On Saturday October 5, The Mighty Cash Cats performed their final "Johnny Cash Cruise" of the year. The 64’ power catamaran departed Ventura Harbor by 7:00 p.m. While on the Island Packer Dinner Cruise through the Ventura Harbor and Ventura Keys the band played their tried and true Tribute to Johnny Cash and June Carter, some country classics and a lot of rousing rock ‘n’ roll.
For those who missed previous pieces on The Mighty Cash Cats, the (more-than-a tribute) band consists of Michael J. Smith (lead vocals, guitar, harmonica and bass), Leticia Blumette (bass, lead vocals and guitar), Justin Young (drums and vocals) and Oliver Thin (guitar and vocals). The band would play to yet another “sold out” crowd. Luckily though, the ever-accommodating Cheryl Connally of Island Packers was able to procure special seating for your regularly reclusive writer (and his able-bodied assistant Mary Sparks) on the upper deck.
While your rockin’ writer has seen the band play on previous occasions, he had yet to bear witness to what the group could do on the high seas. Would the pitch and roll of the waves influence their overall performance or had they gotten their sea legs a long time ago? (For that matter, would your improbable pirate penman be able to see the show or spend the night bent over the railing? Only time would tell.)
Both the engines and the band started on time. An artichoke dip appetizer by Milano’s Italian Restaurant was served as The Mighty Cash Cats opened their concert with their version of Bobby Troup’s 1945 R&B standard “(Get Your Kicks On) Route 66”. This as well as Jay’s choice of an electric rather than acoustic guitar for the night was refreshing. When the band broke into one of their welcome standard Johnny Cash covers—“Ring of Fire”— your once actor author couldn’t help but wonder what it was like to perform on a stage that was constantly moving backwards.
Perhaps Michael Jay’s comment during the band intro said it all: “We like working on boats because we have a captive audience. If you don’t like us you’re gonna have to swim to shore.”
Their first set also featured such songs as the tres-apropos-for-a-dinner-cruise cover of Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya (On the Bayou)” with Blumette on lead vocals and the Cash standard “Ghost Riders In The Sky” which quickly brought the audience of winers and diners to their feet. They were kept their by covers of such songs as Cash’s composition “Get Rhythm” and Blumette’s rendition of Gretchen Wilson’s “Redneck Woman”.
While fan favorites such as “Jackson” were not forgotten, the best was yet to come. The band also played a healthy block of classic rock as well including their versions of Stevie Nicks’ “Rhiannon”, The Pretenders’ “Brass in Pocket” and Sheryl Crow’s “All I Wanna Do” which crowded the upper deck’s makeshift dance-floor before your salty scribe had finished his meal. In fact, said dinner included chicken parmesan with pasta, baby mixed greens, Foccacia bread, cookies and brownies and a complimentary beverage.
After a brief break to allow the band to also enjoy the catered meal by Milano’s Italian Restaurant, The Mighty Cash Cats cut into their second set. They dedicated their cover of Tommy James & the Shondells’ "Mony, Mony" to their number one fan Carolyn Stratton Harrison. Other highlights included Thin’s rendering of Tom Petty’s piece “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” and the fan favorite “Folsom Prison Blues” .
As the boat was secured at the dock a bit before 9:00 p.m. the band played their closing number, the titular track off their upcoming album, “Beers And Bankers”. It was a rockin’ original offering that reminded the audience of their versatility and really let the group let loose. The combination of The Mighty Cash Cats and Island Packers proved to be a winning one as the audience went ashore amidst bursts of smiles and praises.
Your sometimes streamin’ seaman and his frequent “photog” first mate had more fun than Gilligan and the Skipper on this tasty, tune-filled “three hour tour”. It was an enjoyable evening of fine food and drink, a beautiful ocean view and of course another entertaining performance by The Mighty Cash Cats.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.