Jam Cruise 3: Good Times On The Boat


When the hotel/airport shuttle driver in Jacksonville, FL asked me what bands were playing on this cruise, my answers were met with a blank look until I said, "How about Les Claypool? You may have heard of his band Primus?" I got a look of slight comprehension from my new friend and he said, "So, this is an underground kind of thing." This made me realize the extent to which I live in a bubble and how much that really means to me. I had a similar feeling when I had to convince my sister that no, I wouldn’t need fancy clothes to wear to dinner on the cruise. How did I know this, she wondered? Well, I just knew. 1800 of the jam scene’s finest were about to board Jam Cruise 3 and we had a pretty good idea of what we were getting ourselves into.

Jam Cruise at sunrise | Photo by Dave Vann

Upon embarkation, it quickly became clear that bands, staff, fans, and crew alike were all in this together. While we were bound by the edges of the boat, there were no more limitations. We once again entered that festival space where individuality is celebrated, music is cherished, and sleep is the enemy. We were headed for international waters and there was no place we’d all rather be. I feel obliged at this point to say that, yes, there were drug arrests at embarkation. But why dwell on this? That is what mainstream media is for.

Hula Hoop Deck | Photo by SuperDee
Back to my bubble that I so adore… With all the pain, fighting, disasters, accidents, and other horrible things that seem to keep happening in the world, it seemed a bit unsettling to be boarding a party boat for four days. Is it right to just tune out the world and escape in our own excess? What becomes instantly apparent upon entering this bubble is that it is way more then a party. In our bubble, we heal, we grow, we interact, we inspire, and we get inspired. Our internal batteries get charged up and prepare us to spread this energy to everyone around us. "What happens on the boat stays on the boat," is what they told us as we set sail, but really, the result of what happens on the boat is felt by the rest of the world. There were a few quiet moments spent looking at the endless water and the ripples of the ocean. The ripple effect of what happens at an event like Jam Cruise where like-minded, peace-loving souls gather is infinite.

Galactic with Skerik | Photo by Adam Gulledge
Once The Celebration set sail, my festival jitters began. Music! Must see music! Must see it now! Must get a drink! Must meet this one and that one! The beginnings of these events can be overwhelming but I soon found myself at Galactic‘s set in the Astoria Lounge, swaying to the motion of the rocking ship, and my jitters melted away the moment Skerik took the stage with the band. The intricate musical web that would be weaved throughout the next four days had begun. Skerik would soon be on stage with the Benevento/Russo Duo, Joe Russo would soon be on stage with Marc Brownstein and Jake Cinninger, Jake would soon be on stage with North Mississippi Allstars, Cody Dickinson would soon be on stage with Perpetual Groove and so on and so on and so on…

Read on for the accolades:

Band of the Boat:

Umphrey’s McGee | Photo by Dave Vann

Hands down, the band of the boat was Umphrey’s McGee. Coming off of the awful tragedy of their good friend, Brian Schultz, being killed by a drunk driver in Chicago on New Year’s Eve, it was hard to say where the players’ emotions would be when the band arrived on the boat. Would they want to purge their emotions with unfaltering rock ‘n’ roll or would they even want to be there? On the third night, when it was finally time for them to take the stage at midnight on the Lido deck, everyone – band and fans alike – were ready to unleash some serious Umph. With extreme professionalism, the band took the stage and ripped through two sets of their repertoire with only two covers (The Who’s "Baba O’Reilly" and Talkin Heads’ "Making Flippy Floppy"). A highlight of this first set was a "Push the Pig" sandwich with a "Jazz Odyssey" in the middle featuring the brilliant bass work of Nick Blasky of Ray’s Music Exchange. However, Nick, a close friend of the band, was the only guest on this night. Umphrey’s McGee had entered the bubble and did what needed to be done; IT ROCKED!

Joel Cummins and Robert Walter
Photo by Dave Vann

Umphrey’s second performance, on the last night of the cruise, was star studded with other cruise characters including the amazing Jimmy Herring on guitar, the gorgeous Theresa Andersson on violin, Aron Magner on keys, Alan Hertz on drums, Robert Walter on keys, Mad Dog on trumpet, and the relative newbie, Brock Butler from Perpetual Groove on guitar (a personal highlight for me). There were more guests, and it seemed like everyone who walked by got their chance to rock with the boys. Good fun.

