2023 Monsters Of Rock Cruise

Monsters of Rock Cruise 2023 | Festivals | Fifty Grande

Coverage/Pics: Will

I’m going to handle this year’s MORC a little differently.  No day by day review for a few reasons.

1. I gave myself an easier schedule this year.  I didn’t shoot every single show, which has been a previous goal of mine.  I shot mainly first shows and those bands I missed first go around, I shot their second show. I also didn’t shoot any shows in the Star Lounge.  (*See “Do Better”)  And due to schedules, I simply wasn’t able to shoot every single band.  

2. As far as actual reviews…  Look, no band sucked.  They all came and gave it their all.  Sure, some shows stood out from others.  And I’m sure I could rip on a few bands or people if I wanted to be petty.  But right now, I don’t want to be petty. (Try me in a week or so).

The bands that I shot will have links at the bottom of the post to their full galleries

I’ll throw out some musings from the cruise and you can feel free to concur, disagree with or amend any of my thoughts.  So here we go:


Larry Morand: I’ll admit, this lineup did NOT have me initially excited and was a major part of the reason I didn’t book a cabin right away.  It seemed like most bands were previous year re-treads and there weren’t enough stand out new additions that peaked my interest.  But that all changes when you get on the boat.  Larry has provided us Cruisers with an annual “Family Reunion” which sometimes makes up for what some may consider a more lackluster lineup.  Also, living close to LA it’s easier for me to see a LOT of these bands pass through locally.  I understand that’s not the same everywhere and I can appreciate how others use this as a one-stop shopping opp. to see those acts they usually can’t.  By all means, this was another very successful cruise.

Nuno: Dude is a Rockstar in every sense of the word.  After blowing out his knee in the Rockstars vs Average Joe Basketball game, he gutted out a set in both physical and visibly emotional pain. I watched his IG apology and he did some major damage to his knee which will require a lot of rehab to get it back to a good place.  Well man, no apology needed in my book. *See Highlight shows below.

Metal DJ Will: Another Rockstar in a different way.  One of the kindest people you could meet.  If possible his stock rose when we had the crazy weather event day one that was throwing equipment and trash can lids across the deck like frisbees. Will jumped right in to the fray to help secure gear and make sure people were safe. (I’m guessing that this wasn’t part of his job description)

Chez Kane: I was excited to see this band play, but what gave me more joy was anytime I saw Chez around the boat or on her social media posts.  This was the proverbial kid in a candy store.  She got to hang out with some of her idols and was genuinely as big of a wide-eyed fan on the boat as the rest of us. Her fun was infectious.

Chris Holmes: A delight to meet and so happy he’s healthy after last year’s cancer scare.  Another artist who was everywhere and seemed to be taking in and enjoying the whole experience.  Once you got talking to him, the dude was a fountain of info. and stories.  Some great W.A.S.P. stories that probably shouldn’t be repeated. While I was shooting the Tyler Bryant Photo Op. Chris stopped by and talked to the guys for a while.  A wide eyed and stunned Tyler came up to me to ask without any disrespect “Who IS that guy?!”  I told him who he was, about his amazing legacy with W.A.S.P and then told him to check out Chris‘ infamous Decline of the Western Civilization scene for clarity.  That should get him up to speed.

Ted Poley: What else can be said.  Captain Ted should be the first name on every cruise list.  And that’s whether he performs or not.  A delight of a human who never seems to be without a smile.

Nuptials: I know of two instances where there were proposals and acceptances.  I believe one proposal was made on stage during Hardcore Superstar’s Theater Show?!  The other was made at one of our ports.  How cool that these Monsters thought of the Cruise as a great destination and lasting memory for such a momentous occasion.  Congrats to both! 

MORC Crew/Security: I can’t say it enough, a chartered rock cruise has to be one of the most daunting experiences to put together (Larry, let’s have a chat sometime) and the cast of characters that are mostly behind the scenes (or right outside the venues) continue to handle their jobs with the utmost of care and due respect.  Many of these faces are familiar to those that are repeat cruisers and I feel great knowing that we’re in such good hands.

Your Photo Op People: From Photo and Band Wrangler, April Lee to all the assistants and the photogs. (and of course the artists themselves) that take their time away from the festivities to get you those “I HAVE A PIC WITH XXXXX!!! shots. We hope you appreciate them as part of your experience, because I personally really enjoy shooting them and getting to see a ton of happy, smiling faces.  

