The Experienced Jazz Cruiser’s Guide to Jazz Cruising

I was sitting down with one of my best friends at dinner last night, and she told me that she’s heading to her first jazz cruise, and after our talk, it occurred to me that considering that I’m embarking on my sixth jazz cruise this year – fifth with the same production, Capital Jazz – that it may be a good idea to do a post on what to expect on a music charter. 

Mind you, while I’m a jazz cruiser, there are other music charters, and this can apply to any such a charter cruise – at least, that’s what I’m hoping to write out in here. 

Before I get into the tips and tricks, though, keep this in mind:

A Charter Cruise Is NOT a Regular Cruise. It’s anything but.

I should perhaps say that a jazz cruise is not like any regular cruise. But nor is any other music charter. For those of y’all who don’t know, a charter cruise is basically a boat that’s rented out to do a theme cruise. 7-8 days of nothing but X theme, with activities and various other things to do. 

Charter cruises are priced much higher than ordinary cruises, and for a reason: apart from just your cabin, you’re also paying admission for all those events and shows. They’re all included in your price. 

And it’s worth it.

Your cabin is going to be little more than a crash pad to sleep, shower, make quick plans with friends (and you’ll make them if you haven’t brought them), and jet right back out the door. You will be doing things aboard the ship and off the ship pretty much every waking minute. The highlight of a charter music cruise is, naturally, the music. On board the ship, you can also expect workshops, Q&As, classes, parties, theme parties, and jam sessions. 

A typical day on a cruise looks like this:

9am: dock in port, people come off ship to explore/do excursions

12pm: party somewhere on the island, or on the boat, or a choice of both

3-4pm: back on board! And a Q&A on the ship. 

5-8pm: prep for dinner if you have early dining,* or the concert** of that night. 

8-11pm: concert**/dinner for late dining.*

* The dining is split into sets: if you have dinner at 6pm, then you see the 8pm show, give/take an hour for prep/drink. Likewise, if your dinner is at 8pm, you attend the 6pm show, then go to dinner. 

** There are always two shows: one in the main theater, one in the aft lounge, and I hope you can powerwalk if you want to make both!

11pm: drinks/get seats for jam session

12am – last man standing: jam session. Last man standing usually translates to anywhere between 2-4am. 

And the next day, you get to do it all over again! On sea days, you can sub in the land excursions for more Q&As, parties, concerts, events, etc. but you get the gist. You do not stay idle.


You do not take a jazz cruise, or a music cruise, period, if you want to get some rest. This is a party cruise. You take it to listen to awesome music, meet and mingle with the artists, and have a great time. You will sleep when you’re on your flight home. 

And I’ve been doing this annually, so I offer to thee, my dear readers and future cruisers alike, my guide to Jazz Cruising 101. 

1. Pack a sweater and/or flannel pajamas.

If you’re going to the Caribbean, as most jazz cruises often go, you may be asking, why a sweater? And I answer you: the air conditioning on the ships will turn your cabin into an igloo. This I speak from hard-won experience: last year, I got sick due to my hotel a/c being too strong, and the cruise-ship a/c was no weaker. I turned the knob to heat, and it was still a cool 60-odd degrees in my room. Trust me: the flannel pajamas I packed were a godsend. Know what else was? My running jacket, which I often wore to shows. The theaters get c-o-l-d. That air conditioner is no joke. Trust me: pack it now and you will have no cause to regret it later. 

Speaking of unexpected illness…

2. Every ship has a med bay comparable to a small hospital. 

And it’s a lot cheaper than you’d expect, and the service is impeccable. That said? Pack a sampler of basic medicines just in case. My personal favorites: Advil, Benadryl, Dramamine, and cough drops. Bring any and all of your prescription meds as well.

If you are unwell on the ship, don’t be afraid to drop down to Deck 0 and ask for help. There’s a fully stocked pharmacy and a small but functional ER. Be healthy, that is first.

3. You need not worry about motion sickness too much…and don’t worry about the storms either.

These ships are bleeding enormous. Most of the time, you don’t feel the motion. The one time it got bad was in 2012, when my ship was behind that little storm known as Hurricane Sandy. That wasn’t pretty. That was the only time I ever hugged the walls to try and walk down the stairs. That is also a massive exception. Most of the time, the ships are very steady, and should a hurricane crop up on your route, the ship is often rerouted to avoid it. Bring the Dramamine anyway, because if you won’t need it, someone you will meet just might. 


This is the Rule #1 of the Capital Jazz Supercruise, and it’s with good reason. There has been more than one instance where I’ve seen people fall dead-to-hell-asleep in the casino lounge, in the aft lounge, in the atrium lounge, anywhere there’s a soft and cushiony seat, and why? Because they tried to do too much in one day. And I’ve been one of these people; I’ve had folks shake me awake in a lounge after a late-night jam sesh before. I’ve had someone scoop me out of a chair because I was too dang tired to move. You need to allocate some nap time between your activities, or forgo this or that show, because you can, and will, exhaust yourself.

Which brings me to…

5. Coffee is your friend.

Needs no explanation. There’s a reason I get a cappuccino at 11pm between aft lounge show and jam session, without fail. It’s a tip that people told me they picked up from me. Glad to be an influence :) but if you love jam sessions, you will, without fail, need a doppio espresso. 

6. Yes, the ship has laundromats.

And I suggest you use them. There is, guaranteed, at least one self-serve laundromat on board every major cruise ship. And few things suck like going home after eight days with a suitcaseful of laundry. Valet service is available with your stateroom steward, but it will be about $20-40 bucks per bag, depending on your item list. Self is cheaper. Either way, it’s necessary. If something like Hurricane Sandy happens again, and you’re in a city other than your hometown, clean unmentionables will be essential.

7. Budget 1K for your onboard spending – and believe me, the amount is with good reason.

This is actually pretty important. As I told my friend, you will be very surprised at how quickly it all adds up.

This is what’s NOT included on a charter cruise:

- Any and all alcohol (and no, don’t bring your own, it can and will be confiscated)

- Steakhouse reservations (which are worth their $30 a pop, but…) – reservations only, not the food itself

- Gift shop stuff

- Shore excursions

- Artist CDs and merchandise

- Exercise classes (sometimes, this varies ship to ship)

- Spa treatments (and their cancellations!)

- Internet access

- In-cabin telephone usage for calls home

- Valet laundry service

Spa treatments are my personal Achilles’s Heel. I love massages on cruise ships; they are exorbitantly expensive, but the way they are set up, it is worth every. last. little. penny. However, I have to obey Rule #4 and indulge myself in a very limited fashion. I learned the hard way as to what happens when I don’t. My budget for the year ahead generally does NOT thank me if I go overboard, pun intended.

The reason why I say plan for a thousand bucks is because that is, realistically, an average amount that I had of onboard spending at all my cruises. If it’s not the spa, it will be other things. Drinks onboard a cruise are an average of $10 a pop. If you have two with every dinner, it’s $20 a day, or $80-100 for your entire cruise. Double that if you also have two drinks at each show. Triple that if you also partake at the bar. Quadruple that if you’re buying other people’s drinks, and add some more for that delicious bottle of wine. Before you know it, that’s $500 on just alcohol. 

You may or may not use the Internet plans on the ship, but if you have a laptop on board (I generally take mine, because writing + photo work = need!!!), then it may actually be a good idea to invest in a bargain plan. The cheapest per-minute option is usually about $130, which is like 20c per minute. And again, before you know it, you just might use it all up. So there you go, now you’re up to $630. 

