Sunday, Feb. 21, we got Glenn Phillips, Darrell Scott, John Hiatt and others –
not to mention the devil and the deep blue sea, plus plenty of food and
By Lee Zimmerman / Photos by Will Byington
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. Incidentally, you can also read his report from last year’s
Cruise elsewhere at the BLURT site.
Attention all ships at sea: Cayamo 2010 has set sail!
This, then, is your daily briefing on all the goings-on,
brought to you from our stateroom aboard the Norwegian Dawn, again the home of
what may well be the best floating musical event of this day and age. This
year’s cruise, for example, includes Lyle Lovett, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris,
Brandi Carlile and John Hiatt… and those are just the headliners! The support
acts would likely be considered first tier anywhere else – especially when the
names include Robert Earl Keen, Buddy Miller, WPA, Darrell Scott, Shawn
Mullens, Vienna Teng, Edwin McCain, Stephen Kellogg and Rachel Yamagata.
Clearly, we’re already breathless with anticipation. As Darrell Scott would
remark later during his opening night set, “If this festival was held on land,
it would be the best ever.”
Here at sea, somewhere between Miami and Costa Mayan Mexico, it sure feels
like the landlubbers couldn’t disagree.
February 21, 2010
My wife Alisa and I meet our friend Dan and his bevy of four
beautiful young women who have gathered at his apartment after winging in to Miami from various far-flung locales – Colorado,
and Las Vegas. I’m immediately impressed; Dan’s gathered
quite an impressive crew of traveling companions, and the fact that he’s a
single guy immediately draws on a scenario remarkably similar to that cheesy
reality show, “The Bachelor.” Still, I’m a married guy, and in the first feat
of endurance I’ll endure in day one, I attempt to refrain from any action that
can be deemed as being flirtatious, at least in Alisa’s eyes. On the other
hand, sucking in my gut seems somewhat mandatory. If you’ve started to keep
score, those would be today’s first and second concession to self control.
Dan and one of his guests grab a ride from a friend, leaving
Alisa, three of the other girls and me, the sole remaining male, to take a cab
to the port of embarkation. No sooner do we arrive than we find ourselves
embroiled in a crisis. It seems Alisa has left her make-up bag back in the car
which we’ve parked at Dan’s condo. Because we’re talking women’s make-up here,
any decision I’m mulling about whether or not we need to go back to retrieve it
quickly becomes a moot point. The girls disperse and Alisa and I jump back in
the taxi to retrieve the precious cargo.
Fortunately, Dan’s apartment is nearby. Unfortunately,
however, a simple $18 cab ride has escalated in cost to well beyond that
otherwise reasonable figure and is now closer in proximity to $50. Obviously –
and reasonably – Alisa foots the cost.
Arriving back at the port, we quickly join a burgeoning line
of passengers waiting their turn to go through security. We’re handed health
questionnaires asking for two bits of information in particular – have we
experienced any severe flu like symptoms in the past 24 hours – specifically
uncontrolled bouts of diarrhea – and have we had any up close and personal
encounters with anyone claiming to have swine flu… as if someone would approach
us and happily announce, “Hey, guess what, I have the desly and contagious
swine flu! Now give me a big wet kiss!”
Naturally, the answer would be a resounding ‘no’ to both,
even though admittedly, I’m trying to repress a cold and I’m gripped by
sniffles. However, Alisa, for whatever reason, answers ‘yes’ to both. Fortunately,
I catch the error in enough time so as to avoid being quarantined. Acts of self
control three and four then follow, three being the fact I restrain from
telling Alisa she needs to start paying closer attention (in which case she’s
likely blame it all on me and embarrass me in front of everyone in the queue)
and four, my need to refrain from sneezing so that the security folks don’t
actually think there’s a guy on board who’s going to infect the entire ship
with some ghastly malady.
Luckily, fate seems to be on our side. A short time after
we’re checked in, the computers go down and there’s an hour delay in boarding
for those behind us.
As we make our way onto the
ship, we’re greeted by high-fives from Andy Levine, the head of Atlanta’s Sixth Man
organization, under whose auspices Cayamo and several other music-themed
cruises operate. Andy, always an amiable fellow, engages in a brief exchange
over the current pronunciation of ‘Cayamo’ – whether its ‘KUY-YAMO’ or
‘KAY-YAMO.’ “Why don’t you just call it ‘Fred’?” I suggest. Okay, not very
funny, but it does elicit a chuckle.