Do Better: (Hate to use the term “losers”)

The Star Lounge: Can we PLEASE retire it as a music venue?  It’s the same story and same complaints every year.  When a band plays here, unless everyone is glued to their seats, it’s basically played for the front two rows.  Yes, there were some seated shows, but when a band wasn’t feeling the energy, they call everyone up to the front and that’s all she wrote. Burning Witches and Faster Pussycat in the Star Lounge?!  Come on.  Relegate it to Comedy shows, acoustic performances, the photo ops, the Shred Show and anything else that doesn’t require people to stifle their need to ROCK OUT. If it’s a matter of fitting everyone in, how about a few less bands?  People usually have a gripe about the conflicts and if one of those conflicts includes a Star Lounge show, then it’s usually an easy decisions.

Loudness: Speaking of retiring…Maybe it’s time to retire the annual inclusion of Loudness on the “Marquee”.  The Cruisers now see their addition to the lineup as a countdown to their cancellation.  Also initially and yearly one of the bands that I am stoked to see.  Handle their inevitable excuse in person before their name is printed on anything.

The Stephen Pearcy Meet N Greet?!: Did it even happen? I do know it caused quite a bit of controversy for Stephen to advertise a $100 Meet N Greet on the boat.  I mean these Cruisers forked out THOUSANDS of dollars for this adventure that already comes with an included Photo Opportunity for most bands.  So the talk prior to even getting on the boat that this was a bit of a slap in the face. Of Note…  I was the photographer that shot Stephen’s photo op. in the Star Lounge and he was a complete gentleman, was great with the fans and was a lot of fun to be around for those couple of hours.

The Weather: Yes, I’m calling out the Weather which led to postponements and cancellations of a number of shows. I can’t tell you how much I was looking forward to Hardcore Superstar on the Pool stage.  The show ended up as a day late 12 pm reschedule (which turned into a closer to 1am start) that completely derailed Autograph’s show in the Royal Theater (Unfortunately approximately 40 people showed up to see Autograph still rock the Theater).  Unfair and probably not a lot could be done. And what a bummer for Treat, who’s Pool Stage show on the final day was canceled altogether.

Highlight Shows

Hardcore Superstar: Show 1 – Studio B (Rescheduled due to weather)

As soon as Jocke hit the stage with stomping feet, pumping fists and a snarl fit for an insane asylum, it was on! A sleepy crowd that had waited “mostly” patiently for this late starting show were immediately shocked back into life. What a voice this dude has, hitting every ridiculous, sleaze-laden screech. The set didn’t let up at all and culminated in a finale that had a ton of cruisers joining the band on stage to slug down some Jaeger. Hardcore indeed.

Extreme: Pool Stage and Royal Theater

Show 1: These 4 dudes can not put on a bad show.  Period.  Gary Cherone is one of the greatest frontmen of all time and just watching him is enough to exhaust me.  He doesn’t stop. Add on the world class musicianship of Nuno, Pat and K-Fig and you have one of the premier live acts around. Show 1 we were blessed with the live premier of the killer new song, “Rise” and seeing Nuno blast out THAT solo live gave shivers.  Show one also included the live debut of, “Banshee“. 

Show 2: The “Nuno” Show.  Appearing on crutches backstage after his accident he handed them off, took to the stage and almost immediately, his knee popped..  twice. He returned shortly to perform seated for the rest of the show in visible pain and wiping away tears. Why was this a great show?  Because this muther fukker gutted it out like a pro and yet kept apologizing to the fans.  Musically, he gave all.  Physically, I don’t know how he did it.  Gary, Pat and K-Fig all showed him love throughout the set and not a song was skipped.

Major Props Bro…

Queensryche: Show 2 – Royal Theater

Even though their first show also kicked ass, and I was so happy to hear some of the songs from their great, new “Digital Noise Alliance” album, their second legacy setlist show was a Ryche’s fan wet dream. 

QueensrΓΏche at Monsters of Rock Cruise 2023 Setlist

Winger: Pool Stage

I was never a huge Winger fan.  Haven’t even bought a Winger album and may not do so.  However… I LOVE this band live. This is the second year in a row that I took the time to catch the entirety of their Pool Stage show.  Maybe it’s the combination of throwing down a cold beer on a hot, bright day with friends while watching them rock out, or maybe I’m a closet fan and I just haven’t come out yet. Either way, for me, they’re outdoor show is a can’t miss. 

Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown: Studio B

A band that I fear a lot of people missed due to conflicts, but (like LIT last year) a band I wasn’t too familiar with pre-cruise and came away with a great appreciation for them. An electric performance, especially Tyler who is a whirlwind around the stage with his guitar that immediately made me a fan.

