Jam Cruise 17 Highlights: Crusin’ Together – Day 2

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Jam Cruise 17 reached its first port call of Belize City, Belize on Thursday after a full day of action on Wednesday. Musical performances on the boat started at 12 p.m. on Wednesday and continued until the sun rose over 18 hours later. Jam Cruise is a true “Choose Your Own Adventure” trip with each attendee choosing from the bevy of activities — both musical and otherwise — and both planned and unplanned. Surprise “pop-up” performances are a huge part of the Jam Cruise experience as displayed when I entered an elevator to find a brass band rocking out.

With so much going on, it’s always fascinating to reconnect with your friends to hear about the experiences. While “FOMO” is strong on land, it’s also a concept some aboard the boat feel as they find out about a magical moment they missed earlier in the day. Thankfully, I saw dozens of wonderful performances. So much so that picking the best of the bunch is a tough task, but here goes:

Khruangbin Sunset Set & DJ Set

Texas trio Khruangbin made quite an impression on cruisers Wednesday. Their sultry, down-tempo (mainly) instrumental music was the perfect soundtrack for a beautiful sunset. The band mixed songs from their two studio albums with a medley of “Nuthin’ But A G Thang,” “Wicked Game,” “Regulate,” “The Sweetest Taboo,” “Got Your Money” and other hits from the ’90s. Bassist Laura Lee wore a wild one-piece jumpsuit that accented her delightful shimmys as she swayed to each tune. Then, Lee and guitarist Mark Speer held a DJ set between 3 and 7 in the morning that included a mix of disco deep cuts, Deelite’s “Groove Is In The Heart,” unusual grooves with Thai singing overlaid and soul classics. Khruangbin had the room full and dancing throughout the set. Each year there seems to be one performance that is attended by most of the musicians on the boat and credit Khruangbin for scoring a crowd that included Eric Krasno, members of Umphrey’s McGee, Skerik, Kamasi Washington and countless others.


The Jam Cruise Wedding & Coffee TAUK

A particularly cool aspect of Jam Cruise is all of the music-related activities featuring performers. Two standout activities from Wednesday were “Coffee TAUK” in which the members of TAUK interviewed legendary bassist George Porter Jr. and then jammed with him on a few Meters songs as well as the “Jam Cruise Wedding.” Andy Frasco and Turkuaz vocalist Sammi Garett led a band that included other members of Turkuaz and The U.N. and a star turn from Southern Avenue drummer Tikyra Jackson. Sammi and Andy led a wedding ceremony that had no official bearing, so friends married friends, couples renewed their vows and practiced for a real wedding to come. A highlight within the set that followed was a Sammi-sung cover of Whitney Houston’s “I Want To Dance With Somebody.”


Umphrey’s Collaborations

Umphrey’s McGee made their final set of the trip count. The sextet played in the theater, a multi-level venue with a mix of standing room and extremely comfortable seats. “Puppet String” and “The Crooked One” were the improvisational highlights of the 90-minute performance. Guitarist Brendan Bayliss welcomed the Turkuaz Horns for original “Booth Love” and Herbie Hancock’s “Hang Up Your Hang Ups.” Bayliss had strong words for just how good and prepared the Turkuaz Horns are every time they team with UM. The set came to a close with a ridiculously good “Bad Friday” featuring Skerik on saxophone on Mike Dillon on percussion.


The Nth Power & Friends Honor Bob Marley

The Nth Power reprised their “Rebel Music” tribute to the music of Bob Marley on the Pool Deck around midnight. Guitarist Nick Cassarino led the group on such Marley classics as “Mellow Mood,” “Redemption Song,” “Soul Shakedown Party,” “Them Belly Full” and “Iron Lion Zion.” Guests included Karl Denson, Ivan Neville and Rob Marscher. Drummer Nikki Glaspie came out front ahead of the “Mellow Mood” opener to preach about love. Glaspie mentioned how we need to take the good vibes and positivity from the boat and bring it to the land, now more than ever. The sentiment was one mentioned a number of times on the boat thus far including by Khruangbin’s Mark Speer, who stopped his own set to give cruisers a moment to become friends with the person next to them.


Ivan Neville In The Atrium

Legendary keyboardist Ivan Neville’s solo piano set at the ship’s atrium is always a special occasion and this year’s performance was no exception. He welcomed plenty of guests including Brandon “Taz” Niederauer, Skerik, Paris Flemming, Nikki Glaspie and George Porter Jr.. A cool moment was a take on John Hiatt’s “Yellow Moon” (a staple of The Neville Brothers’ live shows) featuring Ivan and GPJ, a breath-taking rendition of Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box” and an emotion-laden “Sitting In Limbo.” Plus, the set was a Storytellers session in which he told fascinating tales from throughout his career.


Fruition Goes ‘Crusin’

Portland, Oregon’s Fruition closed out the theater with a set that spanned 2 a.m. – 3:45 a.m. The late-night performance came to a climax when the band brought out Galactic vocalist Erica Falls, Megan Letts from Mama Magnolia and fellow vocalist Ashley Niven for a gorgeous and fitting rendition of Smokey Robinson’s “Crusin’.” The whole crowd sang along and swayed in fine fashion.


Other standout moments from the first full day of Jam Cruise 17 included The Cleaners’ (Marcus King, Eric Krasno, Kevin Scott, Duane Trucks and DeShawn Alexander) crowd-pleasing covers of “Red Hot Mama,” “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” (with Big Sam on trombone) and The Band’s “The Weight” as well as Star Kitchen’s (Marc Brownstein, Rob Marscher, Danny Mayer and Marlon Lewis) jam and guest-filled set including renditions of Stevie Wonder’s “Livin’ For The City” featuring Shira Elias of Turkuaz and Karl D. on “Nautilus,” a rare Sockeye performance (Leftover Salmon’s Erik Deutsch, Alwyn Robinson and Greg Garrison), Elias and The Motet’s Lyle Divinsky duetting on “Give It To Me Baby” in the Jam Room and lots of singalongs at The Spot led by Nathan Moore. Stay tuned for more from Jam Cruise 17 and follow our Instagram account