Add your merch/CDs/gift shop stuff, and maybe toss in a shore excursion if you don’t buy one in advance…and you’re at $800!

So plan for 1K of onboard spending. Whether or not you end up actually spending it is another question. 

And of course: if there’s anything that you can book and reserve in advance, when you’re doing the online check-in for your cruise, do so. It will drastically improve your onboard budget. Some cruise ships actually will offer you a discount for advanced booking. DO THAT.

8. Know your cabins.

This is something that I am passing along to you as an experienced cruiser, moreover as an experienced solo cruiser. 

I travel alone for many reasons, and as I learned, I’m at a disadvantage in doing so. Why? Price. Most cruises price their cabins at double occupancy, anticipating two people per cabin. Myself, I travel alone, and this is why I love Capital Jazz: Capital Jazz actually offers singles pricing, and marketwise, theirs is easily the most reasonable price tag for a single. The trouble with that is, you may be limited in your cabin choices, and that is okay. It’s not as though you will be in your cabin all that much anyway – with all that’s on the ship to do, you will only use your cabin to shower and sleep, most likely. 

However: there are some cabins to take and to avoid, as I learned.

To Take: If you’re OK with an inside cabin, and you like a little extra room, take something at the very nose of the ship.  

2202 was my cabin last year, and I’ve stayed in 1202 on a previous sister ship. Both times, the cabins were nearly twice the size of any other cabin (had 1251 on yet another cruise; also an inside, and it was a good comparison point). They both fall under singles pricing – and if you like your cabins roomy, they are an absolute steal for the cost. The thing is, if you’re traveling as a single, pretty much any cabin will suit you fine, but the nose cabins will be much roomier.  

Drawback? …where do you think the anchor chain is? Expect rattly wakeup calls on port days. Still, holy hell, the room. The room! It’s like one and a half of any other cabin.

To Avoid: Unless you are good at sleeping through noise, avoid cabins by the stairs, or above and below the casino, theater, and lounge. 

Been there and done that. My very first cruise, not with CapJazz, I was under the theater. Even if I didn’t attend the jam sessions, I attended the jam sessions. This year, I took a porthole cabin and ended up near a staircase…and it’s right under the theater. But, you know what? I picked it, and I’ll stay in it.

One thing I strongly recommend avoiding: anything near a utility room. Oh lord, the 6:40am rattling of service carts. Gah.

Which brings me to…

9. ALWAYS! pack an eye mask and earplugs.

Eye mask will have you sleeping soundly if your cabin has a porthole and you’re crawling in just as the sun is coming up. Earplugs will protect your hearing if you’re sitting near the speakers and/or when the late-night party folks walk and roister past your cabin door on the way to theirs. Trust me, both are your best friend. 

And while I’m talking about packing, let’s revisit the essentials.

10. Toiletries – don’t skimp.

Shove them in your checked luggage and take all that you may need, plus extra. Reason: it gets pricey if you buy your essentials in the ship’s gift shop. I will say that their sunscreen is pretty excellent, and that’s the one thing worth splurging on aboard, (and my skin gets persnickety quite a fair bit…as my Cali friends can attest, having seen me lobster-red a few times!) but really: prep ahead. That and you’re on a ship for a week; not every port will have a CVS. St. Thomas had a RadioShack and a CVS, and both came in handy one year. But that also taught me to never, ever hesitate before packing something extra. 

Oh, and ladies, take your own hair dryer. The one in the cabin is crap. I have a hot brush (dryer with a round brush attachment) and I rarely go on a long-haul trip without it.

A tip from my friend too: take a straightening iron in lieu of a clothing iron. They don’t allow clothing irons on board, but hey: if you gotta press something… :)

Another tip: portable humidifier. I gotta invest in one of those that can work from a simple water bottle. That plus a little peppermint oil will mean your respiratory system will be healthy.

11. Comfy clothes

You will need to dress up only for theme parties, dinnertime, and shows. All other times, comfort is king. Sweats, bathing suits, yoga pants, tees, etc. Trust me, comfort is a lovely thing.

12. Travel surge protector/outlet splitter. No, not a big power strip, those are not allowed.

Think this one from Belkin. It’s the best $20 you’ll spend, and let me explain why: nearly all staterooms have only one electric outlet. 

It’s something no one tells you and something I learned the hard way. If you’re sharing a room, this little surge protector I linked will actually go a long way. Plus, it comes with two USB ports, which is handy for charging your mobile devices. Trust me: worthwhile investment. 

13. The artists are people too. Socialize and mingle, but please respect them and their space too.

This I write as a friend to many artists, and as someone who had to step in and do the job of a handler to a couple of them as well: they are people too.

Yes, this is their job: play music, sell their music, socialize with the fans. But if they’re on board with their wives, husbands, girlfriends, boyfriends, children – please respect that. I’ve seen some questionable behavior in my six years of cruising, and believe me, they need to have some rest as well. 


They tell you, at each port you dock into: set your watch to the ship’s time. EVERY year, without fail, there were people who were left stranded on the pier because they couldn’t make it back to the ship in time, even though they tell you, at every port, what time the ship is set to leave. 

DO NOT MISS THE BOAT. You do not want to be That Person, who will later end up as comedian fodder. Trust me. 

But just in case…

15. Spend the extra hundred bucks getting trip insurance.

I never travel anywhere without it, and definitely don’t go on any cruises without it. A recommended website is, which will give you quotes across several insurers. You can pick the coverage you need and want (trip cancellation, trip interruption, etc.) and it will give you a price. 

And if you are the person who ends up stranded on an island because you missed the boat, this insurance can, and will, without fail, save your skin. 

16. The final night of the cruise – be ready.

Cruise debarkation is every bit as tedious as the embarkation, but seeing as the party doesn’t end on the last night, here’s a couple of tips:

- Have your Travel Outfit laid out.

- Have the barest toiletry essentials still unpacked, and no more

- Have a small tote/beach bag at the ready. 

This is how debarkation works: usually, you have two options to get yourself and your bags off the ship. Assisted debarkation, wherein your bags are collected the night before and you claim them on a carousel a la airport style, or self-debarkation, wherein you wheel off your own. Sometimes, the ship will forward your bags along to your hometown as well, so by the time you land, you claim your bags at the airport. 

My favorite is the assisted debarkation, because that’s when I don’t have to worry about the big suitcase, and I am prepped in advance well enough that by the time I’m off the ship, all I do is zip to the airport and go home. 

Which is why I say: make sure you have the Very Barest Essentials and your Travel Outfit ready, and a small tote bag. 

Suppose I’m in a dress for the final show of the night. I put out my suitcase at around 10pm-midnight. That’s when they’re collected. I’m not going to the airport in my dress, so I keep my sweats, contact lens solution, and sneakers out of my suitcase. By the time the porters haul away my suitcase, what do I have to carry off the ship? My camera bag, my little tote that contains my dress and shoes from the night before…and I’m dressed in my comfy sweats. When I reunite with my suitcase, I stuff the tote into the suitcase and to the airport!

The best thing about all these cruises is that you will make a million new friends. I mean it. I met a lot of my current clients and friends on board the cruises. Even if you come alone, you’re never alone. You become A Family on the ship, and it’s a family that, if CapJazz is any example, is several thousand people strong. 

