[Photos by Dave Vann]
Jam Cruise’s first and second days almost seamlessly blended together thanks to a series of all night, often unannounced performances. As is now tradition, Perpetual Groove guitarist Brock Butler offered a surprise sunrise set on the ship’s pool deck. Butler—who has performed sunrise acoustic sets on the past few Jam Cruises—played a diverse selection of covers during his two-hour set, ranging from Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Born on the Bayou” to Bon Iver. Elsewhere, artists ranging from Ryan Montbleau to the members of Toubab Krewe and String Cheese Incident/EOTO drummer Jason Hann performed in the ship’s late night jam room.
Despite being out all night playing with the likes of Bruce Hornsby and 7 Walkers, George Porter Jr. opened Tuesday morning’s musical festivities with a morning set on the ship’s pool deck alongside his Runnin’ Pardners. Porter offered an appropriate take on Little Feat’s “Sailin’ Shoes” during his set and also invited out fellow New Orleans legend Anders Osborne. Soon after, The Heavy Pets side-project The Fat Mannequins performed on the Solar Stage while Keller Williams and The Keels played a cover-heavy show by the pool deck. While their early shows were mostly bluegrass affairs, Keller & the Keels current show nods to everyone from Patterson Hood (“Uncle Disney”) to the Grateful Dead (“Loser”). Artist-at-large Anders Beck (Greensky Bluegrass) also played dobro for a potion of Williams’ show.
While Jam Cruise patrons relaxed during the day at sea, the ship offered a number of interactive activities, ranging from a variation of Let’s Make a Deal with the The New Deal to a 3-point basketball shootout with Trombone Shorty to a MOOG workshop with Umphrey’s McGee keyboardist Joel Cummins to a benefit for Jam Cruise’s outreach wing Positive Legacy. The latter activity brought together Zach Deputy, Railroad Earth’s Tim Carbone and members of Ryan Montblaeu Band and Toubab Krewe for a loose, afternoon jam session. Phish lighting designer Chris Kuroda—who worked the light board for a variety of artists yesterday including Dirty Dozen Brass Band—and Umphrey’s McGee LD Jeff Waful also sat for a panel discussion. During their talk and demonstration, Kuroda mentioned that Phish’s New Year’s Eve gag took over 50 hours of rehearsal and that he would be open to incorporating video into his light show one day. He also revealed that he believes Phish’s late ‘80s “Including Your Own Hey” rehearsal exercise is what makes the band so tight even to this day.
Most of the afternoon’s musical offerings took place on the ship’s pool deck: Surprise Me Mr. Davis singer Nathan Moore offered a solo set that included the Jam Cruise song he wrote aboard last year’s destination event, while Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers played their second show on the ship’s pool deck stage. Once again Steve Kimock sat in during Hornsby’s set, this time for the entire performance. Hornsby also name-checked Greensky Bluegrass while describing the Hornsby/Ricky Skaggs version of “Mandolin Rain” his band performed. Unfortunately, rain cut Hornsby’s set a bit short, though the keyboardist picked up an accordion to rock the end of his set at the stage’s lip while crew members covered up his baby grand piano.
After the rain died down, the members of Dumpstaphunk—minus new drummer Nikki Glaspie—anchored a set of Sly and the Family Stone covers on the ship’s pool deck. Like the New Orleans band’s Sly Stone set at Live Oak, FL’s Bear Creek Festival in late 2011, the performance featured members of Orgone as well as all three principal members of Soulive and guests that ranged from Karl Denson to the Lettuce horns. Near the end of their performance, John Oates—who clearly has a soft spot for the jamband scene—also emerged for “Family Affair.” The performance was also cut shot by rain.
During the cruise’s designated dinner break, 7 Walkers/Willie Nelson keyboardist Matt Hubbard played a piano set in the ship’s atrium with saxophonist Brad Houser. The evening’ activities then picked up with the punk-jazz group Dead Kenny G’s. The trio—saxophonist Skerik, drummer Mike Dillon and Brad Houser—invited a number of guest musicians onstage during their alt-jam set: a costume-clad Big Sam, a member of Trombone Shorty, George Porter Jr. and Robert Walter. Meanwhile, Railroad Earth—one of the few core jambands who have grown from a sidestage act to a marquee headliner during Jam Cruise’s nine-year run—headlined the Teatro Carlo Felice with special guest Anders Beck.
In many ways, Galactic and their various side-projects have grown into Jam Cruise’s house band over the past ten voyages. The only band to perform on all 10 Jam Cruises (Karl Denson has performed on every ship as well but with a myriad of different projects), Galactic’s Jam Cruise shows regularly blossom into extended jam sessions. In addition to current touring members Corey Glover (Living Colour) and Corey Henry (Rebirth Brass Band), the group invited out New Orleans collaborators like Trombone Shorty, Big Sam and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band horns during their packed pool deck stage set; a less expected collaborator was Ryan Montbleau, who led Galactic and Glover through a cover of Paul Simon’s “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” Lee Boys’ Roosevelt Collier—who for the second year in a row is on the ship as a musically active fan—also sat in with the group. Following Galactic’s performance, String Cheese Incident’s Michael Travis and Hann played a set of dubstep and other electronic sounds on the pool deck.
Around 11 PM the action shifted inside and downstairs where Orgone packed the Zebra Bar stage while Umphrey’s McGee played their second Jam Cruise show in as many days in the seated Teatro Carlo Felice. Both shows featured some sit ins: Orgone brought out the Dirty Dozen horns and Umphrey’s McGee invited out New Deal drummer Darren Shearer for a particularly disco-flavored “In the Kitchen.” Later in the set, John Oates—who’s recent friendship with the members of Umphrey’s McGee landed him a spot on Jam Cruise in the first place—also joined the band for “Booth Love.” A take on “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin” was another highlight for many Umphrey’s fans.
For their first show since August, Surprise Me Mr. Davis—the electro-folk group consisting of The Slip, Marco Benevento and Nathan Moore—played a late night set for a small, but musician-heavy audience from 1:45-3:15 AM. The quintet ran through many of the songs from their forthcoming album, including “When a Woman Cuts Your Hair.” In an unexpected twist of events, the group also brought out Soulive/Lettuce keyboardist Neal Evans to play Hammond organ alongside Benevento on “Sissyfuss.” When the group wrapped-up the number, Moore asked the ensemble to reprise its ending so he could solo over it on the kazoo. Davis then brought their show to a close with an older, boat-themed original.
While Davis was performing in the Zebra Bar, New Mastersounds played to sprawling crowds on the ship’s pool deck stage. Their list of onstage collaborators spanned the funk scene: 7 Walkers singer Papa Mali, Greyboy Allstars keyboardist Robert Walter, Jessica Lurie, the Orgone horns, percussionist Mike Dillon and others. On a bittersweet note, The New Deal also kicked off their penultimate show in the Teatro Carlo Felice.
As previously reported, Lettuce was a last minute addition to the festival’s lineup after Simon Posford was forced to cancel. Since Lettuce/Soulive guitarist Eric Krasno was already slated to host the Jam Room last night, he used the opportunity to give Lettuce an encore performance. Never ones to shy away from the Jam Room-vibe, the members of Lettuce invited out some friends during their stealth set, including Karl Denson and George Porter Jr. Soulive drummer Alan Evans also played piano while his brother—Soulive/Lettuce keyboardist Neal Evans—handled organ. The Jam Room gradually morphed players over the night to the point where Zach Deputy was anchoring the stage with an entirely different mix of musicians.
Both the New Mastersounds and the New Deal were still playing as the MSC Poesia approached Haiti at 4 AM. Butler was also rumored to be playing another early morning set of covers.