Jam Cruise 6 :: 01.04.08 – 01.09.08 :: Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Day 1 – Friday, January 4 – Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Unofficially kicking off on January 3 with a pre-party by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings at Ft. Lauderdale’s Culture Room, JC6 officially set sail with a spirited set by Soulive around 7 p.m. on Friday. Recently returning to their original trio framework, the Brothers Evans (Neal and Alan) and Jam Cruise veteran Eric Krasno kicked out the soul-funk, dirty jazz and rock they’ve become known for.
Immediately following Soulive’s performance, the reminder that this was a sailing festival became painfully apparent as one had to decide between a solo set by Warren Haynes, The Motet in the Lirica Lounge, or the maiden voyage (pun intended) of The Everyone Orchestra including anchors Jon Fishman, Steve Kimock, Jeff Coffin, Jamie Janover and Tanya Shylock (Mountain of Venus). Much like the ebb and flow of the blue water in the ship’s wake, I decided to drift wherever the current took me, catching a few songs from each set, knowing that if I missed anything, I’d probably be sitting next to the musicians at breakfast the next morning and could ask about the performances.
Shortly after midnight, Dark Star Orchestra conjured up the spirit of Jerry Garcia and The Grateful Dead in their recreation of a 1978 show. It appears that perhaps Garcia’s spirit has been resting in Davey Jones’ Locker for the last 12-plus years. I caught a taste of “Scarlet” > “Fire” before realizing there was another living legend playing upstairs: Toots Hibbert. Toots and the Maytals’ performance was solid but somewhat oddly placed at 1-3 a.m., so I decided to focus my energies until sunrise on the most surreal, amazing and truly powerful setting of this floating festival, The Jam Room. A step up from years past, this year’s room was a complete circle that put the musicians directly in the center of the fans. It was also a no-holds-barred, steel cage match, or “drunken brawl” as Kimock dubbed it, for every musician who stepped into the ring.
Day 2 – Saturday, January 5 – Day at Sea
I was then lucky enough to sit down and chat with Haynes, Kimock, Krasno, Col. Bruce, and up-and-comers Toubab Krewe in an extremely intimate one-on-one setting. Jam Cruise virgins, The Krewe are special because they are so different. They incorporate African-inspired music mixed with a splash of rock, resulting in a sound your ears might not recognize but your heart, soul and body respond to without hesitation. They were amazed at how the equipment was loaded on by crane and overjoyed to finally catch fellow Asheville resident Haynes. Jam Cruise reminded them of another diverse musical gathering, Mali’s Festival in the Desert (check out JamBase’s 2006 coverage).
“[This has] the same festival spirit, with completely different groups of people. If anyone from the festival in the States went, I know they would have an amazing time,” says percussionist Luke Quaranta. “That undeniable spirit of togetherness that happens at a lot of festivals, and the real break from everyday life, I really felt that there and here.”
Every other artist I spoke to shared TK’s feelings about JC6, too. “It’s very unique in the way that we’re all trapped out here together, in a good way,” said Warren Haynes. “So, the audience and the musicians all share the same vibe, the same spirit, the same experience. The cool thing is that everyone is here for the exact same reason.”
Kimock took the baton and discussed why he’s embraced settings like this one lately. “If there’s something that I’m good at, for some reason, it’s sort of making up stuff on the fly. I actually do really enjoy and do well in completely improvisational contexts,” said Kimock.
Possibly the most important change this year was the “Greening” of Jam Cruise, Spearheaded by Zero Hero Events. By using recycled cups, garbage bags, colored coded recycling bins and even organic beauty products and coffee, they helped make this the most environmentally conscious Jam Cruise yet. Your Daily Greens in the Greening Jam Cruise Newsletter read, “Throughout the MSC Lirica – in cabins, restaurants, and bars – the green team has worked to provide more sustainable products to lessen our impact on the open seas.” Saturday also had a Greening Auction and Greening Panel Discussion moderated by Greening Coordinator Ann Kenworthy that included Matt Butler (EO), Dave Watts (The Motet) and Dan Lebowitz.
To top things off, The Funky Meters and Jam Cruise favorites Perpetual Groove rocked the pool deck from 9:30 p.m. until 4 a.m.., including a glistening version of Paul Simon‘s “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” and the fitting “Two Shores.” For more on PGroove’s set, and the rest of his JC experience, read a first hand account on drummer Albert Suttle‘s blog. Despite some rough seas that affected even some crew members, the ship seemed to be sailing along as JC stretched its sea legs.
Continue reading for the second half of Jam Cruise 6…
Day 3 – Sunday, January 6 – Roatan, Honduras
After Toots, the music quickly splintered into the soulful swoon of Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, the finger-pickin’ goodness of Yonder Mountain String Band and the official SuperJam, which called on everyone from Russell Batiste to Karl Denson to Grant Green Jr. to deliver some explosive results.
Sunday morning saw what might have been my favorite set on the boat, namely Lotus. When I say these guys, along with Toubab Krewe, are the next surefire stars of our scene, I mean it. Shit, I know it! They threw down their mix of electronic, dance party fueled disco, mixed with ’80s covers like Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit” and their take on Daft Punk. The set catered to both delirious fans and “Holy shit! Who the fuck are these guys?” newcomers.
