Words by: Brian Bavosa | Images by: Dave Vann & Casey Flanigan
Jam Cruise 6 :: 01.04.08 – 01.09.08 :: Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Now in its sixth year, this traveling circus has definitely developed into the most unique, wild and open backstage party our scene has ever known. Jam Cruise is where drinks flow like the mighty Atlantic, artists are more accessible than a Hunts Point hooker and the motion of the ocean only adds to the rock & roll. For almost six days, roughly 1,500 fans set sail from Fort Lauderdale aboard the MSC Lirica with stops in Roatan, Honduras and Cozumel, Mexico, in addition to roughly 19 hours of music a day. Col. Bruce Hampton summed up Jam Cruise perfectly: "This is the only festival in the world where you can go see reggae, blues, jazz, rock and everything there is." Laughing, he continued, "And still being 23 years old, go get drunk and go to your cabin instead of driving home and paying seventy bucks for a ticket."
| Spearhead :: Jam Cruise 6 by Flanigan|
Day 1 - Friday, January 4 – Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Unofficially kicking off on January 3 with a pre-party by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings at Ft. Lauderdale's Culture Room, JC6 officially set sail with a spirited set by Soulive around 7 p.m. on Friday. Recently returning to their original trio framework, the Brothers Evans (Neal and Alan) and Jam Cruise veteran Eric Krasno kicked out the soul-funk, dirty jazz and rock they've become known for.
Kraz filled us in on what he's been up to and what's ahead. "A lot of my time is spent doing the production work for the Fyre Dept.," he says. His production credits are something he brushes off in passing but it should be noted that he's worked with some of hip-hop's top acts including Talib Kweli. "We're doing remixes [for] a lot of artists on Interscope," Krasno continued. "We recorded a Lettuce record last February, and we are getting ready to finally release that." But, most interesting to fans, and Kraz himself, is some forthcoming solo, acoustic material. "I've been working on my own solo record for a long time, but I've finally come up with a solid plan. I picked my favorites and I'm doing an EP that's going to be called Kraz and the Royal Family."
| Haynes & Potter by Vann|
Immediately following Soulive's performance, the reminder that this was a sailing festival became painfully apparent as one had to decide between a solo set by Warren Haynes, The Motet in the Lirica Lounge, or the maiden voyage (pun intended) of The Everyone Orchestra including anchors Jon Fishman, Steve Kimock, Jeff Coffin, Jamie Janover and Tanya Shylock (Mountain of Venus). Much like the ebb and flow of the blue water in the ship's wake, I decided to drift wherever the current took me, catching a few songs from each set, knowing that if I missed anything, I'd probably be sitting next to the musicians at breakfast the next morning and could ask about the performances.
Shortly after midnight, Dark Star Orchestra conjured up the spirit of Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead in their recreation of a 1978 show. It appears that perhaps Garcia's spirit has been resting in Davey Jones' Locker for the last 12-plus years. I caught a taste of "Scarlet" > "Fire" before realizing there was another living legend playing upstairs: Toots Hibbert. Toots and the Maytals' performance was solid but somewhat oddly placed at 1-3 a.m., so I decided to focus my energies until sunrise on the most surreal, amazing and truly powerful setting of this floating festival, The Jam Room. A step up from years past, this year's room was a complete circle that put the musicians directly in the center of the fans. It was also a no-holds-barred, steel cage match, or "drunken brawl" as Kimock dubbed it, for every musician who stepped into the ring.
Day 2 – Saturday, January 5 – Day at Sea
After a few hours of shuteye, Saturday began with a taste of "Vote to the Boat" winners, The Bridge. "Vote to the Boat" was a text-message sponsored contest by Relix magazine and HeadCount.
| Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings by Vann|
I was then lucky enough to sit down and chat with Haynes, Kimock, Krasno, Col. Bruce, and up-and-comers Toubab Krewe in an extremely intimate one-on-one setting. Jam Cruise virgins, The Krewe are special because they are so different. They incorporate African-inspired music mixed with a splash of rock, resulting in a sound your ears might not recognize but your heart, soul and body respond to without hesitation. They were amazed at how the equipment was loaded on by crane and overjoyed to finally catch fellow Asheville resident Haynes. Jam Cruise reminded them of another diverse musical gathering, Mali's Festival in the Desert (check out JamBase's 2006 coverage).
"[This has] the same festival spirit, with completely different groups of people. If anyone from the festival in the States went, I know they would have an amazing time," says percussionist Luke Quaranta. "That undeniable spirit of togetherness that happens at a lot of festivals, and the real break from everyday life, I really felt that there and here."
Every other artist I spoke to shared TK's feelings about JC6, too. "It's very unique in the way that we're all trapped out here together, in a good way," said Warren Haynes. "So, the audience and the musicians all share the same vibe, the same spirit, the same experience. The cool thing is that everyone is here for the exact same reason."
Kimock took the baton and discussed why he's embraced settings like this one lately. "If there's something that I'm good at, for some reason, it's sort of making up stuff on the fly. I actually do really enjoy and do well in completely improvisational contexts," said Kimock.
This year's Jam Cruise included non-musical activities that added to the overall carefree vibe. You could test your luck in the all-night casino that offered High Stakes Bingo with Skerik or play in the annual Texas Hold'em tournament, which included two Dap Kings. If you wanted a little more adventure, there was the treasure hunt revolving around David LeBatard a.k.a. Lebo, where one could win some of his amazing art.
| Kimock & Fishman by Vann|
Possibly the most important change this year was the "Greening" of Jam Cruise, Spearheaded by Zero Hero Events. By using recycled cups, garbage bags, colored coded recycling bins and even organic beauty products and coffee, they helped make this the most environmentally conscious Jam Cruise yet. Your Daily Greens in the Greening Jam Cruise Newsletter read, "Throughout the MSC Lirica – in cabins, restaurants, and bars – the green team has worked to provide more sustainable products to lessen our impact on the open seas." Saturday also had a Greening Auction and Greening Panel Discussion moderated by Greening Coordinator Ann Kenworthy that included Matt Butler (EO), Dave Watts (The Motet) and Dan Lebowitz.
To top things off, The Funky Meters and Jam Cruise favorites Perpetual Groove rocked the pool deck from 9:30 p.m. until 4 a.m.., including a glistening version of Paul Simon's "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes" and the fitting "Two Shores." For more on PGroove's set, and the rest of his JC experience, read a first hand account on drummer Albert Suttle's blog. Despite some rough seas that affected even some crew members, the ship seemed to be sailing along as JC stretched its sea legs.
Continue reading for the second half of Jam Cruise 6...