Quick Hits 

  • My calm-down-on the-late-night pizza-rule went to shit immediately.
  • Had pictures of Lee Aaron and Doro torn from the pages of Kerrrang on my bedroom wall as a teenager.  They’re still both beautiful and sound amazing. If it were acceptable now, I’d have them both back on my wall.
  • George Lynch, would it hurt to pretend that you’re playing for people?  At least you were at the front of the stage this time.  Trust me..  we’re smiling at you.  Jimmy D!  It took me a hot minute to recognize you with the hair cut.  You’re still beautiful!  πŸ™‚
  • Vain, Tyketto, Tora Tora and Junkyard.  4 bands on my list that I was hoping to see if schedule permitted.  4 bands that I walked away noting to make them priority shows next time.
  • Autograph. Band on my list that was a must see and ended up not catching at all due to conflicts/change in schedules  Bummed as hell, but I’m determined! 
  • Tesla: As solid and steady a Rock N Roll Band as you’ll ever see or hear (Although, I’m still mad at them for the Schlock that was “Shock”)
  • Was happy that Tyson Leslie’s Rare Hare Jam was rightfully moved to a bigger venue and loved the pairings and song choices.  Shout out to 2 of my friends, Gabbie Rae who always amazes me and Shannon Wilk who was recruited last minute to play bass on “Kiss Me Deadly“.  She MAY or MAY NOT have had to learn the song within an hour and absolutely slayed it.

Also… seeing this sight at the start of the Jam warmed my heart to no end.  Welcome back behind the kit to KIX’ Jimmy Chalfant

  • Sam “Bam” Koltun (Faster Pussycat) is right up there with DJ Will as coolest all-around dudes. (Yes, Chad’s aight too)
  • I’m not sure everyone is fully aware what a legend they’re seeing in Angry Anderson and Rose Tattoo.  Back in their homeland, the band is as important as AC/DC, they just didn’t have the worldwide appeal to make them a household name. They are full blooded rock n roll.

  • Burning Witches brought a welcome dose of thrash to the boat this year. More like this!

  • The So You Think You Can Shred Contest is one of the can’t miss shows on the boat.  This year, Kip Winger took a break from judging (For the most part) and hosted the event that saw Brent Woods, Don Jamieson, Frank Hannon, Courtney “Eye Fuck Me” Cox, Michael “Whip” Wilton, last years shred contest winner Derek Thomas and Courtney Cronin Dold. The comments are as funny and brutal as you could imagine but that didn’t deter all the brave souls who gave it a shot. Congrats to winner, “Bob” who ended up harshly beating up on last years “Master of Shred” and judge, Derek.

  • Band I hadn’t intended to see but “accidentally” did and loved “Dirty Looks” with Dangerous Toys’, Jason McMaster on vocals.

  • People, we got to see two of KIX‘ last shows! πŸ™
  • Bands I missed: Autograph, The Cruel Intentions, D.A.D, Liliac, Mac Sabbath, Reckless Love, Shiraz Lane (Although heard their show from my room), Stryper, Ted Poley and Wig Wam.


Finally, as most of us end up posting their 2024 wish list.  I’d love to see some of these bands added to what is already turning out to be a great looking (And dare I say heavier) lineup next year?  For your consideration and in no particular order: 

Plush, Dan Reed Network, Little Angels (Reunion) or Wayward Sons or Toby Jepson solo, Magnum, Those Damn Crows, Tuk Smith and the Restless Hearts, The Pat McManus Band (Former Mama’s Boys guitarist), The Struts, Metal Church and bring back Thunder.  As for the probably no chance in hell bands…  How about Halestorm, Alter Bridge and The Pretty Reckless.


Band Gallery Links (By Day)

Day 1

Vain   Queensryche   Tora Tora   Vandenberg   Tyketto   Rose Tattoo   

Day 2

Michael Schenker Group   Junkyard   Stephen Pearcy   SOTO   Lee Aaron          Tyler Bryant & The Shakedown   Lynch Mob   Hardcore Superstar   

Day 3

Chris Holmes   Tesla   The Hosts & the Sail Away Shot   Extreme   Eclipse   Doro      Faster Pussycat   Rare Hare

Day 4

Treat   Winger   GabrieLa and Friends   Nestor

Day 5

Chez Kane   Burning Witches 


Related Links: 

Monsters of Rock Cruise 2024 Site

Monsters of Rock Cruise: 2022 Coverage

Monsters of Rock Cruise: 2020 Coverage

Monsters Of Rock Cruise: 2019 Coverage

MegaCruise: 2019 Coverage