At least once in your lifetime, do a music cruise. It’s so well worth it. 




Trust me, ladies…you do NOT want to get the stilettos out on any night but formal night, if your cruise has one. Capital Jazz does NOT have formal nights, but I see people dress up for dinner and steakhouse meals. OK, that is cool. HOWEVER: you do not want to have your very-high heels on unless you know that 1. they’re comfy and 2. you can keep your balance in them. The ship does lurch. The thresholds are nearly always slightly raised. The last thing you want is to have a sprained ankle or take a fall because of your footwear. 

Fold-a-flats are a saving grace. So are flip-flops. 

On Dating and Music

So my friend Ace Livingston brought up an interesting topic on Facebook: dating a musician. Pros and cons.

For one, I don’t date. Just getting that out of the way. And considering I have been in the music industry for about 7 years now, give or take,  I’m a bit leery of dating people who are, one way or another, my clients, or friends of my clients. Regardless of whether or not there’s anyone whom I wouldn’t mind going out with, I lack the time, the patience, and the opportunity for such a thing. Should I decide to go forward with it, though, it is a strictly an at-your-own-risk endeavor.

That’s effectively the best way to put it: when you are dating a musician, you are doing so completely at your own risk.

I’ve always been a fan of the saying look before you leap, and a better variant of the saying is know the person you’re getting involved with. Personalities don’t change. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it one more time, with feeling: no one will change for anyone just because they’re in a relationship or in bed with that person. Tigers don’t change their stripes, and this is doubly true of relationships. Get to know the musician in your life as a person first. This will give you a solid idea of who they are, and based on that, will give you a solid idea of what to expect should you date them. Get to know them independent of your feelings: love will, without fail, make fools of people well before ever giving them their due.

So now, the pros and cons of dating someone in the music industry. This applies across the board, but for the purposes of the narrative, I will use the scenario of girl dating a male musician.

The Pros

- The music. If you love and thrive on music, you will never be left wanting for it if you’re dating someone who makes it for a living.

- The travel. Your guy will be touring. A lot. If you’re in the position to go with him, I encourage this strongly. You will see the world and it will be pretty spectacular. If you love to travel, you’re all the better for it.

- Perspective. Generally, if someone is in the business of making people feel something through music, trust me, they will make you feel something as well, and open your eyes to a very different way of looking at/thinking about/feeling things. Most of the musicians I met are some of the most insightful and intelligent people I’ve ever seen, and I am only glad for it. You will be a different person and you will take what you learn through the remainder of your life.

- Business. Musicians rely on their wits to make their living. This is a very people-oriented industry and you are only as successful as your networking. Dating a musician is a crash course in Networking 101, and if you are trying to step out on your own in the working world, and you will learn, thanks to your significant other, exactly how to talk to people successfully. You will build a network unlike anything in the world. And if you aren’t comfortable around people, this is one of the best teaching environments for it.

I say this a hundred times on a day: I’m a hermit. I don’t like crowds. I love my alone time, and I love my privacy. But working in the music business, I have to talk to people regardless of whether or not I like it, and believe me, I would’ve never been so comfortable holding court in a crowd if I didn’t work in this industry. This is something I’m glad for a hundred times on a day as well: I would not know how to network if not for the music world.

- Adventure. Spontaneity is something key to any relationship, but if you’re with a musician, the travel and the adventuring only adds to it. You won’t look at, “Hey, let’s go somewhere” the same way again.

Well, it sounds awesome, doesn’t it? Yes, it does. But this, like any other dating environment requires work, and it requires a lot more work than people may bargain for. Dating a musician has some serious pitfalls, and most of these root from the fact that the musician is, very much, a public figure.

The Cons

- Never enough time. This is something that I find to be a boon of even being friends with my musician clients. There is never enough time. Have a conversation? Take them out for a drink? Take them somewhere fun? Oh good grief, don’t make me laugh. I’ve been trying to take one of my best friends to the NY Transit Museum for years. I can tell you exactly how many times that happened: zip. It’s something that will likely never happen due to his schedule and mine, and that is something that I had to learn to accept. If you have a musician boyfriend, trust me when I say that you will encounter this sooner than later. The early-am wakeup calls to catch a flight right after a gig going past midnight are par for the course. Broken plans because a gig comes up are too. Can’t have a conversation because the guy you want to talk to is about to load in for a gig? Yep. Been there, done that. This is something that you have absolutely no choice but to accept. I can’t say this enough. You either roll with the punches or get out of the ring.

- Business. Like all people businesses, there will be a lot of situations that aren’t pleasant to deal with. Get used to dealing with them. You’ll be the mediator, the peacemaker, the sounding board, etc. as the situation demands it. And know that the business will likely always come first. Again, this is something you’d have to get used to.

- Other people. This is a YMMV (your mileage may vary) situation, but I have yet to encounter anyone who didn’t have an encounter with a wannabe groupie at least, or didn’t have groupies flock to them – and this is male and female musicians. There will be other people. There will be groupies. And this is a standard with nearly anyone who is a public person and a byproduct of our celebrity-worship culture.

There are three real ways to deal with the situation if you’re dating a musician: 1. Trust that he will say no and be secure enough in your relationship to trust in that, 2. Accept that he will do someone else while on the road, make sure he uses protection, and be secure enough in your relationship to allow that, or 3. don’t date him altogether. There’s zero room for insecurity. If you’re even the slightest bit not okay with the guy in your life being surrounded by strange women after each gig, don’t date him. If, however, you are secure in your relationship and you know your guy well, whether it’s option 1 or option 2 that arises when he’s touring, make sure to actually work on the relationship. No relationship is without effort, and this is no exception.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen my musician friends (95% male) besieged by women, and equally how many female musicians I’ve seen who had been eyed as though they’re steaks. Hell, I’ve been eyed like that and I’m just the photog. And I’ve been equally accused of being a groupie (by other women, never by the musicians themselves). And mind you this: if you’re female, under a certain age, and look good, the assumption that you’re dating someone on stage or sleeping with someone on stage is par for the course. Unfortunate, and it makes me gnash my teeth quite a bit, but I have no illusions.

- Scrutiny by association. See above about insecurity. If you’re dating a musician and you’re touring with him, expect to become as much of a public figure as he is. You will be judged. You will have people pass their opinions on you and your relationship. You and your relationship will be under a microscope. If you value privacy, a VERY good way to start is to make sure that you and the guy you’re with both acknowledge that Time Alone will be a necessity.

No, dating musicians is no walk in the park. Hell, being friends with musicians is something that takes an inordinate amount of work. I will say this, though: to me, it is worth it. However, I know why: I am absolutely ass over teakettle in love with what I do and I wouldn’t trade the life that I built for the world. I love my friends like my own family and refer to them as such. The music is beyond words. To me, it is worth it for that reason.

But if you think that it’s easy – good grief, no. Never was, and never will be. But I soldier on – again, because I love what I do and love my friends.

Would I date a musician? Maybe. If I knew that I could navigate the relationship without it impacting my business too much, and if I could strike an appriopriate balance between my life and the relationship, I may be convinced into giving it a shot. Even then, though, my life – and my life’s responsibilities: work, apartment, health, business – will forever and a day come first, and I cannot abide by any man who is so insecure that he would need to be first in my life above my work, my health, and my friendships. The sort of security of self that a musician requires in his girlfriends, I require of all people in my life as a matter of course and that is non-negotiable.