As anyone who’s ever taken a
cruise before well knows, two of the biggest lures are the abundance of food –
which in my case will further hamper any ability to suck in my gut in front of
Dan’s friends – and all the friendly folks from various Third World countries
whose only aim in life seems to be welcoming the guests and appealing to them
to have the vacation of a lifetime. We quickly indulge their desire by
attacking the buffet line which offers an otherwise unwieldy combination of
carved roast beef, hot dogs, sushi, pizza and various international fare. And
that’s just the appetizers! My plate alone would likely feed half of a small
Asian nation. What the heck – it’s a
whole hour and a half until dinner.
Oh yeah – there’s music
too! We make our way to the atrium to
catch the final couple of songs from Edie Carey, a sensitive singer/songwriter
type whose mournful repertoire seems a somewhat curious way to kick-off the
festivities. We’re much more enthralled by Katie Herzig, who we initially
encountered on last year’s cruise. Her
music is instantly infectious, a combination of winsome material and a pliable
vocal that propels her sweet melodies ever upward and makes them worthy of some
Katie’s set finishes just in
time to scurry to our cabins where we find only one or our four pieces of
luggage have made it to their destination. It’s curious, we think. All of our
suitcases were handed to the porter at the same time. Was my blue bag separated
from the others due to bad behavior?
Suddenly we grow concerned about the fate our missing possessions.
Clearly, a tie-dyed tank top and green cargo pants aren’t going to be enough to
sustain my wardrobe throughout the duration of this cruise. There are rock
stars onboard! I gotta muster up some cool!
Still, there’s no time to
ponder that notion. It’s time for the mandatory safety drill, the purpose of
which seems to be watching fellow passengers lose their way to their assembly
stations, giggling at how silly they look in their lifejackets, and watching
while the crew patiently attempt to keep their charges from strangling
themselves with the safety straps. Quite an educational experience indeed. We
do, however, meet our neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Stephen Judge, he being the CFO
of our much beloved Blurt. CFO in this case, stands for “Cash For
Others.” In other words, he’s the guy
who decides whether there’s enough cash in the coffers to pay humble writers
like myself. I immediately come to the uncontestable opinion that Stephen is a
guy I oughta be nice to.
After fulfilling our obligation
to look like total boobs in front of the crew, we scurry to the Spinnaker
Lounge to catch the first in a series of showcases. Spinnaker, of course, is
nautical speak for “Scramble to find the best seat even if you have to climb
over other passengers and spill your beverage on them as the venue in general
admission, so good luck in finding two seats together.” Or something like that.
Fortunately we manage to plant ourselves on stage left in anticipation for
Glenn Phillips’ lead-off set. Phillips, formerly of Toad the Wet Sprocket, is
now affiliated with an indie super-group of sorts, WPA, but here he’s offering
his only solo show of the cruise. A self-effacing master of instantly
infectious melodies, Phillips has a lot of fans in the audience, all of whom
indulge him as he tries desperately to keep his guitar in tune and not stumble
over his lyrics. Clearly, any missteps
only add to his charms.
By contrast, Darrell Scott
shows himself to be something of a perfectionist, given his nimble guitar
playing and equally adept keyboard work. Singing in a soulful croon, he parlays
an affecting blend of blues, ballads and an occasional cover via Johnny Cash’s
mournful “I Still Miss Someone.” By now, I’m in a sleep-like state, but the
music transcends my sudden exhaustion and sends me soaring with elation.
Still, we opt to forego Shawn
Mullins’ set for now and head up to our cabin for a quick nap. It’s nearly 9:00
when we awake. After a quick but satisfying meal, we hurry to the Stardust
Theater, the ship’s major venue, for our 10:30 headliner show by John Hiatt. We
arrive on time only to discover the concert is delayed an hour – to 11:30 to be
precise – due to a back-up in the show schedule, which in turn, can be traced
to the delay in boarding caused by the computer breakdown earlier. Stephen
decides he’s too exhausted to stay awake during the gig, but Alisa and I
venture on, consoled by the fact we had a nap earlier in the day. We’re
rewarded by a superb performance, one which finds Hiatt’s vocal — as rich and
pliable as molasses — intoning a generous array of his standards – “Master of
Disaster,” “Perfectly Good Guitar,” “Drive South” et. al. interspersed with
selections from his brilliant new album, The
Open Road. Equally entertaining are Hiatt’s rubbery facial expressions
which only seem to accentuate his deadpan humor. “Thanks for staying up late,” he says. “I
know it’s past your bedtime.” As the show coincides at 1:30 AM, we know its
past ours. We head to our cabin and collapse.
Day number one of Cayamo cruise 2010 has come to an overdue conclusion.
To be continued…
[Photos of Glenn Phillips and Darrell Scott by Will