Watch Daniel Donato Join moe. For Pearl Jam Cover & ‘Mexico’ On Jam Cruise 20

The rising guitarist and the jam scene favorites previewed their upcoming best.summer.ever tour.

By Scott Bernstein Feb 26, 2024 10:31 am PST

moe. combined the past, present and future by pulling off a set four years in the making (past) on Friday (present) featuring an incendiary guest appearance by guitarist Daniel Donato (future). Donato joined the veteran jam sextet during the Pool Deck set aboard Jam Cruise for a Pearl Jam cover and fan-favorite original “Mexico.”

Jam Cruise 20 departed PortMiami on Sunday filled with musicians and the fans who love them. The MSC Divina cruise ship has been transformed into a festival site boasting six separate venues of differing sizes. moe.’s performance came on the Pool Deck, which as the name implies is fit over the ship’s main pool. The band — guitarists Chuck Garvey and Al Schnier, drummer Vinnie Amico, percussionist Jim Loughlin, keyboardist Nate Wilson and bassist Rob Derhak — previously hit Jam Cruise in 2020 just before the pandemic. However, their Pool Deck set on Jam Cruise 18 was transformed into an intimate performance in the ship’s atrium. As cool as it was to see moe. in a small, extremely unusual space, there was something missing when they weren’t able to play outside on the Pool Deck.

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After four years, the moe. Pool Deck set came off and what a set it was. While the start was delayed by 30 minutes due to technical issues — cruise director Annabel “Julie McCoy” Lukins explained the difficulties of getting a main stage set up on a ship in just over 12 hours before the band finally took the stage — moe. was firing on all cylinders throughout.

Derhak’s “Billy Goat” bled into the Schnier-sung “Tailspin” to get the frame off to a rousing start. The band then didn’t miss a beat in doing one of their “no huddle” transitions into the classic “Moth.” Schnier used the vamp after the last verse to discuss the complications in performing aboard a boat before he and Wilson led an adventurous jam. Then, Wilson fronted the group on the recently debuted original, “In Stride,” a song that sounds so much like a Traffic cover, this writer thought it was one until he was corrected.

Next, Al Schnier stepped to the mic and revealed moe. initially intended to take the stage dressed in pajamas in keeping with JC20’s “PJ Night” theme for Sunday. However, he decided they’d honor “PJ Night” by covering Pearl Jam. Schnier asked Donato if he was game and Daniel said he loves the Seattle rockers and just listened to the song Al suggested one day prior. After Daniel took the stage, the seven musicians delivered a lovely version of Pearl Jam’s “Just Breathe.” The only other take on the tune by moe. came when Schnier and Loughlin performed the Backspacer (2009) cut with Blues Traveler’s John Popper and Ben Wilson on July 21, 2019.

Schnier and Donato started “Just Breathe” as a duet featuring Al on lead vocals with Daniel providing harmonies and effusive licks. Then after the first chorus, the full band joined in and picked up the pace. Donato shredded a memorable solo before the cover ended. The guitarist stuck around and laid the ensuing “Mexico” to waste. The members of moe. were visibly pumped as Donato strung together one powerful riff after another in the song detailing Al Schnier’s trip to Mexico for his 21st birthday. Not to be outdone, Schnier took a ripper of his own to bring “Mexico” to a close.

A raging “Not Coming Down” followed and then moe. linked original “Spine Of A Dog” and a cover of Traffic’s “Light Up Of Leave Me Alone” helmed by Nate Wilson to end the set. Daniel Donato will team with moe. on the Best.Summer.Ever Tour this July.

Other highlights aboard Jam Cruise 20 on Sunday were numerous. Lettuce crushed the sail away set on the Pool Deck set, the Medeski, Martin, Porter and Diop set also featured DJ Logic and contained one nasty groove after another including one with Eddie Roberts, Eggy went with an improv-heavy set for their Jam Cruise debut and Lebo and George Porter Jr. fit such GD classics as “Eyes Of The World” and “Sugaree” into their Jam Room performance.

Watch clips of “Just Breathe” and “Mexico” from Jam Cruise featuring moe. and Daniel Donato below:

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Jam Cruise 20 continues today, Monday, February 26, with a full day at sea. Follow @JamBase on Instagram for photos and videos from the trip.

moe. plays their second set on Wednesday, while Daniel Donato’s Cosmic Country makes their Jam Cruise debut on Monday.

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Setlist

Set: Billy Goat > Tailspin (nh) Moth, In Stride, Just Breathe*, Mexico**, Not Coming Down, Spine Of A Dog > Light Up Or Leave Me Alone

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