State of the Jazz Union

You may have read this in multiple parts in rant form, but a much more cohesive version of why I gnashed teeth over Yoshi’s and Jazz Fest West, and any festival apart from my beloved Capital Jazz that went more than 25% R&B, is live up at Detroit Jazz Magazine, where I’m an occasional journalist.


You may be wondering why I’m rehashing this. And I will tell you in no uncertain terms: because someone has to say it. Someone has to say it and someone has to keep saying it. Until and unless we all come together – promoters, bookers, artists, photographers, fans, and journalists – then we will really not have very much in the realm of what the jazz scene has to offer.

And a genre that has been alive, evolving, and robust in every iteration for a hundred years deserves better than to be pushed by the wayside.


Let’s talk about depression. For real this time.

I think it’s time we sat down and talked about depression. Not just because Robin Williams’s death is bringing it forward, but because there’s entirely too much out there that is giving people the wrong idea about what it is and what it isn’t. And, having first-hand experience with it, I can’t not talk about it. 

Fair warning that a lot of this will get very personal. I’m writing this so you can learn this, and share with any Well-Meaning Wilma in your life that just plain doesn’t get it. I have had my own fight with it, and trust me when I say it’s not something I’ll soon forget. 

That and all those Well-Meaning Wilma people just plain piss me off because they do more damage than they realize.

What it is – and what it isn’t.

Depression isn’t a stretch of ‘the blues’. Let’s get that out of the way. When you’re depressed, you’re not in a sad state of mind that you can sleep off. If there is a single expression that would best explain what depression feels like, it would be oppressive quagmire of involuntary indifference. It’s not what you feel – it’s a lot of what you don’t. In my worst bouts of depression, the only thing that could describe what I felt at the time was numb. I didn’t feel anything. Considering I am a passionate personality – obviously – and I thrive on creativity, to not feel anything was definitely, wholly, completely, not right.

Clinically, depression is an imbalance of brain chemicals, which in turn affects your mental and physical well-being. 

You don’t feel sad, so much as you feel as though you don’t see the point in doing the most basic things. You get up in the morning, you get your cup of coffee, and you just don’t see the point in it, even if you love that part of your morning ritual. You go to the park to sit down and read a book, but you don’t go into the park – you just don’t feel like you want to anymore. You have aches and pains where you didn’t have them, and worse, you can’t attribute it to growing older; you know your knees didn’t make that sound three months ago. You think, “I can’t get up this morning” – no reason, just that thought, just that feeling – and it stretches into a week…the a month…and next thing you know, it’s a half a year gone by before you wonder why you don’t like to go to the park anymore.

Worse thing is, you have no control over it.

This is one of the biggest misconceptions about depression: that the sufferer can control it or manage it at will. They can’t. They simply cannot turn on the “happy switch”; such a thing simply doesn’t exist. They can’t think happy thoughts unless they’re constantly medicated. They can’t shake it off. This isn’t something to ‘shake off’ – it’s something to battle through, and that battle will wrangle every little last bit of everything you’ve got before you so much as make ten feet worth of headway out of that quagmire. There is nothing that the depression sufferer can do, on their own, to climb out of it.


The Coat 

It may be a copy-pasta from the prior post, but here you go. I’ve written about depression being like a heavy coat, and it seems to be a fitting description. So here goes.

Think about depression as a very heavy coat that has a mind of its own, and its sole purpose is to confine you and to stifle you until you collapse under it. It’s a coat that slinks up onto you and buttons itself up tight when you aren’t looking, and certainly without your consent. It confines your movements until you struggle to so much as get up. You can think of nothing but the world outside the coat, but because it’s interfering with your line of sight, you can’t participate in it. You know you can remove this coat, but it’s so heavy that you struggle to so much as move a hand towards the buttons. It’s hard for you to breathe wearing this coat, but it won’t get removed on its own and you know it. And you can’t take it off and put it back on at will – the coat won’t let you take it off without a struggle, and you know that you will never want to wear it again. The coat confines your mind too, until you think only within the spectrum that it allows you to think in, confining you to just the inside of your head.

And eventually, your world shrinks. You can see nothing and know nothing but what the coat allows you to see and know. That’s when you don’t see the point in trying to take off the coat anymore. And it only grows heavier. You know there’s a world outside, but you have accepted the weight of the coat, and though you never forget your life before it, you struggle all the more to remember when the coat got onto you, and what the motion is to take it off.

And your body never forgets the coat. Even if you do succeed in ripping it off, and it falls with a dull thunk into a corner, you remember what it was like to carry that weight on you everywhere. You never forget it. You never forget how it feels. And you always have that little smidge of fear in the back of your mind, what if one day you wake up and the coat is back on you? You have no say whatsoever in whether or not you put on the coat – you would never wear it voluntarily, and you’d never wish it on anyone else. You always keep an eye on the coat in its corner, because it never fully disappears. It haunts you, even when you do regain some sort of a normal life after it, it’s never quite the same, because when you look into that corner, there it is, and you are reminded of what it was like to wear it. 

In summary, depression confines you to the inside of your head, and it’s never from one’s own doing. 


The Well-Meaning Wilmas – and the damage they do.

I have to go there, because I’m pretty sure that most people reading this who had suffered through depression have had at least one Well-Meaning Wilma in their lives. A person, who likely has never gone through depression or has absolutely no real understanding of what it is or what it means, who likes to give their “advice” on how to break free of it. I’m sure a couple of us have been guilty of saying, “Snap out of it!”. 

Here’s the thing: none of those well-meaning adages ever work. Not a single one. Never has, never will. In fact, for all of you well-meaning folks out there, if someone around you is depressed, trust me when I say that every time you open your mouth, you’re making things worse. 

I’ll explain how, in detail, so there’s no confusion about why that doesn’t work.

“Snap out of it!”/”Shake it off!” – let’s get this straight: you can’t ‘snap out’ of depression. No one ever asks for it in the first place. It’s never a ‘snap-out’ when and if it does lift. It’s more like a very, very slow sunrise that lasts weeks. You know it’s lifting, you know it’s getting brighter, but it has to happen on its own time. You saying to ‘snap out of it’ only demonstrates to the depressed person that you have no understanding of how they feel.

“You have so much to live for!”/”You have such a great job/friends/lover!” – in your opinion only, turtledove. The depressed person doesn’t necessarily agree. How do you know their depression hadn’t cost them their job? How do you know that the depressed person didn’t have a friend turn on them, and that triggered the downward spiral? Again, you’re only showing that you have no idea how they feel. Moreover, you’re making assumptions about their situation. Two strikes in one, and both of them tell the depressed person that they can’t confide in you. This doesn’t help in the slightest.

“Can’t you just…not be depressed?” – quite obviously, no, and thank you for showing your ignorance of the condition. 

“Well, God says [insert Bible verse]” – …no, just no. Shut up. God has nothing to do with it. If God was so great, then He wouldn’t have given the brain the capacity to do this to itself. Think about that for a second. Keep your religion to yourself when it’s not you going through it. 

“You’re just doing this for attention.” – If I could only encompass in words just how angry I get when someone says that to a depressed person. And yes, I’ve heard that said multiple times. This completely and wholly devalues what they’re going through, which is the single worst thing anyone going through depression can experience on top of the condition itself. You have no right to devalue their feelings. If you don’t understand what they’re going through, that’s fine, but you have no right whatsoever to claim their experience isn’t real because of your own ignorance thereof.

