After nero called it quits guitarist Dave and drummer Jay rebanded in an instrumental duo called Death Cake that was slightly less aggressive than the first half of their name would suggest and significantly more aggressive than the latter half would indicate. And while Death Cake was certainly a step or two away from the more dancy, groove-oriented band they had previously occupied, going from an instrumental guitar-driven trio to an instrumental guitar-driven duo containing two-thirds of the original members implied that they were baby steps away at best. And they were. Good band though, don’t get me wrong.
However, when Dave told me that he and Jay were forming a Yacht Rock cover band I a) asked what the hell “yacht rock” was, and b) had to admit that these were no baby steps. Turns out that Yacht Rock was a brand-new term for a specific window of late-seventies/early-eighties classic rock, a genre that seemed to centre around Huey Lewis and/or songs with videos that featured boats. Okay, I’ll admit I’m still not 100% clear on the genre definition, but rest assured that a Yacht Rock band plays cheesy cover songs that are impossible not to sing along to when unsober. And, it turns out, to be in a successful Yacht Rock band the songs have to be played with note-for-note perfection. No leaving out the sax solos, no getting by without the backup vocals, and there’s no way you’re going to achieve this with just three or four musicians.
So they called the band Pleasure Craft (which kind of makes sense in all directions) and the group was about as far away from nero (or Death Cake) as you could get. First of all there were what, maybe eight or nine people in the band? and secondly, nobody ever sang along to nero songs. Plus this Yacht Rock stuff was all about the vocals, and Matt (who worked with Dave at Lauzon Music) did a fabulous job. The rest of the band was quite good too, and I assure you when it was all rolled together they sounded drop-dead fantastic. Pleasure Craft basically nailed everything they played and they were super-fun to see, though it’s not like I would go see them every weekend or anything. Which wasn’t a problem. They didn’t play very often.
Anyway, I saw the band at Irene’s once for sure, maybe twice but this ticket story is from August 22nd, 2014, when Dave and his fellow Crafters had booked themselves a boat cruise gig along the Ottawa River. I had only been on one boat cruise gig before, when my friend Jay (a different Jay) and his band ’69 Duster played on a big boat along with a couple of other bands. That time the boat left from Toronto Harbour and it cruised back-and-forth several times from the CN Tower past Ontario Place and back again. I recall spending much of my time listening to the music from out on the deck where I sucked beers and gazed at the wonderful and ever-changing views.
This boat cruise? Not so much. Now, what could be more apropos than a licensed, alcohol-fuelled boat cruise featuring cheesy drunky Yacht Rock? Not much but man, what a disappointment! The boat was small, the drinks were hard to get (there were drinks, right? There had to be drinks…) but most of all – and this was huge – nobody was allowed outside on the deck. So here we were paying twenty-five bones each to squeeze into a tiny floating box that was in no way built for live music, and we couldn’t enjoy the breeze, the water, or even the views. Nope, due to the thick crowd by the time we left the dock the windows were already opaque with condensation. I’m sure the band sounded great – they always sounded great – but all I remember from this night was looking wistfully at a wall of dirty, soggy windows and suspecting there was a wonderful watery world out there that I could’ve been peeing and spitting into.
Please Craft is no longer together. No word on if their breakup was related to this fiasco.
For the record, I have taken a very similar boat cruise a few times as an afternoon excursion and I can report that it’s a fun and informative trip with beautiful sights to see along the way. It departs regularly from the locks behind the Chateau Laurier and I recommend it.
(Come to think of it, there was once a post-nero jammy/gig/camping sort of party out at Dave’s place back when he owned a farm and he asked me to learn a Huey Lewis song on keyboards for it. I did and we played it, with Matthew on vocals and Jay on drums. I suppose that was the incubus of Pleasure Craft. I’m embarrassed to report that despite this auspicious beginning I was never seriously considered for the pianist chair. I can only imagine the other members were worried I would take too much attention away from the frontmen. Pete Bested again.)