By the time Kid Rock’s fan cruise hit Mexico on Saturday, two days after departing New Orleans, the faces on board had become familiar, the rhythms easy, the rock-party energy stuck in high gear.
And one overriding message was now clear on this journey, Rock’s second Chillin’ the Most Cruise: The Detroit star has created one heck of a fan family for himself.
After chugging across the Gulf of Mexico from New Orleans, Rock and his 2,700 cruisers pulled into Cozumel, Mexico, just after daybreak Saturday on the Carnival Triumph.
Many roused themselves out of quick early morning naps to scatter into the rustic tourist town across from Cancun, where they’d spend a day shopping, hitting the beach and sampling the local brews. Others stayed aboard, nursing hangovers or starting the day’s party with bright morning mimosas at the pool bar.
Rock opted to round up three dozen friends, including rapper Rev. Run, and head out by speed boat to the private Passion Isla resort for an afternoon beach party.
“Can you believe we’re getting paid for this?” he hollered to nobody in particular as his boat zipped across the Caribbean Sea to the remote island hangout.
Rock wasn’t simply getting a big paycheck for this five-day cruise produced by Atlanta firm Sixthman, which specializes in rock-themed cruises and seeks out acts with these very sorts of fan bonds. What the excursion also gives him is resounding confirmation that he has carved out one of the most distinctive and loyal subcultures in the modern music world.
It sits somewhere at the nexus of rock ‘n’ roll debauchery and the tight-knit bonding of country music and Nascar, with some gritty Detroit realism thrown in for good measure.
On this cruise, where fans have partied around the clock and continuously kept their eyes peeled for sightings of the host, Rock knows he has created something special in the 13 years since “Devil Without a Cause” thrust his freewheeling, Detroit-built persona into the national limelight.
“This is the real American working class,” Rock said. “These are my real fans. I get to relax, because there isn’t any ‘if’ with the fans here. Usually when people come up and tell you how much they love you, there’s always that little doubt nagging in your brain: ‘Do they really mean it?’ I don’t have to worry about that here.”
They’re the couples who had skipped last year’s Christmas and birthdays to save up the $2,000 or so they’d need to cruise with Rock. They’re the families who stuck aside a little cash each week for the past year, the 21-year-olds who opted against traditional spring-break trips with the rest of their friends.
They’re waitresses, truck drivers, teachers, accountants, working moms, bikers, grad students, community college kids, and they talk proudly of what they sacrificed to enjoy five days of camaraderie with the Kid Rock family.
“Not every artist could pull off something like this,” said cruise-goer Ryan Pierce, a 37-year-old Canada native here for his first cruise. “It feels like everybody here is best friends already. Where else do you get that?”
Rock has been making the rounds since the cruise launched Thursday – popping up at other bands’ gigs, hitting the late-night craps tables with a bottle of Jim Beam in hand, roaming the corridors to chat with fans and generate an anecdote they’ll be recounting the rest of their lives.
On his Passion Isla getaway Saturday, Rock’s entourage hit the postcard-perfect white sands and headed into the water, where Rock recounted road tales and guitarist Jason Krause got nipped in the nipple by a small fish.
Cozumel was to be just a quick blip in the schedule, sandwiched between the cruise’s main event: a pair of intimate concerts by Rock.
About half the 2,700 cruise-goers were assigned to the Friday show, with the other half scheduled to attend Saturday night inside a small theater on the ship.
The 90-minute Friday performance was reminiscent of the occasional specialty gigs Rock has played at venues such as Mt. Clemens’ Emerald Theatre – an energetic set for a tight, close audience.
Rock and his Twisted Brown Trucker band served up a repertoire catering to diehard fans, but with a scaled-down production and a cozy stage presence that gave it all a warm informality.
It was a loud but low-frills show that was mostly about the intimacy – a connection he acknowledged several times during the night.
“I feel like I’m on vacation with all of you,” he said, “and that’s the greatest part.”
Brian Mccollum / Detroit Free Press