“Think of your family/friends!” – Really? The depressed person already does – they’re wondering how to leave them so they wouldn’t have to deal with what they’re going through. They’re wondering how they would be better off without them. Selfish? No. Not at all. Trying to keep them safe from the quagmire? Yes. Bet you never thought of it that way.

“Be positive!” and “Be more positive!” – again: shut up. Seriously, shut up. This is the single least helpful thing you can say. There’s no way to ‘be positive’ in depression that doesn’t involve heavy medication, drugs, or alcohol. Depression is not, I repeat is not, something a person can control. Trust me, if it were, there would be no depressed people in the world.

Before you ever judge someone for drinking, etc., ask yourself if you know why they’re drinking. Alcoholism isn’t a disease in and of itself, it’s a symptom of something else. Alcohol is a depressant (as in, opposite of stimulant) that dulls feelings, inhibitions, and perception – it’s the perfect self-medication for someone who doesn’t want to be inside their own head. Addictive personalities gravitate to anything addictive, but a depressed person is that much more likely to gravitate to a anything in the depressant spectrum of pharmacology – anything, really, if it means they won’t spend any time inside their head for some time. In short: never, ever tell anyone to be positive/more positive/cheer up. Unless you have a bottle in your hand, cheering up is just simply not possible. Know what it does for the depressed person when you say that? It tells them you don’t understand how they feel. It tells them you’re judging them. It tells them that they can’t trust you. Which in turn makes the depression worse. 

“Well, I was depressed too, and I’m fine, so you can be too!” – if you’re saying that, chances are you were never depressed in the first place. In my experience, as both a depression survivor and as someone who had held more than a few hands of those going through it, absolutely no one who ever experienced genuine clinical depression ever says that. It’s not a one-size-fits-all condition, and not a one-size-fits-all treatment. Again: you’re not helping. 

You may read this and ask, “Well, what can I say, then?”

And this is the thing: you shouldn’t say. You should listen. The only words out of your mouth should be, “Talk to me.” No more. Nothing else. Because the depressed person doesn’t need to hear anything. They need to be heard. Because by the time they’re reaching out for help, they just want a reminder that there’s at least one person on the other side who will listen to them. 

And how can you listen if you’re giving platitudes?


The Public Eye – and how depression makes actors of us all.

This is something that I also touched on in the prior post. I know that Robin Williams’s death had taken us all for a shock, and I have seen quite a lot of wholly ignorant statements on what it looked like from the outside. 

Let’s not forget that Robin Williams was a public figure. Moreover, he was an actor. Putting on a performance was his livelihood. He was a master at putting on a show for the public; he thrived on making people laugh by putting on a show. But as I wrote about the suicide of L’Wren Scott, there is a gilded shell, and the more public a person is, the more focused they become on appearances, the more disconnected the shell becomes from the real person underneath. 

Robin Williams had to keep putting on the show. He had to keep putting on the mask that said everything was okay. He had to make people laugh, because while they were laughing, they wouldn’t see that he was not okay. And the truth is, people in the public eye are a lot more likely to suffer from depression, and due to the money they earn from their work, they are a lot more free to self-medicate than others. What’s absolutely horrifying is that tabloids eat this shit up and make a show out of documenting someone’s breakdown for people to point and laugh at, and as a result, the people who eat this up forget very readily that the person on the other side of the page and the camera lens is every bit a real human being, and that the newspapers are publicizing something that, if it were happening to someone who wasn’t a public figure, would be seen as an unmistakable sign that that person needs help.

We as a voyeuristic celebrity culture have created a pressure cooker for the very people whom we admire/ogle/look at/hear. The pressure to put on the happy faces and appear as though nothing is wrong has grown immensely ever since the media has gotten the idea that public figures aren’t entitled to privacy – as though they stop being human when they start being a public figure.

One of the scariest photos I’ve seen was of Kate Middleton – Princess Kate as she is now, I should say – walking down the street…and behind her was a veritable wall of paparazzi camera lenses. I wish I could say I was joking. That image was honestly terrifying. I have to hand it to Kate for having the fortitude to keep going with that sort of a magnifying glass trained on her for the benefit of the gawping public. But it also told me the kind of people that we have become. We think nothing of a single person having to walk past a wall of camera lenses dedicated to their every move, as long as we the viewers get our fill. 

But in truth, we are not so different from those in the public eye, especially if it’s us who suffers from depression. We too put on a show. We put on a show for our friends, our coworkers, our families, spouses, children if we have them – we put on an incredibly convincing show that tells them that everything is okay. We laugh and joke and hold court and talk on the phone like we used to, and we hide it. We hide that in the morning, we have to psych ourselves up to get out of bed. We hide what’s really inside our minds, all to keep the Well-Meaning Wilmas in our lives at bay. We don’t want to hear the platitudes, we don’t want to hear the tropes, but we’d love someone to listen to us. Just listen. Nothing else. Or even just let us park our heads onto their shoulders for a stretch. 

The trouble is that we don’t always have someone who will listen. In our viewing, voyeuristic, entertainment-hungry culture, we are a lot more likely to attract a slew of people who’d love to watch us struggle through the quagmire than we are likely to find someone who will offer a hand, a shoulder, and an ear to help us out of it.  

And that’s how we learn to act when depression comes knocking. It’s a self-preservation impulse, and it is strong enough to make Oscar winners of even the plainest of us all. 


Getting personal

As you can probably surmise, I had my own battle with it. I heard all the Well-Meaning Wilma platitudes I listed above, and then some. To say that it wasn’t an easy path might be an understatement. I don’t want to jinx it, but I can tell you that my time with the coat is, very likely, the absolute worst I’ve been in my life, and if I can survive that, then I can survive anything.

Thank all the lucky stars out there for the awesome friends I had at the time. Thanking my lucky stars for the ones I have now. Really. Without them, this struggle would’ve been exponentially worse.

But what I want to talk about in this segment isn’t myself or my own time with the coat. Plenty enough for that. What I want to talk to you about here is what it takes to climb out of it. If there is someone who is depressed in your life, or you yourself are wearing the coat now, then this will give you the idea of what getting out of it entails. 

As the title of the section says, it’s getting personal. And getting through depression to find your way out really is. A huge part of getting out of depression is acknowledging, and fully feeling, the weight of the coat, and revealing that to someone on the outside. Everything you hide, everything you don’t want other people to know – it has to come out. This involves feeling everything that the condition has numbed down. You have to feel the entire spectrum of everything that the condition brings before you can say, “I need help”. 

And I will warn you in no uncertain terms: it will hurt. It will hurt like a motherfucker. Part of depression is that it suppresses a normal emotional spectrum, but once the dam breaks, you will feel everything at once. Your emotional spectrum will go into a complete tailspin once that happens. But…that is also how you know that right now, if you reach out for help, you will be able to receive it. 

That last bit is important. Too many times, depressed people cannot receive help. Not that there isn’t any available, no. They can’t perceive as such, and they can’t absorb it. It’s all part and parcel of what depression does to the mind. The numbing extends to how you perceive the outside world. Even if someone is right there waiting for you to reach out your hand and grasp theirs, it still depends on whether or not you are actually able to lift your hand to do it. 

