Jam Cruise 18: 7 Memorable Musical Moments From Day 1

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Jam Cruise 18 began on Tuesday aboard the MSC Divina a little later than expected as an issue with a crane led to a delay in the scheduled music. Thankfully, the crew came through a little after 90 minutes past the scheduled start, Lettuce played the “Sail Away Set” following the traditional welcome toast from Cloud 9 Adventures’ Annabel Lukins and Captain Toast.

Can you imagine trying to set up stages on a cruise ship without the use of a crane for a few hours? Kudos go out to the Jam Cruise team for making it work.

Here are seven of my favorite musical moments from Day One of Jam Cruise 18:

Robert Walter Atrium Set

While the finishing touches were put on the Pool Deck, keyboardist Robert Walter performed at the ship’s gorgeous atrium. Located at the bottom of crystal stairs with those on the different decks able to witness the action, Walter teamed up with guitarist Andy Coe and drummer Stanton Moore for a 45-minute performance. The trio started with a goosebump-inducing cover of John Sebastian’s “Welcome Back,” best known as the theme song from the ’70s sitcom Welcome Back Kotter. The audience provided the lyrics while Walter and Coe took stellar solos. Another highlight was a top-notch version of Walter’s “Don’t Chin The Dog.”

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Lettuce Sail-Away Set

Lettuce took a rare year off from Jam Cruise in 2019 and clearly attendees were missing the funk act as the Pool Deck was packed for their set. The band has settled in a strong lineup and are touring harder than they have in years past. Lettuce’s road warrior ways paid big dividends as they smoothly segued from song to song and expanded their compositions in cool and intriguing ways. Nigel Hall stepped into the spotlight for a cover of Tears For Fears’ “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” to which Lettuce provided their own spin and really engaged the crowd.


The Claypool Lennon Delirium

Legendary bassist Les Claypool was only on Jam Cruise for 24 hours but he sure made his time count. First, Claypool and his Lennon Claypool Delirium partner Sean Lennon took part in a Q&A session. In typical Les style, straight answers were hard to come by. For instance, when he was asked whether Oysterhead had an album coming he said “yes,” drawing gasps from the crowd. But then he added, “maybe no.”

The camaraderie between the pair was clear throughout as they discussed Geddy’s Lee’s sit-in from last spring, how they met, their nicknames for each other and influences. As for The Claypool Lennon Delirium’s set, the band showed off their psychedelic stylings over the course of a 75-minute performance that included spot-on covers of Pink Floyd’s “Astronomy Domine,” King Crimson’s “In The Court Of The Crimson King,” The Rolling Stones’ “She’s Like A Rainbow” and The Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows” as well as select originals from their two studio albums.


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Mihali

Twiddle frontman Mihali got the action going in the Jazz Lounge, a particularly cool and intimate venue in the middle of the ship. While passing through I caught a stellar medley of ALO songs performed from Mihali and Everyone Orchestra drummer Matt Butler. The pair worked “Girl I Wanna Lay You Down” into “BBQ” to provide a dance party for those in the lounge.


Les Claypool's Bastard Jazz

One of the most highly anticipated sets of JC18 was Les Claypool’s Bastard Jazz. The quartet features Claypool on bass, percussionist Mike Dillon, drummer Stanton Moore and saxophonist Skerik. This deliciously weird performance found four masters of their instruments combining forces for an all-improv set in which Les would lay down a bass line and the other three musicians would follow along for excursions that typically ranged past 10 minutes. I loved seeing how into it Claypool was and he shot off many huge grins when one of his mates would do something particularly cool — which happened a lot. LCBJ sets are few and far between, but after two in less than a year, here’s hoping they bring the show on the road sooner rather than later.

Lotus

There’s a prettiness to Lotus’ music that you don’t often get from livetronica acts. This aspect of their music was on full display throughout their set in the theater. The Divina’s Pantheon Theater is beautiful with huge seats and plenty of room to dance. And dance jam cruisers did to a career-spanning setlist of tunes from the Philadelphia-birthed band.

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In true Jam Cruise spirit, Lotus embraced the collaborative aspect by welcoming guitarist Cory Wong and a four-piece horn section at one point of their set. Wong slayed his solo with machine gun-like shredding before Lotus brought their set to a close with a wild cover of Talking Heads’ “Once In A Lifetime.”


Jam Room

Acclaimed bassist George Porter Jr. served as the host of the first night of the Jam Room, a Jam Cruise staple in which musicians from around the boat are invited to share the stage with the host for mostly improvised jam sessions. GPJ typically hosts one day of the Jam Room and did a fantastic job of rotating musicians on and off stage. My favorite moment I saw was GPJ teaming with guitarists Joe Marcinek and Eric McFadden, keyboardist Ivan Neville and more for his own “Dragon (He Bite Me).” At 4 a.m., when a bagpiper took the stage, I knew it was time to call it a night. Jam Cruise is a marathon and not a sprint and there are four more days left.

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