regaling the crowd with
a mix of self-effacing humor, autobiographical anecdotes and political
potshots.  The music itself was
mesmerizing; with Earle accompanying himself on guitar and occasional mandolin,
he turned such classic tracks as “I Ain’t Never Satisfied” and “Coppertown
Road” into communal sing-alongs and a general sort of soul revival.  Referring to his latest album, a tribute to
his famous compadre Townes Van Zandt, Earle remarked, “I first met Townes when
I was seventeen and I thought it was the most amazing thing ever.  I’m 55 now and I still think it was the most
amazing thing ever.” He sandwiched those comments between heartfelt readings of
Van Zandt’s “My Old Friend the Blues” and “Pancho and Lefty,” fitting choices
considering the emotional context.  A
remarkable performance overall, Earle’s concert reminded me of why I relished
Cayamo in the first place. It was this kind of special bonding between audience
and performer that breaks down that invisible wall normally separating an
artist from the faithful legions. The tears in my eyes were clearly tears of
joy.

 

That sense of common purpose radiated later in the Spinnaker
as Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers, a band clearly infatuated with the spirit of
rock ‘n’ roll revival, hosted the evening’s “throwdown,” a set of Byrds, Band,
Stones and Tom Petty covers featuring guest appearances by passengers and other
artists alike.  The revelry that arose
from singing along to such chestnuts as “Up On Cripple Creek,” “Honky Tonk Women,”
“I Won’t Back Down” and the evening rowdy closer,” a raucous version of “Like a
Rolling Stone” took Cayamo’s penchant for partying full circle and brought a
grand evening to its righteous conclusion. I was indeed, one happy Cayamo
camper. Happy too, because there were still two days to go. Yet, I was also
feeling slightly concerned. I still had an impressive list of performers I had
yet to see.

 

 

 

Leave a Reply