Self-medicating may seem very self-destructive from the outside. And I’ll make no bones of it: it is. However, there is always a point where self-medicating won’t work anymore. One fine day, you’ll be staring at the martini glass, and wondering, “Why did I get another refill?” And this is a very important point in a depressed individual: this is actually the point where the depression reaches its peak. It’s also a very dangerous point. At this stage, one of two things can happen: the person decides to reach out and get help, or they look for a stronger method of self-medication.

It wholly depends on two things: the individual…and whoever is around them at the time. This is why you keep a close eye on the people around you. Don’t judge, just listen to your own gut, and ask, “Is there anything amiss here?” Someone whose maximum is 2-3 drinks does not all of a sudden start downing shots. You will know: your gut doesn’t lie. 

And once you are ready to say, “I need help” – always look at the people who have been around you the longest before you open up about it. Chances are, they already know something wasn’t okay. Chances are they may have caught on. But you will know very well who the real friends in your circle are those who will stick with you through the “I need help”. You will lose people as a byways of coming out of the quagmire. But don’t dwell on the ones you lose: dwell on the ones who will see you through the end of it. These will be the people who know you best, and these will be the people who will be there for life. 


On Suicide

This is something I cannot easily write. I can only link you to this post as to what suicide isn’t

The period leading up to suicide is honestly one of the darkest journeys through one’s own head. Ending one’s life is seen as the only relief from that pain. So many times I’d see something like, “Suicide is a permanent answer to a temporary problem” as a way to convince someone to not do it. That doesn’t work. Why? Because a suicidal person doesn’t see it as a temporary problem, and worst is that it might be too late for them to see that it’s temporary. When someone is in the prison of their own head, they don’t see what the person on the outside sees.  Worse, they can’t.

To end one’s own life is tragic. It’s a loss to mental illness – and make no mistake, that depression is an illness, one that no one invites or ever seeks out – and it’s a loss of the will to live first. We have a powerful survival instinct, us humans. To want to end your own life is that survival instinct tipping its hat, breaking its rapier, and surrendering it to the coat. “I give up,” it says. “I can’t continue this fight.” Suicide is the person finally crumbling under the weight of the coat. 

It is not selfish, regardless of what you may believe. Why? Because the suicidal person genuinely believes that the people around them are better off without them there. Illogical? Possibly. Unnecessary? Likely so. But selfish? No. Never. Because the suicidal person is not thinking of themselves apart from being a burden on those around them. 

It’s a scream for help, but if no one hears it, or worse, they go Well-Meaning Wilma on that person, that would be the tipping point for that survival instinct to say, “I’m done.” 

This is why the absolute worst thing you can ever say to someone is, “You’re being selfish, think of the other people.” 

They already do think of the other people. And calling them selfish only pushes them further towards the edge. 


Don’t rail against Robin Williams. No one saw the coat on him, and no one saw how heavy it got until he just couldn’t handle another minute of it. Never call him selfish, not after he had given so much of himself to the arts and, through the arts, to us. Remember him for what Herculean effort it must have taken him over the years to have made us laugh the way he had. Think of what it cost him, through wearing the coat, to get up and do his job as a public figure keeping the spark alive in all of us. 



Yes, there is an afterwards to depression. 

As you may have grasped from this post, depression never goes away completely. 

That is the other insidious part of it all. There’s no such thing as over for good with depression. There just isn’t. You will have bad days. You will have more than one bad day in a row. You will fight with everything you’ve got to keep steady through those bad days, and they pass, eventually. They will pass. 

I’ve been there. I have bad days once in a while. I have days where I wonder why I bothered getting out of bed. I have days where my shoulders and back ache in a way that reminds me of being curled up on a couch with no inclination to move. I have a memory like a hard drive; once in a while, a moment will come back to me, a moment that I tried to format out of my brain. 

How do I deal when I get like this?

By going out with friends. By going out to walk in a tree-lined neighborhood with my music on. By choosing a city on a map and looking up when there’s a good show to go to there, and getting the hell out of dodge for a weekend. By photographing something, anything, really. By looking at the books I’ve written, the pictures I’ve taken, the achievements, the travel list I’ve been crossing off, by reminding myself that I had clawed my way out of the quagmire before, and that I was able to accomplish everything I dreamed I could. By reminding myself that there’s still more to do, still more people to meet, still more music to hear, still more stories to write. 

Because I know that it could get much, much worse than that one bad day, and that I’ve survived worse than the bad day…and that I can survive anything. 

Even the coat.


In Memoriam: Robin Williams

Even typing out the title to this post, it feels foreign. Unreal, almost.

But it is true.

Cause of death looks to be a suicide, if news sources are to be believed, and considering that this is Robin Williams – our Robin Williams, of Mrs. Doubtfire, of the Dead Poets Society, of the voice of Genie in Aladdin; someone who has been part and parcel of our household entertainment collection, to where we can say that we have grown up with him – it hits so, so very close to home.

We have lost many talented people already, and it saddens me to have our Robin be among those whom we lost. Philip Seymour Hoffman was another. The line stretches long, but ah, this truly highlights that we, the people, whether we are famous or not, whether we work in the public eye or not, have become experts at playing the greatest role of all: the role of “everything is okay”.

Robin Williams, who had inspired so many, who had given so many smiles throughout his career, has grown to be a master at that particular role. I cannot imagine that those around him knew what was truly in his mind, or if they did, they were at a loss as to how to approach it. To everyone around him – certainly to those of us watching from afar – he certainly seemed the happy-go-lucky Robin Williams. There was nothing about him that could’ve suggested that anything was awry.

Ah, depression, you wily beast… No one sees you coming, either, do they? Not the people watching, and certainly not those whom you sneak up on.

I wrote once before about likening depression to a coat. Think about it. Think about depression as a very heavy coat that has a mind of its own and its sole purpose is to confine you. It’s a coat that slinks up onto you and buttons itself up tight. It confines your movements until you struggle to so much as get up. You can think of nothing but the world outside the coat, because it’s interfering with your line of sight. You know you can remove this coat, but it’s so heavy that you struggle to so much as move a hand towards the buttons. It’s hard for you to breathe wearing this coat, but it won’t get removed on its own and you know it. And you can’t take it off and put it back on at will – the coat won’t let you take it off without a struggle, and you know that you will never want to wear it again. The coat confines your mind too, until you think only within the spectrum that it allows you to think in, confining you to just the inside of your head.

And no one else, unless they too had worn this coat, will ever know what it’s like to wear it. “Can you just…not be depressed?” they ask. It’s like “Can you just…not wear the coat?” But in truth, you can’t. You never can ‘just not wear it.’ Especially when you didn’t ask to wear it in the first place.

And your body never forgets the coat. Even when you do succeed in ripping it off, and it falls with a dull thunk into a corner, you remember what it was like to carry that weight on you everywhere. You never forget it. You never forget how it feels. And you always have that little smidge of fear in the back of your mind, what if one day you wake up and the coat is back on you?

That’s probably how Robin Williams felt.

But he was a public figure too. He couldn’t let people see his struggles, because he didn’t want to run the risk of exposing that side of himself, the side that is most vulnerable. He was a public figure. He couldn’t let people see what was wrong, because in this culture of ours, people were much more likely to make a voyeuristic experience of his struggle rather than just reaching out and saying, “Talk to me. I’ll listen” and leading him away from the prying eyes, shutting the door on the cameras, and turning off the phone calls from the agents and studios. It’s harsh, but that’s what our culture has become.

