Jam Cruise 17 Highlights: Under Caribbean Skies – Day 3
Jam Cruise 17 reached the midway point on Thursday with a port stop in Belize City, Belize followed by a full slate of performances from 5:30 p.m. until the sun rose. Coming into the trip there was plenty of talk about how the expansion from five days to six days would work out and I must say now I’m extremely excited to have an extra day of enjoying this utopia for music fans. Artists have been bringing their A-Game all trip long. Thursday was the best day yet with one magical experience after another. Here are five of my favorite moments from day three of Jam Cruise 17:
Andy Frasco & The U.N. Go Sit-In Crazy & Lead Second Line To The Spot
Andy Frasco and The U.N. won themselves plenty of new fans with their high-energy performances aboard the boat last year. Ever since the lineup was announced I’ve been wondering how Frasco and his band would top themselves. Last night I found out. Frasco & The U.N. played before a packed house in the theater between 2:15 and 3:45 a.m. The late night slot was ideal for the party Andy throws. Frasco hurt his head and needed stitches before the set started but the injury didn’t stop Andy from running around the stage like a mad man. These guys not only welcomed well over a dozen guests to share the stage, they also would throw in fun covers among their originals at just the right moment to drive the crowd to a frenzy.
Steve Kimock, DJ Williams, Matt Jalbert, Steve Kimock, Stanton Moore and Michelango Carubba were just a few of the guests who joined in the fun at various points of the set. Kimock helped out on a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Time,” which was fitting considering the theme for the day was “Pink Night.” It was hard to find any cruisers who didn’t dress in pink yesterday. Some festival-goers took it to the next level with inventive costumes that incorporated the color. Other covers played by Andy Frasco & The U.N. — at least in part — were Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re An American Band,” the “Pink Panther Theme,” Prince’s “Purple Rain” and Rupert Holmes’ “Escape (The Pina Colada Song).” Andy did a fine job of getting the audience involved and crowd-surfed from the stage to the back of the theater and back again. Frasco ended the set by leading a New Orleans style second line from the stage to “The Spot,” the area of the boat where Nathan Moore and friends perform in a casual setting on an outdoor deck from midnight until the sun rises. There were about 15 people at The Spot when Andy announced his second line plan. Ten minutes later it seemed as if half the boat was surrounding the musicians at The Spot as The U.N. marched from the stage to The Spot followed by many in the crowd at the theater. I’ve seen some crazy shit in my 10 years aboard Jam Cruise, but the whole Frasco set and the second line progression may take the cake for the wildest scene yet.
The Cleaners Honor The Allman Brothers Band
A few years ago, Widespread Panic fan John Jennings asked drummer Duane Trucks to put together a band to play his birthday party. Duane recruited his good friend Kevin Scott (Jimmy Herring & The Invisible Whip) on bass, guitarists Eric Krasno and Marcus King as well as keyboardist DeShawn Alexander (Marcus King Band). The gig went well so when Cloud 9 Adventures asked the group to perform at a recent Panic En La Playa destination event, the musicians came up with the band name of The Cleaners. Jam Cruise marked the group’s third and fourth performances and while their first set was in a small venue on the boat that was unbearably crowded, The Cleaners played the Pool Deck on Thursday night. These master musicians crushed a two-hour set chock full of classic rock covers and I’m glad to hear they aim to score more gigs in the future. My favorite parts of the set were The Cleaners’ covers of Allman Brothers Band instrumentals “In Memory Of Elizabeth Reed” and “Mountain Jam.” King and Krasno tried to top each other with solos of epic proportions. Duane’s “Mountain Jam” drum solo was ridiculous as he channeled the freight train sound his late uncle Butch Trucks developed. It didn’t hurt that Chris Spies sat-in on keys for “Liz Reed” and The Motet’s Joey Porter added to a “Mountain Jam” which bled into a take on Jimi Hendrix’s “Third Stone From The Sun.”
Jennifer Hartswick & Nick Cassarino Welcome Nikki Glaspie For “Under African Skies”
Vocalist/trumpeter Jennifer Hartswick got on the boat in Belize on Thursday and wasted little time getting down to it. Jennifer sat-in with Spies during his atrium performance and then teamed with old friend Nick Cassarino of The Nth Power for a duo set in the tiny Bliss Lounge. The pair played a number of tunes from 2018’s Nexus as well as Prince, John Prine and Paul Simon covers. Hartswick and Cassarino’s version of Paul Simon’s “Under African Skies” was absolutely gorgeous. Nick asked drummer Nikki Glaspie to join in for a jam on the song and she quickly complied. The problem was there were no drumsticks on stage. Glaspie didn’t skip a beat as she played with her hands until the drumsticks were secured.
Mimi Naja Leads Pickin’ Lounge With Guests Galore
Recent additions to the Jam Cruise schedule have been “Jazz Lounge” sets in the small but well-set-up Bliss Lounge. These sets are essentially a second Jam Room in which a host assembles musicians for improv-heavy sessions. With the extra day this year, Cloud 9 introduced the “Pickin’ Lounge” as a replacement for two nights at the “Jazz Lounge.” Fruition’s Mimi Naja had the honors of hosting on Thursday. Naja was joined by her Fruition band mates, as well as Vince Herman, Drew Emmitt, Jon Stickley and Dan “Lebo” Lebowitz, among others over the course of the “Pickin’ Lounge” performance. My favorite part was when Mimi brought out Galactic vocalist Erica Falls and Mama Magnolia’s Megan Letts for a stirring rendition of Janelle Monae’s “Pynk.” Erica and Megan also added to a take on En Vogue’s “Don’t Let Go.”
ALO Goes “Back To The Garden” With Fruition
ALO had the honors of playing the Sail Away Set as Jam Cruise left Belize. Lebo, Gill, drummer Ezra Lipp and bassist Steve Adams focused on their most beloved songs including “Falling Dominoes,” “Plastic Bubble,” “Shapeshifter,” “Try” and “Barbecue.” The quartet’s fun and happy music was just the perfect accompaniment for the sunset. At one point, ALO brought out all of Fruition for a rousing rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock.” They also fit Jesus Jones’ one-hit wonder “Right Here, Right Now” into the “Barbecue” closer.
Jam Cruise 17 continues on Friday. Follow JamBase on Instagram for stories, videos and more from the boat.