Another year, another EPIC Monsters of Rock Cruise. This year was a bit different for me because instead of running around like a crazy person trying to shoot each and every band, I was very selective. I only shot the bands that I absolutely wanted to and I spent the rest of my time hanging with friends. As a photographer on the Monsters of Rock it’s incredibly competitive. The amazing Monsters of Rock house photogs Mike Sovoia, Igor Vidyashev, Neil Lim Sang, and Jovan and Janina Nenadic do an awesome job covering the gigs from every angle imaginable and have all access so how do I compete? I don’t. I just try to add my own unique angle and go for 5-10 epic shots from each show that I see in order to capture that moment and tell a story. Sometimes it works, other times it doesn’t. Regardless, I got the shots that I was looking for and I even got to hang for a few minutes with my all time favorite photographer Mark Weiss. With that being said, here is my annual recap of 15 EPIC moments on the 2017 Monsters of Rock Cruise.
1. Bulletboys – Who in the hell could have guessed that Marq Torien and company would come out guns a blazing and absolutely destroy the Pool Stage. They were the last minute replacement for TNT who canceled for one reason or another, and oh my God did they deliver. Marq’s voice is absolutely stellar and he had more energy than a mentos dropped into a 2-liter of Coca-cola. Last time I saw these guys they were opening for Cinderella on the Long Cold Winter tour (my second concert ever). Hats off to the Bulletboys for taking the ship over and turning a loss into a major gain for the fans.
2. Saigon Kick – Arguably the tightest and best-sounding band on the boat, Saigon Kick absolutely crushed it this year. Matt Kramer and Jason Beiler make it look effortless as they nail their signature two-part harmonies while Stephen Gibb, bassist Chris McLernon (from the brilliant and terribly underrated Water and Devil in the Details records) and session drummer God Jonathan Mover lock in a monster groove. So how about some new music next?
3. D-A-D – I’ve loved this band for nearly two decades and they continue to win over fans old and new alike. One of the most entertaining shows as frontman Jesper Binzer is part rock God part comedian and the eccentric 2-string bass player is as unpredictable as the setlist.
4. Beasto Blanco – Holy shit these guys almost sank the boat with their rip-your head off – melt your face wall of sound. Featuring Chuck Garrick (Alice Cooper bassist) and Calico Cooper (Cooper’s daughter), this is the band to watch in 2017.
5. Faster Pussycat – Always a highlight every single time and this year was no exception. Eddie Trunk reprises his role as the real-time Jack Daniels distributor as he circles the stage pouring the bottle directly into various band members as they play live. Faster sounds fantastic and their host of friends is second to none; everybody wants some…..
6. Queensryche – These guys have transcended to an entirely new level. Just incredible. Todd LaTorre makes it look easy and the entire QR show continues to evolve into something bigger and better each time I see them.
7. Kix – As hi energy and EPIC as ever. Rumor has it that there was one fist pumping guy in the crowd who ignited the entire audience on a blistering hot day. Check out the brilliant new Kix documentary by the way.
8. Night Ranger – Somehow I totally missed the first 30 years of Night Ranger’s career as I seemingly dismised them as not rock n roll enough during my teenage angst years celebrating Slayer. Boy was I wrong. These guys absolutely blew my mind live putting on a show for a ages and on top of that they might be the coolest dudes on the boat. I’m currrently catching up and celebrating their entire catalog.
9. Winger – These guys get a tremendous amount of shit all because some silly MTV cartoon told us it was funny to make fun of them. Well, how long did that show last versus how long Winger have kept rocking and rolling along? Kip Winger and company killed it on stage and every time I hear the song “Down Incognito” it reminds me that that last record never really got a chance, and it’s a hell of a record.
10. Lynch Mob – George Lynch was on fire. And they even played a Dokken classic! (Into the Fire) Enough said.
11. Y&T – Dave Meneketti and company showed up to dominate the Pool Stage with yet another incredible performance.
12. Tom Keifer – The Cinderella frontman always puts on one hell of a show whether he’s with his original bandmates or the hybrid #Keiferband. I’m not sure there’s a guy on the planet that puts so much heart and soul into every single performance. On top of that, he’s one of the coolest guys you’ll ever meet.
13. Soto singing Boys II Men End of the Road with Brian Ott. – After hours the cruise really gets kicking with host Izzy Presley and the all night Karoeke jam. You really never know who’s going to show up. This time it was Jeff Scott Soto bringing the house down with a stellar version of Purple Rain. But just before that Soto showed his softer side belting the Motown Philly 90’s hit (check out the lyrics on the monitor) being joined by DJ Brian Ott who easily held his own along side the metal God. (Who in the f*ck knew Brian could sing like that??)
14. Slaughter – Like it was 1990 all over again. Stick it To Ya is an absolute masterpiece and I think they should have just played that record in its entirety.
15. Vince Neil – Backed by Slaughter, Vince was good, but I think he only played 6 songs. I put him at 15 because it was semi-Epic, and could have been a lot better.
Bonus EPIC Moment: The Photo Experiences – Hanging out and shooting the fans with the bands is such a feel good experience. Tha fans love it and the band’s are incredibly humble and appreciative. Throw in a few fun anecdotes and eccentric fans along the way and you have the makings for a true “experience”. Here’s a once in a lifetime shot of D-A-D, Queensryche, and Night Ranger.
Were you on the Monsters of Rock 2017 Cruise? What were your favorite moments? Please join the conversation in the comment section below.