After we lost Philip Seymour Hoffman, L’Wren Scott, MJ, and so many more amazing talents, and now that we lost Robin, I can’t help but think:

The spotlight truly is the loneliest place for any human being to be.

We can talk about the risks of suicide all we want. They are all very valid. But know that public individuals are used to playing a part for the people watching, and they have mastered the art of making sure people know nothing about what’s under the surface. They will do everything in their power to hide their struggles, and they will do it well. You won’t know – perhaps you may get a hint or two if you know the person well enough, a word said, a something that’s out of the ordinary, which will make you wonder whether everything is okay. But you will not know for sure unless they tell you.

You can do everything that the prevention hotlines recommend. And I would encourage it, because something is better than nothing at all. But the most important thing that you can do, which you may already know, is simply listen to the person. Don’t try to rationalize what they’re telling you. Don’t try to interpret. Don’t respond. Just listen. Just listen to what they have to say, because no matter how little sense it may make to you, to them it is valid. They just need to know that there’s someone, anyone on the other side of the confines of their own head.

*long sigh*

This isn’t an easy pill to swallow. Having had my own stretch of time with the coat and knowing entirely too well what he must have been going through, I can’t help but ask, was anyone listening? Did anyone close to him take a look at his eyes, just to see whether or not his smile ever actually reached them? The signs of depression and/or suicide risk are not always obvious; you have to know what the person is really like in order to peg if anything’s off base.

Maybe someone did see… Maybe no one did. We’ll never know. But what we do know is that one of the bright lights of the world has gone out. And I really wish that we could roll a collective 5 or 8 for him to come back to us, but such is life.

We miss you, Robin. Thank you for your smiles, and here’s to making those smiles last for generations to follow.

And to my friends – not like I need to say this publicly – thank you for being there for me, and know that I am always there for you in turn. You all know how to find me.


On Events & Behind the Scenes

Or, better put, the viewer’s perspective on what makes events happen.

First things first, though, I’d like to thank everyone who read my epic rant on Jazz Fest West. It’s probably my most-read post in the entire five-year history of the blog, no joke. I have had plenty of excellent discussions all over social media on this topic. Thank you, one and all.

I am following up further on the topic and bringing it into a different vein, on account that there is something else that has come to mind.

As before, I won’t name names outright. If it’s you, then by all means, lace up the shoe and wear it. Also, please note that what I’m writing in this blog is simply no more and no less than my personal opinion. You’re free to disagree, but as an independent, I’m free to express it as I like it.

My biggest problem with a lot of jazz festivals, or “jazz” festivals, better put, is the over-dilution of R&B. Capital Jazz is the exception to this. Why exception? The two genres – jazz and soul/R&B – are largely sequestered throughout the festival on their own stages. Jazz is at the big Pavilion Stage, and the soul and R&B are at the Soul Stage (or Symphony Woods stage, as it was this year). And that is fine. People enjoy both genres equally across the board, and know what they want to see.

However, if you have only one stage, then the genre mix does not go over well. Not with the jazz fans, not with the R&B fans, and while I can’t speak for the artists, I can’t imagine either side of the divide is happy either.

But right now, I’m not going to wax ranty about the genre divide too much. I’m going to wax philosophical about event production, and what does and doesn’t contribute to event success. To many of you, this is basically preaching to the choir, but to some of you, this will be a quick Event Production 101.

The thing that any promoter needs to know is that artists always talk. They talk between themselves, and they talk to their friends. So when a festival promoter is getting a bad rap from the people behind the scenes, I tend to look askance at the event altogether. If people I know are getting mistreated by a promoter, then I will avoid the event. Why? I see it as unethical to give money to someone who doesn’t treat my people well. Likewise for working with such a production. I will give most people a chance, but you best believe that I won’t so much as put my camera battery into its charger unless my contract is ironclad and my deposit is in the bank.

And let this be a message to every event promoter or club owner: if the people you work with have something to say about you that is not a praise, this can, and inevitably will, affect your venue or event. People will not come to your event if they feel that their friends are mistreated in any way, and they will certainly tell other people to avoid it if they will get any sort of bad treatment.

To note, I know I’m not immune from this. If anyone is setting out to work in any enterprise that thrives on word of mouth for its survival, they too are subject to the same rule. I try my best to do right by my clients, but I know that there will be some people with whom it won’t go well. And I know that how I handle such a situation will very much affect how my business will continue. That’s the risk I run by working in music – and you know what, that’s the responsibility I have to take.

But from the event perspective, word of mouth is hugely important. Event production falls into the category of “spend money to make money”. For every festival event, the venue needs to be booked, insurance needs to be acquired, artist contracts written, deposits paid, and so on and so forth. Depending on your event, there’s a lot of outlay there. The event producer will make a profit by recouping the costs in a total amount greater than the initial investment.

So word of mouth, especially positive word of mouth, is the single best insurance for attendance, which in turn is a single best insurance for the promoter recouping costs.

The second and very important part of event production is how to price it.

Consider this: every production is an investment-first endeavor. Even the most basic of concert shows. When a producer wants to put on a show, they have to rent the venue, pay the performers, rent the backline, get the insurance – because few if any venues will ever allow a show without insurance – and then and only then set the prices at a rate enough that will break them even, or at least minimize the loss. Of course, the objective is to make a profit – keep that in mind, always.

Similarly with festivals. The difference is that there are more performers, higher venue costs, and therefore higher ticket price.

That explained, there’s one major, major thing to note: if your event is not priced to sell, it will not. This is especially true for any event that sees out-of-towners in attendance on a regular basis. If your ticket prices are not appealing, then you can trust that a chunk of the audience – usually the chunk where the event travel is longer than an hour by car or by subway – will not attend. If they can get the same or similar lineup elsewhere, for a lesser price, what motivation will they have for attending your event? The price has to be right.

I’ve encountered this with more than one festival, and it’s part of why I’ve gotten very choosy with the events that I attend. Some of the best jazz fests are, typically, out in CA. I always look at the performers, the price, and the promoter in charge, in that order. There are some performers for whom I will gladly hop on a plane for, and likewise some that I would not travel very far to see. The price is a major deciding factor: if I can get a cheaper ticket somewhere closer, that’s what I will do. And the promoter in charge: how does he or she or they treat the people they work with? I want to know that my people will be treated right. I want to know that I will be treated right if I’m working for the event in question or for someone affiliated with the event. I cannot tell you how important that part is for me, not as a viewer/audience member, but as someone who works behind the scenes of a lot of events.

When a promoter for a festival decides to do a charter cruise, all of the above plays into the event’s outcome.

Putting on a charter cruise is easily the single most expensive thing an event producer can ever do. I’ll certainly commend the producer in this case for being ambitious, because I know the accounting required in such an endeavor. It’s a lulu. What I will, however, ask, are three things:

1. What’s the lineup trying to accomplish?

2. Who’s in charge and what do I know about them?

and 3. How much?

