Jam Cruise Journal – Day Five: End Of The Road
Tuesday was the final day of Jam Cruise 15, a musical adventure at sea aboard the Norweigan Pearl. For those just getting back you can find my previous Jam Cruise Journals from the trip here: Day One, Day Two, Day Three and Day Four. While Jam Cruise itself is a musical marathon, performances on Day Five spanned from noon until we returned to Miami at 6 a.m. I’m still tired and full of joy just thinking about it!
I had such a wonderful time aboard the boat, met many incredible people and witnessed awe-inspiring music. Returning to New York City it was hard not to note the juxtaposition between the beautiful weather and friendly people on the Pearl and the harshness of NYC. That said, I’m hoping the experience I had will keep me filled with bliss for the days and weeks to come. It’s tough not to come back from Jam Cruise without being inspired to be a better person and of course to go see (more) live music. I’m also counting down the days until Jam Cruise 16.
After getting a late start on the day I decided to take in Love Canon’s second set of the trip, which kicked off the action on the Pool Deck, from a makeshift desk outside where I could work on my Day Four report. I typed away as the Virginia-based band presented memorable bluegrass versions of such ’80s classics as Toto’s “Africa,” Mr. Mister’s “Kyrie,” Dire Straits’ “Money For Nothing” and Don Henley’s “The Boys Of Summer.” Love Canon was an inspired choice for the lineup and provided a dance party wherever they performed.
Next up on the Pool Deck was the tropical-pop act The Hip Abduction. Frontman David New has a powerful voice and stage presence. He and the band were thrilled with their first Jam Cruise and noted how each trip on the elevator was an experience itself. Among the highlights was a cover of Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing.” Meanwhile, members of The Motet were hosting a workshop in the Crystal Atrium called “Anatomy Of A Song” that included frontman Lyle Divinsky relaying the story of how he joined the band. It was then off to the Stardust Theater, where an impressive Everyone Orchestra lineup was conducted by Matt Butler in celebration of Positive Legacy’s efforts aboard the boat. Widespread Panic keyboardist JoJo Hermann made his EO debut and was joined by the likes of Steve Berlin, Shook Twins, Yahuba Garcia, Dan “Lebo” Lebowitz, Al Schnier, Rob Derhak, Eli Winderman, Jay Starling, Michelangelo Carruba, Shira Elias and more. The all-improvised set included vocals about being happy for the Jam Cruise experience once we get back instead of being sad it’s over.
Houston’s The Suffers were one of many acts making their Jam Cruise debut this year and they impressed with both sets. Frontwoman Kam Franklin was a dynamic force as she belted out tunes from the group’s upcoming studio album. She mentioned the name of the band and their hometown a number of times because she ran into a handful of fans who saw the group the first time but didn’t know their name. Franklin also told the story of how the band members quit their day jobs in 2015 and at that time couldn’t imagine they would be embarking on an experience like Jam Cruise so soon after making that fateful decision. The Suffers’ music is chock full of soul and they welcomed a handful of guests including The Motet horns, Yahuba Garcia and vocalist Erica Falls, who dueted with Kam on a song about the power of sandwiches.
Superjams can be hit or miss affairs, but the one on Jam Cruise was most assuredly a hit. The Nth Power drummer Nikki Glaspie led an ensemble that featured at one point over 40 (!) musicians on stage – a new Jam Cruise record – through funk, soul and R&B deep cuts from the ’70s and beyond. Glaspie welcomed DJ Williams, Adam “Schmeans” Smirnoff, Kam Franklin, Erica Falls, Nigel Hall, Karl Denson, Joey Porter, Ivan Neville, Lyle Divinsky, Shira Elias, Sammi Garett, Cyril Neville, Skerik, Craig Brodhead, The Shady Horns, The Turkuaz Horns and Matt Butler to join in at various points of the set. Props to Karl D. on his “Benevento Russo Duo 2020” t-shirt.