Day 4 – Monday, January 7 – Cozumel, Mexico
Back on the ship, we had dropped-off Haynes and his guitar while we picked-up the political fury of Michael Franti & Spearhead. His infectious reggae vibes picked up where Toots’ left off. Reggae and warm afternoons are the best match since Forrest Gump’s peas and carrots. We were also docked next to a Carnival cruise liner that had many of their passengers watching the show, probably wondering why their travel agent didn’t recommend Jam Cruise.
Galactic featured MCs Boots Riley and Mr. Lif during their set. They added some hip-hop and hooks to the normal funky sound, with selections predominantly from their latest effort, From the Corner to the Block. Galactic holds the distinction of being the only band to be on every Jam Cruise so far.
My toughest decision came in choosing between PGroove or the one-off Oh You Pretty Things, a band specially assembled for this boat consisting of Fishman and moe.‘s Al Schnier that focused on the works of David Bowie. I caught the first few Pretty Things songs, one of which included a jam eerily similar to “Gotta Jiboo,” before heading down to the Broadway Theater for PG. With Echoes From the Cave, a two-disc live effort, dropping next month and their first West Coast tour in over two years coinciding with the release, I have a feeling this Southern secret is about to spread like wildfire. Highlights of their set included contortionists during the Zeppelin-esque “MOTA” (which you can watch here) and a smoking set closing “TTFPJ” that featured additional keyboard work by Ivan Neville.
Since waking up in Mexico, Monday had the vibe of being one of those days. Little did I know how special until I ventured into the Jam Room around 4:15 a.m. Quite simply, this was the most inspired, improvisational music I have seen in close to ten years. It was the very essence of why we go see live music. When it’s perfect, it’s better than being in love, the most satisfying meal and a hole-in-one rolled together. The pocket that bassist Garrett Sayers (The Motet) and Fishman got into could have sunk the nine ball on Paul Newman in The Color of Money. Kimock’s right hand man and long time taper Charlie Miller spent his “vacation” recording the Jam Room the entire voyage, and I hope this particular session surfaces soon. Even though it was technically the seventh day of 2008, I cannot see any 40 minutes topping this jam all year.
Day 5 – Tuesday, January 8 – Day at Sea
I headed downstairs to talk to Sharon Jones. In 2007, she and the Dap-Kings released 100 Days, 100 Nights, a record many considered to be one of the year’s best. However, 2007 wasn’t all positive for Jones. “I’ve had quite the year,” she commented, lightly clenching my hand with a maternal softness as she told me about her brother’s passing on New Year’s Eve. “But, with those downers, I was also blessed. My head ain’t big. I ain’t no superstar. Before I walk onto that stage it’s not about, ‘I’m bad, I’ve got this great voice.’ No! I am humble. I am grateful for this gift. God has anointed me. I don’t believe God has brought me this far to leave me,” she said and then sang a few verses of one of her favorite church hymns.
About Jam Cruise, she remarked, “People can talk about hippies this and hippies that. They don’t even know what that word means. To me, they are just fun, loving people. I have not had one negative vibe since I’ve been on this boat. They gave me a chance because a lot of people on this boat I think have never heard me. [Maybe it’s] the love of their friends or their love of this type of music [but] they appreciate it. They welcomed me with open arms. I have not been able to walk the deck without being stopped and thanked or having to pose for a picture. I’m blessed, nothing can hold me back!”
A spellbinding set by Col. Bruce and Grant Green Jr. was relaxing and cool, followed by Everyone Orchestra‘s set, which had a sign that simply read “How Lucky Are We?” EO’s performance offered a rotating cast that spun quicker than a revolving door. This set also saw Fishman’s debut on the saxophone, and he managed to hold his own pretty well with Jeff Coffin and Karl D at his side.
The remedy for that sore hamstring could only be the workout that is The Funky Meters. These guys are my dad’s age but he never cut the grass the way bassist George Porter Jr. did. “He’s the Beethoven of bass,” said Col. Bruce. “He always blows my mind.” Downstairs, The Motet played a set of Jamiroquai tunes, as they did at their last Halloween run. I finished with Franti’s positive vibration, complete with a Butler sit-in, one more dose of Galactic with the MCs and a final smell that is the blossoming Lotus. And I had to try to catch lightning in a bottle once more down in the jam room.
The musicians had no intentions of going out quietly as we coasted back to the mainland. Neville, Krasno and Grace Potter showed up. Potter’s howling chorus to “Feelin’ Alright” elicited screams from the encircling crowd. As everyone seemed to be packing it in, Butler and his band mates Suttle and Adam Perry remained, accompanied by DSO’s John Kadlecik for a smoking rendition of The Chemical Brothers’ “Orange Wedge,” a song that often lands in PGroove setlists.
My final moments of Jam Cruise 6 were spent standing outside on the 12th deck disco, with DJ Harry spinning his wheels. We used our last drink tickets and watched the sunrise as we pulled into port. Hugs were in full supply, including a few with some of the musicians, who thanked us for such a great time. As we walked off the boat, I watched George Porter Jr. and his wife pre-book their cabin for Jam Cruise 7, a full year off. He was paying for it out of his own pocket to secure his spot on this most fantastic journey, whether he’s asked to play next time or not.
Continue reading for more images from Jam Cruise 6…
|President Lot Dawg and his Delegates|
|Stanton Moore and Friends|
|Dark Star Orchestra|
|Franti, Lebowitz, Austin|
|Toots and the Maytals|
|Jeff Coffin with YMSB|
|George Porter Jr.|
JamBase | The High Seas
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