Answering Question #1 is a mixed bag with a recent cruise endeavor that I’ve spotted rolling out. I don’t mind genre splits on a cruise, because that way, I can actually have a cruise. This is, again, why I love Capital Jazz very much: if I’m not a fan of an artist, that is perfectly okay – it means I can go for a massage, have a steakhouse dinner, or just plain relax and sleep in the meantime. It’s nothing against the artist, of course, but for myself, as a fan of jazz first, I have little interest in R&B. On the years where it’s less jazz and more soul/R&B, I actually got to have a vacation. But I’m looking at this recent cruise and I’m seeing major R&B/soul headliners…and what looks to be all major jazz headliners from the past 3 years’ recent fests and other cruises all thrown into the same bag. Okay..? Is the emphasis on the R&B or on the jazz, then? I’d probably love such a cruise, because the jazz event is wholly satisfying for one like myself, but the overall purpose of the event looks muddled, which in turn makes me ask how well it’s actually organized. With CapJazz, it’s clear that they want to present two sides of the genre divide that they built their brand on, and they make the day-to-day operations work. What’s the purpose with this event?

#2: Yes, I know who’s in charge. But I will ask references from people who had worked with them before. The references are important. My observations are one half of the puzzle. What people tell me is the other. And yes, if I don’t hear good things about Le Grande Fromage who’s putting the entire thing on, then you best believe that will play into my decision to go or not to go.

#3 is the most important of them all. How much does it all cost? I looked at the pricing and it was a case of sticker shock. Yes, I know charter cruises aren’t cheap. For me especially – because I travel alone. This is the thing: cruises don’t like people traveling alone. If I want my own cabin, I have to buy it out. Some productions have singles pricing, others allow me to pay 150% plus double the port taxes to buy it out. So already, I’m at a disadvantage. I expect a price disparity from one cruise production to another, but if I can get a single-price cabin and at whatever rate it is, it’s still less than the per-person price of a cabin elsewhere, then I will most certainly go where I keep more money in my pocket.

Just as an example: I can get a single cabin on one cruise, all to myself. Add in port-tax and gratuities, and it’s a grand total about $3K – yes, steep, but if you’re considering that in addition to cabin cost you’re also paying admission to no less than 40 shows/jam sessions/events, then you’re getting a pretty good deal. However: that same 3K on another cruise is just the per-person cost for the cheapest inside cabin on board – and if I want to go on that cruise, I’d have to pay double that to go alone. Of course, this means I’ll go with where I can get more bang for my buck – in this case, with the single cabin that costs less. Because, with the other production, if they’re generous and let me buy out at 150%, I’m still going to be paying no less than $4,500! That’s the cost of my entire trip with the other guys – including flight, hotel pre-cruise, and onboard spending! Yes, I will concur the lineup won’t be the same, however, I am not made of money, and I am going to go where it costs me less in pure out-of-pocket expenditure.

I wholly understand that prices have to be at a certain rate for the promoter to recoup initial investment costs, but if enough people say, “That’s too much money” and not go as a result, then the entire event is in jeopardy. Not enough ticket sales = significant loss = less money to the promoter to reinvest in future events = future of the entire production is…? This is how and why the All Star Cruises had closed their doors; I was lucky enough to have been on board the last sailing, and the price was rockbottom – lucky for me, but in retrospect, it’s a sign of desperation on the cruise line’s behalf if they gave me my cabin for the rate that they had. They were trying to fill the ship, and no, they didn’t fill it. So the line had closed its doors after that last one, and I understand why: the promoter must have taken a hell of a bath. It was an amazing ship, a fantastic all-jazz lineup, but if they couldn’t manage to pull off a full ship, then yes, I wholly expect them to shutter it.

Likewise for festivals. Doubly if the cruise and the fest are put on by the same person. Because whatever the festival reputation is, it carries into the cruises. This is why you see Michael Lazaroff’s production consistently sell out – whatever my opinion on Lazaroff is, Smooth Jazz Cruises are, last time I checked, a driving force behind Seabreeze Jazz Fest, which is one of the most sold-out East Coast events after Berks and Cap. It’s extremely likely that the Breeze attendees pack in en masse for the cruises: they know what to expect based on the fest. Same for CapJazz’s continued success: people know what to expect from the festivals, and go on the cruises – and vice versa.

To sum up, I will say this: we all look out for each other behind the scenes. I can’t count the number of times a fellow photog or musician had done me a solid, and I’m more than prepared to do the same for them in return. There are some promoters I will always work with, because I know that they will treat me with integrity, and that they will do right by the people they book. Likewise to contrary. And the number-one thing a promoter needs to keep in mind is exactly that: what references will he or she or they receive after the event is said and done? This is on all sides of the divide: performer, manager, booker, photographer, attendee, vendor… References come from everywhere, and a huge contributing factor to the continued success of a production is making sure that the positive outweighs the naysayers.


Fifty Shades of WTF?

I couldn’t resist. So yeah, the Fifty Shades of Grey tripe is becoming a movie franchise, and it has a shiny new trailer.

Of course, people are going gaga over it.

I swear, I must be a pod person or something. Really. Because I just cannot see any of that as “sexy”. I cannot see anything about Christian Grey as a character that would make it noteworthy, except for the fact that he’s a fucking sociopath.

Ladies and gentlemen, let’s get this straight: abuse is not sexy. Not even if it’s written to try and be sexy. Abuse is abuse, and abuse should not be tolerated, whether physical, emotional, psychological, sexual, you name it.

I read some of the book, but I stopped in disgust. Can someone please tell me how any of that is different from Twilight? How is the dynamic between Christian and Ana any different than Edward and Bella? Both are incredibly unhealthy, and in both cases, the male half acts as a predator chasing prey. In Twilight, it was Bella for being human and having the blood scent that affected Edward like heroin. Not even kidding, look in the books – “You are like my personal brand of heroin” was the phrase used. And Christian targets Ana because she’s a virgin, ergo naive, ergo he can do with her as he feels like and “mold” her into his ideal partner.

And people think it’s sexy? That it’s a good portrayal of the BDSM scene? Good lord, folks, if that’s what you think is sexy, I truly wonder about how satisfied you are in your own sex lives and what your ideas are about men respecting women. Because that’s just some seriously unhealthy shit that I’ve skimmed through in that book, and by no means am I a prude.

One of my best friends is heavily in BDSM, and she’s a sub. I also chatted up a professional dominatrix at a bar – yes, I live in NYC, you never know whom you’ll meet where. From the opposite side of the submission divide, they both told me that in the BDSM world, no one in their right minds would treat anyone the way Christian treats Ana throughout the series. BDSM hinges very, very, very heavily on consent. Hell, 99% of all sexual relationships hinge on consent. What Christian does treads into the territory of rape; I do not recall Ana consent to much of what he was doing with her. And don’t let me hear the “if she doesn’t say no that means yes” crap – hell no. If you’re in bed with someone and you aren’t blind or deaf, you will know very well when someone wants you to continue.

Really. I can’t understand how this shit got this popular, in both series’ cases. I will not pay money to even a street bootlegger hocking DVDs to see this crap. I mean, really. I know Americans as a whole are still very Puritanic when it comes to sex, but…really, folks, give me a break. I have read all of Twilight on a lost bet, so I know how to get through shitty fiction. But if it fails the Random Page Test in about two paragraphs, then I can’t help you there.

I really, honestly cannot understand how people, especially women, think that this shit is sexy, romantic, etc. I can’t. Granted I’m not exactly a “romantic” in the strictest sense, but I have a certain standard of behavior I expect in a relationship, based on this little thing called respect and this other thing called common sense. Except I’m afraid it’s not so common.

Really? This is made into a movie?

Then I guess fiction really has gone to shit.