Chillin’ the Most with Packway Handle Band: Day Two

Editor’s note: Local bluegrass group Packway Handle Band is currently sailing the high seas on Kid Rock’s Chillin’ the Most cruise. Thankfully for us, they’ll be blogging about their experiences all week long.

Tom Baker: Don’t worry. I’m alive. I somehow missed day one of the blog, but I think others have covered the basics. The cruise is mostly what you would expect: drunk and loud. Lots of hamburgers and Bud Light and Skynyrd covers. I’ve never heard the word “motherfucker” used in greater frequency. I was surprised that we are among the youngest people on the boat. We are major outliers in terms of body mass index. I am one of the few people not yet seriously sunburned. 

Day one was great. We played music in random corridors and stairwells and elevators. People LOVED it. Near the end of our “set” on day two, one of the organizers came up to our tour manager and said, “Hey, these guys want to hear you up here.” We followed him into a suite, where Kid Rock greeted us with a big smile and said, “Hey, I’m Bob.”

We were all standing around with our instruments for a few awkward minutes trying to pinpoint something that we wanted to play and that Bob wanted to hear. “Bill Monroe?” asked Andrew. “Too easy,” said Bob. Bob eventually led the way on a gospel tune that we stumbled through. We played through a bunch of traditional bluesy and gospel songs, with Kid Rock singing along and offering input and encouragement. He was shockingly good at improvising. Doug E. Fresh joined in at some point, trading off improvising with Bob while we played simple bluegrass chord progressions. One of the coolest moments was Doug E. Fresh beatboxing while I played banjo rolls. 

(Our tour manager snapped about a thousand photos of the event in Kid Rock’s suite, but we have to wait to have them cleared before we can post them.)

Zach McCoy: Toward the end of our two-hour walk around that started at 8:30 p.m., I heard Andrew shouting for our tour manager: “There are BOOBS! Can we get a camera on them?”

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The GoPro camera mounted to the headstock of my bass had failed us. We had the beads. We had the chops. It was Fat Tuesday, so we even had the boobs. It’s just that we didn’t have the battery power in the GoPro cam to capture the moment. Oh well—we still had 30 minutes or so of our walk-around session to go, and the 12th deck seemed as good as a place as any to play. I was exhausted from lugging the upright bass around all around the ship, so posting up somewhere stationary sounded perfect. 

Josh Erwin: Happy Mardi Gras! After a night of deserved deep sleep, we were reminded that we had been registered to participate in the boat’s Flip Cup competition at 1:45 p.m. Michael and I were the representatives for PHB. This was, of course, the day that the endless buffet’s variety on the ship caught up with my stomach and my inner ear was a bit “wooshy” feeling, so I wasn’t exactly top notch when I laced up my drinking shoes. Long story short, we got teamed up with some of the Sixthman crew, beat the Big Damn Rock Show and only had to play one other round—the final bracket winner of the guest teams, the crew named “Selena Fucking Gomez.”  Michael and I were NOT the weak link, or the reason we lost. We held our own and only ended up drinking about 4-6 ounces of beer.  Great—we wouldn’t be wasted for the evening walk-around slot. 

The next set was only an hour away, and we had to throw on our purple and gold for Mardi Gras night. I slid my size-0 gold assless pants on, donned a purple shirt, feather mask, yellow boa and beads, and marched down the hallway with the band to warm up some folks in the elevator. We passed David Allen Coe, who seemed interested in checking out an old-time tune we play, and not long after that, a Sixthman staff member found our tour manager and told him that the guy who runs the boat wanted PHB to play for him. My first thought is, “Oh, we’re going to the captain’s quarters. This will be neat.” After we make it up the flight of stairs, it was obvious that we were about to enter Kid Rock’s room.

We played through a bunch of songs, with Kid Rock singing along and offering input and encouragement. He was shockingly good at improvising. Doug E. Fresh joined in at some point, trading off improvising with Bob while we played simple bluegrass chord progressions.

Kid Rock is a fit guy. He was smoking a cigar and wearing a cap. He was very gracious that we came upstairs and asked us to play something easy, in G. He started singing a Tom T. Hall tune that we didn’t know. He called out the chord changes—only not all the changes he called were exactly the right chords or at the right time. So, he asked for my guitar and led the rest of the song. I sang some harmony to “Jesus and Me are Alright,” or some line like that. Afterward, I got my guitar back and we played stuff we know: a Bill Monroe standard and “In the Pines.” At some point, Kid Rock ripped into Steve Miller’s “Take the Money and Run.” Then, he shouted out, “Hey, let’s get Doug E. Fresh up here!” He instructed us to play it cool and not try to adapt. “Keep playing bluegrass,” he insisted. All we could think about was whether or not Doug E. Fresh would be okay with being bothered.   

In the meantime, “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” started up—a dirtier, more grooved-out version than the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s, because some hick-hop freestyle went down with Drake White and the Big Fire along with some help from Kid Rock. Drake had a line that went over well with everyone: “Might be drinkin’ water/ But the beer’s in the fridge.” He ended with the word “sushi,” somehow. The song ended, and he asked, “What rhymes with sushi”? It took less than a second for Kid Rock to say, “Coochie! C’mon, man!”  Kid Rock told us how he got started rapping. “We used to rap about stop signs—that was better than school.” He offered us a beer and it was probably the best, coldest Coors Light I’ll ever enjoy in my life. He was incredibly grateful for us being on the ship, which is awfully humbling.

Doug E. Fresh arrived after we dorked around with the theme song to “Inspector Gadget”—one of Kid Rock’s personal requests. After that, we started up a good groove and Douggie Fresh started beatboxing—and he was REALLY good at it. We ended with “Working on a Building,” because it lends itself to a good singalong—the room was full of about 20 people at that point—and open for freeform verses. Michael shined by singing the final verse, “If IIIII was a porn star, I’d tell you what I would do/ I’d quite my pornin’ and I’d work on the building with you/  I’m working on a Building, I’m working on a building/ Halleluiah! I’m working on a building for my Lord.”

Michael Paynter: After flip cup, I caught an amazing set by the legendary David Allen Coe. Anybody that thinks they know what a dirty old man is has never witnessed Coe at work. At this point of walking around the ship more and more people have started to recognize us as the bluegrass band and even remembering our forgetful name. They always ask where we’ll be playing next, and we just have to tell them that we’ll be around. 

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After meeting and playing with Kid Rock, Zach and I decided to venture into the casino. It was Mardi Gras theme night, so we caught plenty of eccentric costumes and a few rogue nipples. What really caught our attention was the evil machine where you have to fit a key inside a slot to win cash and an iPad. We must’ve spent an hour watching and playing to finally witness someone win $50. After that, I caught the tail end of the Doug E. Fresh set, which was fantastic. Another living legend on this wacky ship.    

Andrew Heaton: Now Andrew is the one missing. We heard him say something about getting the hell off of the boat as soon as we docked in Key West. We all have cell service, so that probably explains it.