70000 Tons of Metal Diary, Day 3 2017
Morning on Day 3 came early…. Unfortunately, earlier than I’d planned. I’d set an alarm for 7:30 but was wide awake at 6:30. Oh well… I got four hours of sleep… that was one more hour than the first night. I didn’t waste time trying to fall back to sleep like I had the day before and headed right for the shower. The ship was just docking at Labadee in Haiti, so I ran up for a quick breakfast and caffeine boost (sugar-free Red Bull) before departing the ship. No shows are scheduled while the ship was in port so cruisers are free to enjoy their day ashore without worrying about what bands they might be missing. Labadee is a relatively confined, private area of Haiti that is reserved for passengers on Royal Caribbean cruises… so you don’t really get to experience Haiti itself. It consists of a few shops, bars, places to eat, a nice beach and beach type activities such as snorkeling, kayaking, parasailing.
I had arranged to ride the Dragon’s Breath zip line which was one of the more famous activities available in Labadee. It used to be the longest zip line in the world. Although it has lost that distinction, it is still the longest zip line over water. After a quick tutorial on a smaller zip line, I and the other participants were driven to the top of a mountain overlooking Labadee’s beach and Bay area. From there we could see that the zip line descended steeply at first down the mountainside before traveling over the beach and the bay before ending near the port. It was a pretty thrilling ride, but it was also over pretty quickly…. I think it lasted less than a minute. Definitely worth doing if you ever visit Labadee!
After my zip line ride. I got bored pretty quickly in Labadee. I’ve never been one to enjoy lounging in the hot sun on a beach, and there just didn’t seem to be a whole lot else to do there. So, I made the decision to head back to the ship early where I had a leisurely lunch and took a much-needed nap. I actually got about two hours sleep in…. so, I was up to a total of 9 hours of sleep after 2 ½ days. I was hopeful it was enough to keep me going as I had a very late night planned. The ship left Labadee at 4pm and we all got ready for a fantastic night on music.
The shows started at 5pm and I headed to the midship at Studio B for Ghost Ship Octavius. This was another band I hadn’t heard of before the cruise, but after looking at their videos on YouTube, I was looking forward to seeing them live. The band is named after a legendary ghost ship and their stage clothes and makeup are designed to appear ghost -like. All of them were ghostly white and their bass player made a joke about them all working on their tans on the beach that day. They were another one of my favorite “discoveries” of the cruise, and I can’t wait to see them again! The evening continued with a trip back across the ship to the Alhambra for a killer set by Moonsorrow. I followed this up with a second round of Draconian back at Studio B.
I’d missed Uli Jon Roth’s set earlier in the cruise, so I made sure I hit the Alhambra next to catch his second set. Roth is a neoclassical metal guitarist that was a member of the Scorpions for several years in the 1970s. The guitar is my favorite rock instrument and I love seeing and hearing people with a unique talent play. His set did not disappoint! Next up was a trip to the pool deck to catch the second set by Testament. Although their show was just as crowded as the first set, the pool deck is a large place and I was easily able to worm my way up to the photo pit for some close-up shots. I did leave the Testament show a little early to catch some silly metal fun with Trollfest back at Studio B.
One of the highlights of the evening was finally getting to see Haggard live. I’d missed their first set due to my interview schedule, so there was no way I was going to miss set number two. Haggard is a very unique band that plays a symphonic style of metal with both male and female vocals. They utilize a large number of classical instruments and at one time had as many as 21 touring members in the band. There were no less than 12 musicians on stage on the cruise! Definitely a “can’t miss” show! Next up was Kamelot’s second set up on the pool deck. I ran into Elize Ryd on the elevator and got the “heads up” on the set list, as I wanted to make sure I got to photograph both her and Alissa on stage together. As photographers, we don’t get to photograph the entire set, and on the previous day, I’d photographed the early part of the set. I decided to risk waiting until the last few songs based on the set list and caught the first part of the show from the audience. The crowd surfing was extreme and I was worried they might close the photo pit as they sometime do when security is feeling overwhelmed. Fortunately, that did not happen and I was able to photograph the songs I wanted at the end!
As I was rushing back down the stairs at 10:30pm to catch Amorphis at the Alhambra, I realized that this was going to be another night without a decent dinner. But, hey… you have to make sacrifices if you’re gonna be metal, right?!! After another great Amorphis set, I took a quick moment to choke down some pizza outside the Alhambra before running back up to the pool deck where I finally got to see Grave Digger! It was 12:30 at the end of Grave digger’s classic metal set, but the night wasn’t over yet. I did take a brief moment to relax with a glass of wine (my first alcoholic drink of the cruise, as I rarely drink while shooting) … but this was almost a mistake as I almost fell asleep in the cushy chairs at the Champaign Bar. This is dangerous for two reasons… one, it can cause you to miss shows… and two, if you fall asleep in a public place on this cruise, people will photograph you and your photo will end up somewhere on the internet…. So be warned!
After recovering from my “almost nap”, I headed back up to the pool deck at 2:15 am to catch Xandria’s set. I fell in love with this band’s live performances when they toured the US three years ago and I was dying to finally see them again. It was definitely worth waiting up for, but it made me sad that I had missed their show at the Alhambra on the previous day. Afterward, I was hoping I had one more show in me, as I really wanted to see Dalriada play. Dalriada are a Hungarian folk metal band that has been around for almost 2 decades. Despite that, I’d never heard of them before this cruise. Being a huge fan of folk metal, I was really looking forward to seeing them. As they were one of the bands I’d missed on day 2 due to press obligations, I stayed up later than I ever had in my life to see a band perform. They were definitely worth waiting up for! They put on a fun and lively set. I love their music and the folk dancing that went along with it. Another one of my favorite “discoveries” on this year’s cruise. By the time I got back to my room, it was 4 am… I wasn’t even going to hope for a lot of sleep, as it was just a couple of hours from sunrise…
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