Sarah Cahill and Julia Holter at LPR
Vienna Philharmonic and Maazel at Carnegie: Sunday

Rock Boat XII: March 1st – March 5th 2012

By Jordan Lewis


Five days, thirty-two bands, eight stages, one boat, and non-stop rock—this year marked the 12th anniversary of Carnival Cruise Line's and Sixthman Production's Rock Boat.  Headlining bands included 90’s pop acts Sister Hazel, Vertical Horizon, Steven Kellogg, and Blackberry Smoke, but the Rock Boat wasn't just for middle aged pop fans, as the boat was also stocked with contemporary acts playing in a variety of styles, including Ella RiotBronze Radio Return, and Red Wanting Blue.

This was my first gig on a month long tour playing keyboards, mandolin, and percussion with the Vermont based rock quintet, Chamberlin. We, like most bands on the Rock Boat, played three hour-long sets during the five day cruise.  The crowd seemed fairly receptive to all of the bands on board; it didn't hurt that many of them were extremely well lubricated. In a scene where bands tend to be competitive and often overly judgmental of one another, the Rock Boat was a welcome change of pace in that the musicians on board were markedly more accepting and supportive of each other than in a normal touring/ festival situation. Maybe it was the novelty of playing on a ship, or the fact that we were all getting free cruises - whatever the reason, the vibe on Rock Boat was friendly and upbeat.


As a life long fan of jazz, blues, and classic rock, I was unfamiliar with most of the other bands playing on the boat, though I certainly enjoyed myself. Marc Broussard and his backing band have found the perfect marriage or rock, blues, and soul. Carbon Leaf is full of versatile, accomplished multi-instrumentalists, and their music spans the broad territory of Americana.  Bronze Radio Return offered a truly high-energy performance, full of entertaining stage antics and thick vocal harmonies. Sara Dugas, front woman for Dugas, has soul, real soul - the kind I didn’t think even existed anymore. Atomic Tom had a heavier sound than most of the other bands on Rock Boat, a welcome change after long days of medium tempo acoustic-rock sets.  

All in all, Rock Boat XII was one of the most unique musical experiences of my life, both as performer and audience member.  The production company, Sixthman, made performing as easy as any musician could hope for with excellent soundmen, an incredible backline, and a wonderfully helpful staff.  (The third day of the cruise, spent hanging out on the beach in Cozumel, wasn't too shabby, either.)  From the turnout this year, I’d wager that Rock Boat will be sailing again, so if you find yourself with some time off next March, consider buying yourself a ticket to the spectacle that is the Rock Boat.