Jam Cruise 9 | Review | Pics

Tuesday, January 4

Big Sam's Funky Nation by Dave Vann
Big Sam's Funky Nation :: 7:00-8:30 PM :: Pool Deck
The Sail Away Party is a wonderful, unifying experience. With raised glasses and whoops, we embark together, unsure of where the next week will take us but certain we’ll be in good company wherever we wind up. The organizers have a knack for picking kick-off bands that blow the doors off the joint, and Big Sam and his tight, tough funk band were true to form. Driving everybody onto the dancefloor and showing off better moves than most of us will ever possess, the Funky Nation were a bouncing, excited tour through popular music, dropping bits of Prince (“Sexy MF”), Gnarls Barkley (“Crazy”) and many others and making time for some primo robot vocals and guest turns from Meters’ guitar legend Leo Nocentelli and JB’s trombonist Fred Wesley, who were regular sit-ins for many acts throughout the week. One left this set churned up and raring to go. Job well done!

Greensky Bluegrass :: 9:15-10:45 PM :: Zebra Bar
While many were on deck getting their Dead on with Bob Weir on the pool deck, a small group received a treat from these Michigan-based pickers, who inspired us to kick the dust up from the zebra print carpet and perhaps more importantly, simmer down to really take in what they’re laying down. Greensky can rattle and skip with the best string bands but where they truly differentiate themselves from the pack is in their meaty original songwriting and ability to work in drones and textures that recall artists like Ravi Shankar and George Harrison melded to sweet harmonies and fierce picking. I was struck by what a full sound they have despite the lack of drums, which frankly might take something away. And put in service of songs barbed with truth and drawn from introspection, their music simply lingers.

Greensky's Paul Hoffman by Chris Monaghan
There are some downright pretty melodies and swoon-y instrumental runs, too. I also like that their soloing is always in service of the song and not just a chance to showboat. At one point singer-mandolinist Paul Hoffman said, “My only complaint about this Jam Cruise is I can’t remember what day of the week it is. I say we go to a numbers system. Saturday Number One, Saturday Number Two…Who cares what day of the week is it? You’ve got nothing to do and we’re all trapped [laughs].” Their set culminated in a jam out of a cover of the Allmans’ “One Way Out” that was full of coolly controlled power and intense soloing. And their theater set on Thursday was even more thoughtful, textured and streamlined, and included a swell cover of Traffic’s “Light Up Or Leave Me Alone” and fine guest turns from Umphrey’s Joel Cummins and artist-at-large Steve Kimock, who shined brightly on a gorgeous cover of Bruce Hornsby’s “King of the Hill.” After the second set on the Cruise, I can officially say I’m in love with Greensky Bluegrass.

Pimps of Joytime :: 11:30 PM-1:00 AM :: Zebra Bar
Damn, these cats are smooth! The PJTs have a flair and top-notch musicianship that sets them apart, not to mention memorable songwriting and ace showmanship. They’re fun to watch, and the music matches their moves. The band were a hand-in-glove fit in the pimp-ready Zebra Bar, where bodies packed together tight to sweat and grind. An undulating energy swept through the crowd, caught up in their sly smiles and catchy-as-hell choruses like, “People say I need to get my shit together/ They don’t know/ They don’t understand.” Brian J is a natural born leader who oozes buckets of charisma – babies will be made to this music – and he’s also a bloody great guitarist, twisting strings in a really unique way that really separates PJT from the Meters/JB copying hordes.

Anders Osborne Band by Chris Monaghan
Anders Osborne :: 11:45 PM-1:15 AM :: Teatro Carlo Felice
Just the look of Anders Osborne suggests wildness, an untamable spirit, and his music kinda follows suit. He unleashed a lot of gnarly, distortion rich guitar in the classy theater backed by Stanton Moore (drums), Carl Dufrene (bass), Robert Walter (keys) and for a chunk of the set Scott Metzger and Will Bernard (guitars). They produced a dense, rock-oriented noise that steered clear of Osborne’s more New Orleans fare (which he unleashed on the Pool Deck later in the week). This being my first time seeing Osborne, I was knocked sideways by his earthy demeanor, strong songs and lively, unpredictable interplay with some of the best players on the ship. Like many, I left this set determined to learn more about Anders. Can’t pay a bigger compliment than that.

Stockholm Syndrome :: 2:00-4:00 AM :: Teatro Carlo Felice
The term “super group” has been applied to Stockholm Syndrome but “like-minded musicians” may be the better descriptor. Something curious dovetails when Jerry Joseph (lead vocals, guitar), Dave Schools (bass, vocals), Eric McFadden (guitar), Danny Louis (keys) and Wally Ingram (drums) gather.

Stockholm Syndrome by Dave Vann
Different aspects of their musical minds emerge, influences hitherto unseen cropping up in the quietly combative spark with one another. Rock ‘n’ roll is in somewhat short supply on Jam Cruise, so it was a nifty treat to get such a thick dose on the first night. The band jumped off in boogie shoes before hitting the turbo thrusters, with Jerry quickly leaping into preacher mode, snarling lines like, “I’m a killer, baby. That’s what killers do!” McFadden’s use of mandolin is akin to John Paul Jones in Zeppelin, and it’s one of several echoes of Led Zep in Stockholm, who possess a similar range and ballsy density. A spectacular reading of “The Jacob Ladder” threw a bone to the many Panic fans in the audience, but it was new tunes like “Apollo,” a Pink Floyd-y simmer and the title cut from their forthcoming sophomore album, that really snagged one’s attention. However, all was not heaviness and grind with Stockholm showing colors reminiscent of Paul Simon’s African phase and classic roots rock. As usual, it’s the vast potential of this band that smacks one about and makes one curious what might happen if this were their full-time gig. Still, there are worst things than leaving people hungry for more.

Continue reading for Day Two of Jam Cruise 9...

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