And Now, Me Singing “Just Can’t Get Enough” at the 2023 JoCo Cruise Final Concert
There’s a story here. Every year on the JoCo Cruise (the nerd extravaganza cruise I participate in annually, on which I act as head of its literary track, moderate panels, do readings and DJ a nerd prom), there’s a final concert on the last full day of the cruise. The musical performers for the year come out and sing songs, with a large segment of the show putting the spotlight on the songs of musicians and songwriters who have passed in since the last cruise. This year’s segment, for example, included songs by or made famous by Burt Bacharach, Olivia Newton John, David Crosby and Christine McVie.
Also, Depeche Mode. As fans are aware, last year Andy Fletcher, a founding member of that band, passed away suddenly at the age of 60. In the run-up to the cruise and in the initial planning of the final concert, I reminded Paul Sabourin (one of the quadumvirate who run the cruise) of his passing and suggested they put a Depeche Mode song into the tribute segment. I also mentioned that if they did put a song in and no one else wanted to tackle the vocals, I’d be willing to give it a shot.
This is a bit of a shot in the dark for me. There are many excellent musicians and singers on the cruise, starting with Jonathan Coulton, the cruise’s namesake, as well as his house band, and continuing on with the aforementioned Paul Sabourin, his musical partner Storm DiCostanzo (otherwise known as Paul and Storm), Aimee Mann, Jim Boggia (and his band), guests like the Rainbow Girls, Open Mike Eagle, Puddles Pity Party and Janet Varney, among others. They didn’t need me for the final concert, for sure, and I wasn’t really expecting that I would end up there singing.
Joke’s on me, because I was told that, okay, sure, I could sing a Depeche Mode song in the final concert.
Which both delighted and mildly terrified me. Delighted, because the final JoCo Concert is the big extravaganza concert of the cruise and me getting to sing a song in it, after ten years of being part of the JoCo Cruise, felt a little bit like Lucy being told by Ricky that yes, she could finally be part of the show (kids, that’s an I Love Lucy reference, have your grandparents explain it to you). Mildly terrified, because, well. See the musician lineup above. There are Oscar, Tony and Grammy nominees in there, along with people with top ten hits, gold and platinum albums, cult and/or popular fanbases and years of professional musical experience. I very much didn’t want to go out there and faceplant.
I’m happy to say I didn’t. We picked a song I could sing (“Just Can’t Get Enough” which also has the virtue of being one of Depeche Mode’s few happy songs), and I practiced it more or less constantly during the course of the cruise, accompanying myself on ukulele as I did so. Some of the musicians noted above performed the song with me (Coulton, Boggia, DiCostanzo, keyboardist Jon Spurney and drummer Christian Cassan) so I was surrounded by friends who actually knew what they were doing. I also decided that whatever I lacked in musical ability I would try to make up in sheer, ridiculous enthusiasm.
Finally there was the JoCo Cruise audience, which is, frankly, amazing. I always tell performers we’re trying to get for the boat that they will never have a more receptive audience than the one they will find on the JoCo Cruise. They are the complete opposite of snobs; they want to be entertained, and they want you to succeed in entertaining them. The second I stepped from behind the curtains to sing the song, I could feel their excitement and affection for me flowing onto the stage. That sort of support was huge, and made feel like I was supposed to be where I was.
The results are in the video above (shot by “Oscar Arr”). I show off my Crocs (which is a whole other JoCo Cruise subplot I’ll explain some other time, just be assured it was a thing), hop around like a caffeinated bunny (see relevant photo, taken by Steve Petrucelli), and mostly hit my notes. I’m pretty sure you can tell I’m having a grand time, and I think everyone else is too. “Just Can’t Get Enough” was the opening song of the tribute segment, so we needed to set the tone for everything else, and I think we managed that. I was thrilled.
Maybe more than thrilled. I’m having a pretty good 2023 so far; I’ve won a couple of neat awards, have some really nice film/TV things going on I can’t tell you anything about yet, and have some other big news that’s going to be announced soon. Honestly, 2023 is going great. So you now have some perspective when I tell you that getting to sing “Just Can’t Get Enough” at the JoCo Final Concert, up there with my friends, belting it out to other friends, just might the best thing that happens to me for the whole year. It just made me so damn happy.
And it made me happy to remember Andy Fletcher in such a celebratory way, with people that I like. I think he would like being remembered as joyously as this. With lots of bouncing, and bright green Crocs.