Thursday morning, an overnight time change left some Jam Cruisers unsure of when sets would occur. Even funk legend Maceo Parker arrived an hour early to his 3:00 p.m. Jam Talk in the Atrium, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because it gave him the opportunity to tinker on piano and introduce himself to dedicated fans who were equally early.
A couple hours prior, in the first raucous set of the day, Andy Frasco and the UN got the party going on the pool deck with the Stax Records classic “Who’s Making Love.” Mid-song, Frasco poured shots of whiskey into his bandmates mouths and danced his heart out. “This is our first time at Jam Cruise; this is a dream come true,” Frasco said later, to cheers from the audience. The band doubled down on their party vibe when Frasco lit a joint onstage for their song “Smokin Dope and Rock n’ Roll”, and then played Nirvana’s “Bleed.”
Later, Tom Hamilton played a special acoustic trio set in the Atrium, with Disco Biscuits’ Aron Magner on keys and Raina Mullen—formerly of Hamilton’s American Babies and currently a member of his newest project, Ghost Light—on acoustic guitar. (Fellow Ghost Light member Holly Bowling could also be seen in the front row enjoying Hamilton’s acoustic stylings.) After a stirring version of Alice in Chains’ “Got Me Wrong,” Hamilton introduced his friend and Electron bandmate Magner by joking that the keyboardist is fairly “new to the jam scene.” Interestingly, the only Grateful Dead song the JRAD guitarist performed over the 75-minute set was a harmony-laden “Loser.”
Returning fans to the roving festival, known as “repeat offenders” and “lifers,” not only keep Jam Cruise afloat, but they keep it interesting. In the early evening, preceding Turuaz’s 6:00 p.m. set, two such fans got married on board, saying they wouldn’t want to tie the knot anywhere else.
And with no other music scheduled from 6:30-7:30 p.m. for a good portion of Turkuaz’s evening set the pool deck was brimming with aliens and astronauts, all dressed to fit the night’s intergalactic theme of “Space is the Place.” The band got things going with tracks like “Percy Thrills (The Moondog)” and “Doktor Jazz,” both from their 2015 LP Digitonium. But the Brooklyn-based nine-piece really kicked it into high gear when they covered Sly Stone’s “M’lady.” Later they wrapped things up with their own “Back to Normal” and, finally, Al Green’s “Take Me To The River.”
In another “only on Jam Cruise” collaboration, Steve Kimock and Jeff Chimenti, both auxiliary members of the Grateful Dead family in one iteration or another, teamed up for a three-song, piano-and-guitar jam that, much to the delight of the myriad Deadheads in attendance, began with a 20-minute “Dark Star.” The duo then made their way into Kimock’s own “Tongue and Groove.” By the time their 45-minutes was almost up, Kimock said their final song would be a request. “We figured [this song] was so inappropriate, we’d play it here,” he joked before he and Chimenti played Junior Parker’s 1953 blues number “Mystery Train.” However, the two musicians couldn’t end their set before taking one last turn through “Dark Star.”
Afterwards, Dumpstaphunk rocked out on the pool deck, welcoming guests like Jurassic 5’s Chali 2na for a freestyle on their song, “Justice,” and the horn section from the Naughty Professor for several tunes.
Meanwhile, downstairs, Medeski, Scofield, Martin and Wood were recreating their classic album A Go Go in the Stardust Theater. “This all started almost exactly 20 years ago,” John Scofield said before they began. “I was an old fart already and there was an up and coming band I was already a fan of…I got lucky and we made this record.”
By 11:00 p.m., Voodoo Dead took the pool deck stage with an all-star lineup of George Porter Jr., Steve Kimock, Jeff Chimenti, Dan Lebowitz and John Morgan Kimock. Trey Anastasio Band trumpeter-vocalist Jennifer Hartswick, Tom Hamilton, vocalist Kat Wright and pedal steel guitarist Roosevelt Collier all sat-in in different combinations. Highlights included an opening “Promised Land” and George Porter Jr. taking on lead vocals for the Meters’ “Hey Pocky Way.” But the undisputed peak of Thursday night’s Voodoo Dead performance was a 17-minute “After Midnight” jam that bled into an instrumental version of The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” before making its way back to the J.J. Cale original. They closed with the Dead’s standard party-jam “Bertha.”
Late-night jams stretched into the early morning hours, with Aqueous shredding a four-song set in the intimate Spinnaker Lounge and Lettuce keeping the funk alive on the pool deck. Following Aqueous, Jennifer Hartswick hosted her own superjam in the Spinnaker Lounge, featuring Holly Bowling on keys and The New Mastersounds’ Simon Allen on drums. The informal collective played a range of songs from “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell to Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine.” Turkuaz’s Craig Brodhead was the last man standing, playing a set in the Bliss Lounge that stretched until sunrise.
Jam Cruise continues tonight in the beachside paradise of Roatán, Honduras, and headlining sets by Lotus and Galactic.