Biggest Legends on the Boat:

Jimmy Herring and Col. Bruce Hampton
Photo by Jon Bahr

In late 2004, the Aquarium Rescue Unit announced that it would return from its ten year hiatus for a few select shows in the Southeast. What a treat to have them on the boat – an original H.O.R.D.E. band back where this mayhem all started when jam bands didn’t even exist! Each member – Col. Bruce Hampton, Oteil Burbridge, Jimmy Herring, Count M’butu, and Jeff Sipe – is a legend in his own right and has gone on to do amazing things musically in the last decade.

Aquarium Rescue Unit
Photo by Jeremy Jones

Sharing the stage with a legend like Jimmy Herring was a great experience for Umphrey’s McGee. Guitarist Jake Cinninger gushed that Jimmy is "just glowing with talent, musical vision, and kindness." He continued, "Jimmy seems to have the sound in his hands. He’s one of those guys who can plug in to a $50 amp or a $5000 amp and it always sounds like Jimmy. His ability to be a chameleon guitarist is obvious by all the different hats he wears through his career. From swampy blues, Coltrane solo modulation, chord knowledge, and over all bad-assness, Jimmy Herring is a true musical gem."

Thanks for playing ARU!

Jimmy Herring with Eric Krasno | Photo by Jon Bahr

Guest Sit-In of the Boat:

Perpetual Groove with Cody Dickinson | Photo by SuperDee

I had a really tough decision to make – lie out in the sun on the deck while listening to The Duo live just below me or duck inside to see my new favorite band Perpetual Groove. I managed to do a little of both. After sunning and enjoying an awesome set by The Duo featuring an impressive Sunny Michelson on vocals, I went inside to the Endless Summer Lounge where I walked into the end of one of my favorite tunes "Three Weeks." I was just in time to sing along at the end. It was a swirling, sweaty, afternoon set. Cody Dickinson (NMAS) came around, set up his pedals for his washboard, and joined the band for one of their epic jam vehicle songs, "Sundog." Whatever someone is supposed to do with a washboard plugged into a wawa pedal, Cody surpassed that, and it was a ridiculous run for everyone’s money as they barreled towards the end of the tune. They had so much fun with Cody, they kept him onstage for "That Was Your Mother." Fun!

Cover song of the Boat:

Keller Williams at the Pool at Sunset
Photo by Michael Weintrob

Picture this scene: We had been on the water for just about 24 hours, the sun was setting, Aquarium Rescue Unit was raging inside in the Astoria Lounge, Keller Williams was singin’ and loopin’ by the Lido Pool for the freekers on the deck and in the pool. Keller was doing his finest medley when he drifted into the words, "Standing on the moon, I got no cobweb on my shoe." There is something about hearing a Jerry Garcia song… especially at sunset in the middle of the ocean at the greatest floating festival ever. Something happens and your moment becomes suspended in mid-air. There is no future, there is no past. Everything blends together into one big mushy pile of love. Right on, Keller!

I must make some honorable mentions here as there were a lot of new and creative cover songs. Notably, I loved Perpetual Groove‘s cover of Rupert Holmes’ "Escape (The Pina Colada Song)." For some reason that got me all choked up! Also, one of my first musical moments on the boat was with the Jazz Mandolin Project (featuring Jon Fishman) and their great cover of Stevie Wonder’s "Sir Duke." You can feel it all over! And the last I will mention here was the hilarious moment of walking in to see Les Claypool’s Frog Brigade all dressed as sailors and Les in his freakish monkey mask, smacking his whamola, and doing a cover of "Wanna Be Like You (The Monkey Song)" from the “Jungle Book.” Truly a primal moment.

Les Claypool’s Frog Brigade and crowd | Photo by Dave Vann

Most Rolling on the Floor Laughing (ROTFL) Moment(s) on the Boat:

Ron Voyage doing chin-ups
Photo by Matt Hogan

To put Jon and Ron Voyage into words is a difficult task. These guys were the dirty little secret that got out on the Jam Cruise. Jon Voyage and "his brother," Ron, spent four days messing with people and making a complete scene wherever they went. Once people realized that this was FUNNY, they became irresistible. I can safely say that everyone on the Jam Cruise had a ROTFL moment that revolved around the Voyage brothers, but my favorite was when they were accepting their "Most Hooked Up With Guys and Girls and Least Sleep" award, Ron took the microphone and gave a huge shout out to Brownstein saying, "Do you guys know Brownstein? He’s great!" That raised some questions but one never questions a Voyage brother. When the DVD comes out, you will all get a sense of what these guys added to the boat.