Over in the theater The Revivalists held court and frontman David Shaw explained food poisoning was behind his needing to skip his solo set the previous day. The rock-heavy act delivered an inspired performance loaded with fan favorites including “It’s A Sin” and “Wish I Knew You” as well as a “Men Amongst Mountains” that saw Shaw sitting in the crowd to take it all in. After a short break the action in the theater continued with another set from The Original Meters. The legendary funk band and guests including Cyril Neville, The Shady Horns, Skerik, members of Soul Rebels and Ivan Neville rolled through such classics as “Change/Reform,” “Africa,” “Cissy Strut,” “Cabbage Alley,” “Be My Lady,” “Come Together” and “Fire On The Bayou.” The Meters were celebrating their 50th anniversary aboard the boat, an occasion noted by bassist George Porter Jr.’s daughter.
“Future funk” artist GRiZ played their third set of the trip at the Pool Deck. The electronic-tinged act treated cruisers to three completely different sets starting with a hard-hitting late night performance in the theater, a wild “pop-up” DJ set in the Bliss Lounge and a more groovy, laid-back set outside on the final night of the trip. I was extremely impressed by the Michigan-based collective and the way they adapted to each setting. The Pool Deck was closed out by Beats Antique who were inspired by the trip to perform a “jammy” set featuring guest spots from The Motet horns, Steve Berlin of Los Lobos, bassist Reed Mathis and keyboardist Todd Stoops. Over in the Crystal Atrium members of Turkuaz hosted the final “Jazz Lounge” session of Jam Cruise 15. They varied tempos throughout the two-hour performance starting with traditional jazz and moving through to more uptempo material by the end.
Up in the Spinnaker Lounge San Francisco’s The Brothers Comatose presented their final set of the trip. The Americana act showed off their rootsy originals and a bevy of covers including Huey Lewis’ “I Want A New Drug,” Bob Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” and The Rolling Stones’ “Sweet Virginia.” Lebo sat-in on multiple occasions. The final performance in the theater came from New Orleans’ Galactic and boy did they crush it. It was ladies night for Galactic as Nikki Glaspie provided one of the highlights of the entire trip by leading the band through an insane “Killing In The Name,” while Kam of The Suffers added to Ann Peebles’ “I Can’t Stand The Rain.”
Break Science keyboardist/producer Borahm Lee was the Jam Room host on Tuesday night. Since his band’s set was rained out the previous evening, he for the most part turned the Jam Room into a straight-forward Break Science set. The Shady Horns and Lettuce bassist Jesus Coomes were guests of Lee and drummer Adam Deitch during the points I saw. It was interesting to see musicians walk in expecting the normal Jam Room and quickly realizing it was not the typical jam session. While I understand Lee and Deitch had prepped for a set that never happened and deserved to play their allotted time, I would’ve loved a usual Jam Room blow out.
Scheduled music finished at 4 a.m. in both the Jam Room and the Bliss Lounge, where DJ Soul Sister was spinning funk, but Nathan Moore kept “The Spot” going until we arrived home. In addition to the normal spot crew, Nathan was aided by members of Love Canon, Shook Twins, Brothers Comatose and more on Toto’s “Africa,” “The Star-Spangled Banner” and a bevy of his own tunes. Each time I sat down at The Spot I got a musical lesson from Nathan I’ll never forget. The only problem was “The Spot” was setup in a place that wasn’t very conducive to acoustic music. Tons of revelers surrounded the musicians and many had no respect for the performance taking place. On a trip filled with love, it was a bummer to see the disrespect.
All told Jam Cruise 15 was another incredible adventure that will stay with me for a long time to come. The lineup wound up being perfect as it was a great mix of Jam Cruise veterans and newcomers. I discovered a handful of new-to-me bands and rediscovered a passion for some older ones. If everyone who loves live music could experience the joy and bliss found on Jam Cruise at least once I think the world would be a better place. When I embarked on my first Jam Cruise in 2010 I had no idea what to expect, but I’ve yet to miss one since and hope it remains that way for years to come. Finally, a tip of the hat to the Cloud 9 Adventures Team for all the hard work that went into making the trip so special.