Monday, January 26, 2009

The Rock Boat IX - 2009

Cruise #2 of the year was The Rock Boat. This was the 9th Rock Boat and it is the granddaddy of all the boats. It is "Spring Break for those with Credit" as Sister Hazel calls it and ALWAYS a good time! A ton of Chicago friends escaped the brutal beast of a winter we have been having and jetted off to Miami for the boat. That was an added bonus and trouble at the same time as there was always a smiling face and a drink being pushed my way. The Rock Boat is paradise at sea... friends and excellent music... in the warm Caribbean sun. This year's lineup was no different with the likes of Sister Hazel -
(Sister Hazel... or better known as Reggae Hazel onboard The Rock Boat IX - Photography by Will Byington)

Tonic, Cowboy Mouth, Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers -
(Stephen Kellogg and members of his band the Sixers - onboard The Rock Boat IX - Photography by Will Byington)
Aslyn -
(Aslyn onboard The Rock Boat IX - Photography by Will Byington)

Zac Brown, Alternate Routes, Hanson... yes, Hanson - mmmmmbop and all....
(Hanson after their charity walk onboard The Rock Boat IX - Photography by Will Byington)

And Gaelic Storm just to name a few! I am going to cheat on my details of the adventure... and just post the words of Artist Relations Director and one of the most fun people I know... The guy everyone should know... as he brings an adventure everywhere he goes... Kappy. He posted this on Facebook and it could not be written better. I could spend weeks trying to sum up the boat and it would not do it this well.... so.... read below. And if you can... book yourself NOW on one of these boats.

Here is what Kappy had to say....
I have had the pleasure of sailing on every Rock Boat, even the infamous half charter in 2001, and to date, TRB 09 was the best. I need to preface this blog with a quick note, I am typing this as I am still a little "Boat Dumb," but I will explain that later.

First and foremost, Sixthman is the greatest group of people I could ever associate myself with. You are true professionals, passionate about your careers, and just down right bad asses when it comes to delivering an experience. Thank you for letting me be part of the team.

Second, I am "Boat Dumb" right now. BD is a condition that you get after a mind blowing experience that includes 29 bands/artists, a 24 hour bar, a casino, unlimited amounts of pizza, and the best time of your life. Symptoms of BD include forgetting your name, forgetting your cabin number, or even forgetting what ocean you are in. Symptoms also include, but are not limited to yelling, screaming, wanting to say a sentence such as "Excuse me, but what band is that up there?" and it comes out as "Holy ****, who is rocking my face off right now?" BD also has symptoms such as long bouts of insomnia followed by instant cases of narcolepsy, it also has symptoms of bingeing and purging (even when you are a professional flip cup champion). The BD makes some people feel like Superman, and some probably think they can fly. The BD makes you laugh, cry, do shots of Jager, then cry, and it evens makes you hit on 14 when the dealer shows a 6. The BD is a very bad condition, but a very good one also. The BD makes you very happy when you get it and when you are over the BD, you are very sad. The difference in BD, is that this is the only "disease" you wish to return every year.

Third, I washed my hair this morning with Kiehl's Facial Scrub.... I blame that on BD.

Fourth, the music on the cruise this year was unbelievable and I have to say thank you to all the TRB artists. Each and everyone of you delivered an experience and performance that was legendary. These are a few I can recall (this is the BD blocking certain parts of my brain, or I could remember more)...

- Cowboy Mouth on Lido to kick off TRB 09 and absolutely kicking my teeth in with a set that rivals anything they have ever done. This one performance set the vibe and kick started my BD.
- GRO on the Lido deck as they performed on their first Rock Boat.
- Blackberry Smoke.... all I can say is that I want to drink whiskey and watch you guys play... unreal.
- Gaelic Storm brought the whiskey and I brought the Light and we both miss Moonshine.
- Sister Hazel as SH/DC rocked my clothes off... if you were there you know what I mean.
- The Bluffs performance showed everyone all of your talents and was a show that people will speak of for years.
- Scott Munns and Frannie are made of solid ROCK!
- Zac Brown Band... 3 hours.... Lido deck.... thank you.
- Stephen Kellogg and the Sixers... See You Later, See You Soon... you made a grown ass man shed a tear... you get it and so did I...

Fifth, Mole was the missing link.

Sixth, I will answer my phone at least twice and say "Go for Kappy"... again, the BD.

Seventh, I have seen many a cruise and many an experience, but this one, this particular event, set the standard and the only way to really understand what I am talking about is that you had to be there.

Eighth, I can't get rid of this cotton mouth... I have drank 9 cans of La Croix, a half gallon of water, and 2 glasses of tea, and I still need hydration.

Ninth, I love the ocean and being on it with all of you made it extra special.

Thank you to all

Grande Rojo.... or Kappy
Next year is the 10th Rock Boat... leaving in early January 2010... and I am already counting down the days as many others are....