Ron Voyage, Kathleen, and Brownstein
Photo by Dave Vann

Kathleen Propp of Madison House Travel – the woman behind all of your JC3 travel arrangements – shared this story about Ron and Jon: "I think my favorite was when Jon came up to let me know that Ron had broken a rib doing a move. As they are professionally trained in the Dance Art of Hip-Hop, they understand that a slippery surface is imperative. So it was surprising to know that Ron was injured when Jon had poured beer all over the wood flooring."

Best New Band on the Boat:

Remarkable Elba Kramer
Photo by Jeremy Jones

Many new bands get created at festivals like these because there is such mutual respect among all the musicians. Most of them are on the road all the time in opposite ends of the country and therefore rarely get a chance to even be in the same place. Similarly, an event like this gives musicians in "bigger" bands the opportunity to showcase their side-projects. The String Cheese guys brought the Remarkable Elba Kramer featuring Kyle Hollingsworth and Zilla featuring Michael Travis, and Fishman was aboard with the Jazz Mandolin Project.

Aron Magner & Jake Cinninger
Photo by Dave Vann

And there was the new Disco Biscuits side project called Moshi & Matov vs. DJ Omen (aka bassist Marc Brownstein and keyboardist Aron Magner). While this new project has been in the works for some time (and a new band name and album forthcoming), a sick new band was created with Joe Russo on drums and Jake Cinninger on guitar in the Endless Summer Lounge. Jake was invited on stage and all of a sudden, we have a new amazing band that is totally unique from anything anyone’s ever heard before. The dance party that ensued when Jake took the stage and tested the waters with a new brand of electronica/metal guitar playing was dizzying and everyone got "that feeling" that something exciting was happening and we were all there to witness it first-hand.

Contrary to what some may believe, I physically cannot be everywhere at once so I’ve enlisted a little help from my friends, old and new, to help recount their top three amazing moments of Jam Cruise 3:

Vince Iwinski (Umphrey’s McGee manager)
• Jake Cinninger of UM w/ North Mississippi Allstars
• Jimmy Herring with Les Claypool’s Flying Frog Brigade
• Winning the UM Texas Hold Em’ tourney!

Vince wins! Photo by Hogan
Matt Hogan (SCI Fidelity)
• NMAS pre-party at the Freebird in Jacksonville. Eric Krasno and Luther going at it. Followed by the JC3 artists and crew shutting down the hotel bar (and ravaging the "honor snack bar") late-night. A glimpse of things to come.
• The Art of Improv workshop in the Endless Summer Lounge: Karl Denson, Jeff Coffin, Jeff Sipe, joined by Oteil Burbridge, Jimmy Herring, Count M’butu and more! The first taste of INSANE improv collaborations on the boat.
• 24-hour pizza and ice cream. God? Is this heaven??
• Fishman calling Bingo in the Astoria Lounge on Friday afternoon ("This is my new favorite sport!")

Bingo with Fishman
Photo by Jon Bahr

Andy Bernstein (HeadCount)
• Moshi Omen Matov. Jake, the guitarist from Umphrey’s, stepped on stage and started making these utterly nasty sounds. Not guitar sounds. Unique sounds that just fit perfectly with what everyone else was playing. They were harmonics or something. They were just from another planet and I think the dude was even amazing himself. He waited about ten minutes before going down the neck and letting loose, and when he did it was perfect.

• Magner gave a very well done and well prepared workshop on the history of electronic music and the equipment commonly used today.

• I watched the STS9 set from a deck right above the stage, leaning over the railing and looking right down on the band. I then turned around and looked out at the ocean. I realized, without hyperbole, that I was probably standing in the best single spot to watch music in the entire world.

DJ Omen | Photo by Adam Gulledge
Seth Weiner (Shimon Presents)
• The drum workshop with Jeff Sipe, Stanton Moore, Dave Watts, and Alan Hertz
• Fishing with JJ and George from MOFRO
• During Umphrey’s McGee set the last night where there was fog all around and everywhere you looked there were people getting down. Best example of why Jam Cruise is the most amazing festival experience ever!

Fishing with MOFRO
Photo by Seth Weiner
Jonathan Zwickel (JamBase, New Times)

• The Endless Summer bar was the tightest, funkiest venue on the ship, with what looked like the bottom half of wooden life boats embedded in the low ceiling. It was also the perfect place for Thursday night’s Benevento/Russo Duo electro-tweako freakout. As the duo battled each other, Cheme and Skerik stepped up and faced off, and Robert Walter sat with his back to the rest of the band at Marco’s open keyboard. It was like a Battle Royale between the five musicians, and of course we all won.

