About San Juan…

So now we’re back on land and I want to talk about an epic thing that happened on JoCoCruise. Of course, epic things happen routinely on the nerd boat but this one, especially, got me.

For the last few years we now have an entire boat for our group/themed cruise. There was a lot of concern when we got big enough that we would no longer fit in a single cruise ship auditorium for the main stage shows, and a fear that the inside jokes and “feel” would be lost. One concession to this is that on one of our stops, we had a giant festival concert where everyone could attend together. While things would never be the same, this was an awesome experience that once again showed how hard The Home Office works to make things great every year.

This year, that concert was to be in San Juan, Puerto Rico, with headliner They Might Be Giants. In true JoCo Cruise fashion, the cruise raised $80,000 for relief efforts in PR on top of all the OTHER logistical stuff that goes into running a full week themed cruise AND a concert festival. It is mind-boggling.

There was no rain in the forecast, but a sprinkling here or there happened as each of the acts played. Then we got a bigger dump of rain that backed off again pretty quickly. Jonathan Coulton did his set and things were pretty OK but starting to pick up.

Then the deluge began.

They delayed as long as they could, but sometime after 10:00 they announced they would not be allowed to turn anything on the stage back on and would have to give up hope.


They said they were working with TMBG to get them on the boat to attempt to do a quick, stripped-down show on the main stage for anyone that could get to it. We were all disappointed but understood and started walking back — soaked — from the festival grounds to the boat.

We had every right to be angry, frustrated, sad, the whole gamut. A bunch of newcomers to the cruise this year literally signed up specifically because TMBG was going to be performing.

And yet…

The magic of the culture this crazy cruise experiment we’ve built was that everyone was laughing, telling stories, talking about how crazy it is, talking about how they’ll tell this story, SINGING AT THE TOP OF OUR LUNGS, and generally just amusing ourselves as Holland America had to process almost 2000 wet sea monkeys all at once. People jumped in to help move equipment back to the boat double-time, as they set off the fireworks that were supposed to be at the end of the show because hey, why not?

We got on the boat, went to our rooms to hang up our wet clothes and then heard the announcement. If you can get there, go to the main stage right now! TMBG will be playing until the last possible minute. They also arranged to have the show broadcast to the in-room TVs and other locations around the ship.

Holland America allowed John Linnell onto the ship as a visitor (since he did not sail with the rest of the band) and he had to get off BEFORE MIDNIGHT because the visitor pass runs out and we needed to leave the dock by 1am.

They Might Be Giants played an amazing frantic electrifying 50-ish minute set that blew us away, and then got the hell out of there in time for us to get back out to sea.

The logistics involved in putting an emergency concert together in about an hour are beyond comprehension, but they made it work. The thing that gets me, though, is that I did not hear a single complaint about a short set, or them not doing the “real” show at the outdoor venue. All I heard was thanks to The Home Office for making it possible, and an energy that can’t be replicated for all of us being a part of it.

The next day we went to a get-together for folks who have done the JoCo Cruise a lot, and the folks involved in running it were beside themselves with emotion at how everyone came together to make it happen and to support them, when it would have been so easy to let everything fall apart and be awful and wallow in the failure.

*That* is JoCo Cruise, to me, in a nutshell.

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2 comments to About San Juan…

  • Hank Shiffman

    Floodmageddon was amazing, and you described it well. There must have been a few angry people, but I certainly didn’t see them. Everyone I talked to agreed that we had experienced something wonderful and memorable that future Sea Monkeys would regret not experiencing for themselves. References to Henry V’s St. Crispen’s Day speech seemed particularly appropriate for how lucky we felt to have been there, even before we knew we’d get the concert we’d gotten soaked for. Gonna be hard to top that.

  • Kim Wood

    I was one of those people who booked because of TMBG, and up to that point, I’d enjoyed myself so much, and I somehow knew that if it was at all possible, this group would get it done. If I didn’t get to see them, I had a great story. Maybe it was easier because for me because it was my 39th time seeing them, but there’s just something about this cruise.