Thursday, January 15, 2009

Lynyrd Skynyrd's Simple Man Cruise 2009

(38 Special onboard The Simple Man Cruise '09 - Photography by Will Byington)

January is here and for me that means cruise season. One of the most innovative companies I have had the pleasure to work with is Sixthman. They are an affinity travel company based out of Atlanta who created travel events and lasting experiences with your favorite bands. Over the past decade they have done all kinds of events including ski trips and such... but they have now shifted almost fully into cruises and they host five of these a year. If you are looking for a unique and different adventure outside of the norm.... check out to see a listing of their events. You will not be disappointed. Not only are they a company that does cool events... the staff is some of the best and most fun people you can get to know. They only hire the best... and the bonds within the staff are one of a kind. Each of them loves what they do and they actually enjoy hanging out with each other also. The first one of these cruises each year has been the Lynyrd Skynyrd "Simple Man Cruise". This year is a southern rock explosion with Lynyrd Skynyrd, 38 Special, Molly Hatchet, Marshall Tucker, Blackberry Smoke, Chicago's own Hello Dave and more. A friend of mine, J-Mo - the biggest rock star I know who is not a musician - a few years back coined the perfect name for this cruise.... "The redneck rowboat". They wear the bands t-shirts, they know every song, and they really do love them some Freebird. Of all the cruises, I would say this one is the one with the most passionate fans... they live the music. They have the tattoos. Awesome. It is a good time and you can feel it from the moment they get on the boat. The fans on this cruise have saved all year, and this is the one vacation they get all year. It is a whisky drinkin, throw down good time. It was great to be able to hang out with Mike Himebaugh and the rest of Hello Dave. Much better than hanging out in Chicago I must say huh?

(Billy Powell of Lynyrd Skynyrd during his last performance onboard The Simple Man Cruise '09 - Photography by Will Byington)

On a sad note, just a few short weeks after the boat... Billy Powell, the legendary keyboardist and one of the founding members of Lynyrd Skynyrd passed away. He was an amazing musician and nice as could be to get to know. I hate to say, I believe I photographed his last show... on the Lido Deck of the ship... as they walked off stage after singing "Sweet Home Alabama" one more time. It is a memory I will not forget.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Project 365 - Finally complete... somewhat...

The year has come and gone... and a project that I envisioned has been completed. One of the most unique photographers I know, and have admired ever since being a sophomore at the University of Alabama, Dan Murphy had tried this a few years back and I don't think he made it more than a few months. The idea was Project 365.... a photo a day for a year. It could be taken with the DSLR or with a camera phone... just take one photo a day, every day... for the year. When I started this... I thought, wow.... that is not tough... I almost always have my camera and am taking pictures anyway... Ha... easy. Done. Ok, yeah... not so much. 2008 was a leap year... and I blame that extra day for throwing it all off. Ok, maybe not... but as I have now posted 350 or so days out of the 366... I am happy with the results.

Click here to set the PROJECT 365 set on Flickr!

Yes... I did cheat... and here is my excuse... for example in January of last year, I was the photographer on five rock and roll cruises and was out at sea for two full weeks. Over the five cruises... I captured something like 25,000 photos of which I had to edit, narrow down and distribute. I returned to Chicago on a day in February when the high temperature was -1 and felt like -20. Needless to say I became a hermit and stayed inside for a week I think. Another example is when I shot Lollapalooza for three days in August... After such big events and so many photos... the last thing I wanted to do was to take more. Also... in the case of both those events, There were more than one cool shot from each day, shots that I wanted to share. I know there are people who have been able to keep up with this project and truly do create new work every day. I applaud them. David Moore in St. Louis, who I met when I toured with Cowboy Mouth and have always enjoyed his work... he took the project one step further.... even creating themes for the weeks images. He deserves an award as he not only kept up with it but did an outstanding job. Check out my year in review on FLICKR. I hope to take more pictures than this in 2009... I'm just not locking myself into the goal of one a day.... We all need a day off here and there.... right?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Hockey at Wrigley - The Winter Classic

2009 is here.... and it started out with a bang. NYE I was with a great group of friends at my friend Trudy Buehler's condo in Wrigleyville. Trudy always throws the BEST party and the bar is always stocked beyond belief. She pays attention to detail and everyone has such a blast. I think I found myself stumbling home about 3 or 4am. On New Year's Day this year... forget the usual sleep late, watch football while lounging on the couch.... there was Hockey to see. The NHL had brought the Winter Classic... a hockey match between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Detroit Redwings to my front yard. Wrigley Field was converted into an outdoor ice rink and the crowds showed up like it was opening day. The beautiful Katie Schnepf joined me for the adventure. I will I am not a huge hockey fan... and had never been to a Blackhawks game.... I did not buy the hype. I thought tickets would be easy to come by... and we would find access to Wrigley easily. We circled the ballpark well past the first puck drop and there was nothing to be found. Let me backtrack... there were tickets... in fact you could walk right up to the box office, pay face value of like $325 and be in the ballpark for history. We kept hope alive for less and circled once more. The guys who run the best new rooftop in the neighborhood.... just happens to be for the building I live in... Wrigley Done Right... Lee and Dean... offered us the chance to watch the game from their vantage point and I am glad we did.
Outstanding. Being just across from the right field foul pole... we had an excellent view of the entire rink unblocked.... plus all the food and drink we could enjoy with the added benefit of indoor heating and bathrooms. A winning situation even if the Blackhawks lost and a very fun day. Thanks for twisting my arm to experience one of my favorite days in Wrigley, Katie.