• Standing in the Anchor Bar by the all-night buffet around midnight Saturday night, my friends and I were at a loss. We had just finished dinner and had a little R&R back in the cabin before making our way to where we stood, unable to decide where to go or what to do. Then from out of nowhere, Ozomatli bursts out of a stairwell behind us and full-on parades onto the back deck, where a funky-butt, skintight drum session ensued. Like a shot of adrenaline, that got us psyched for whatever was gonna happen the rest of the night.

• Sunset, Sunday afternoon, STS9, poolside. Pure pastel-colored, warm-breezy bliss. Jam Cruise honcho Mark Brown told me he booked that set first then planned the rest of the day around it. Nice work, Mark.

The Duo with guests
Photos by Adam Gulledge
Aly Constine (Mountain High Music)
• Sound Tribe Sector 9 playing on the pool deck as the sun set.
• Jeff Coffin, Karl Denson, Jeff Sipe one of the first shows of the cruise with all those amazing sit ins. Unreal introduction.
• Leslie Helpert & Marco Benevento doing Billie Holiday

Sunset with STS9
Photo by SuperDee
Annabel Lukins (Jam Cruise)
• Requesting STS9’s "Breathe In" and having them be excited about playing it, running downstairs upon hearing the first note, dancing on the side of the pool, feeling the passengers near me, feeling the band in front of me and feeling the stars above me…
• Walking into the Astoria Lounge only to witness Les Claypool’s Frog Brigade in sailor suits, I couldn’t get the smile off my face. Pure creativity, pure compliment to Jam Cruise. Then I started rocking out with my fists pumping totally in love what was going on around me.
• Grabbing Karl Denson who was with his family in the back pool and saying to him, "Karl, we’ve made you into ice and I want you to see it." I brought him over to the pool deck stage where he laughed out loud with his daughter and stood next to the Karl Denson Ice Sculpture for a great photo. What made this moment even better is that I happened to be in the right place at the right time…exactly when they were hauling the sculpture away and I stopped them to say, "This needs to be displayed, this is our artist" and up on the pool deck it went and that is when I went to find Karl before it melted in the sun.

Dancing Annabel
Photo by Adam Gulledge

Karl Denson with his ice likeness
Photo by Annabel

Of course there were a thousand more unique moments on this ship (walking in to your room to find animals made out of towels), displays of individual creativity (the door decorated like a prescription bottle), and unmatched musical moments (potentially every saxophone on the boat on stage at one time). I will now let the photos speak for themselves and sign off for now. Until next year…

JamBase | High Seas
Go See LOTS of Live Music in ’05!

Special thanks to: Mark Brown, Annabel Lukins, Ethan Schwartz, Jon Zwickel, Michael Weintrob, Dave Vann, Matt Hogan, Kathleen Propp, Carrie Lombardi, Adam Gulledge, Vince Iwinski, Andy Bernstein, Seth Weiner, Jeremy Jones, Jon Bahr, Marc Brownstein, all my new friends, all the bands, fans, crew, and everyone else! JC3 Rules! GT’s OTB!

More photos on the next pages…

"I went on my first cruise about four years ago for my wife’s 30th birthday. There was no entertainment and we had nothing in common at all with the other 2000 passengers. But I saw this ship that could act as a floating venue, so right when I got back I went to work on the concept." –Founder Mark Brown on the origins of Jam Cruise


Galactic with everyone

Keller Williams

Jake Cinninger with NMAS

Aron Magner as “Matov”

Leslie Helpert sings with Zilla

JJ Grey

Peter Rowan & Tony Rice

"These are my people!" –Bar waiter Roberto Leitao of Brazil, as Sunday’s horn-studded Mardi Gras parade streamed past


Cocktail, anyone?

Rock on groovy folks!

Oteil Burbridge with Jazz Mandolin Project

Brock Butler of Perpetual Groove

Karl Denson

"Last night I saw six bands, and I got to shower. I had a gourmet meal and a bottle of wine, I played blackjack, and I got to sleep in a bed. And then I went and saw more bands. I love doing festivals–I’ve been to a lot of them. Here you’re in that festival setting, but you’re not. " –Production manager Ethan Schwartz on the Jam Cruise phenomenon


Freeport, Bahamas

Cody Dickinson

Luther Dickinson

Aquarium Rescue Unit in the Astoria Lounge


Karl Denson

Garaj Mahal in the Endless Summer Lounge

Jimmy Herring

Oteil Burbridge


Les Claypool

Playing Cool

Kyle Hollingsworth


Tishamingo with Karl Denson

Robert Walter’s 20th Congress