Photos via @JamCruise on Facebook

Jam Cruise set sail on Tuesday, Jan. 7, bringing a hoard of musicians and music lovers onto the high seas for five days of mayhem.

The biggest change for the roving festival in the new year has been its new home, the swanky MSC Divina. So, with plenty to explore on board – and even a few hiccups to navigate – here are some of the highlights of the event’s first day.

Give It Up for The Crew

Like any music festival, Jam Cruise takes plenty of orchestration to go off every year. For 2020, fans saw firsthand how quickly organizers needed to alter their plans when the cruise line’s delay in getting fans embarked on the Divina was further compacted by a crane malfunction.

And while the Jam Cruise crew usually depends on that crane to do most of their heavy lifting – moving instruments, lights and other stage gear – they were forced to start moving those thing on board by hand.

Of course, this led to an announcement by Cruise Director Julie McCoy (aka Cloud 9’s Annabel Lukins) announcing a 60+ minute delay in programming across the boat. However, she kept things positive, noting, “We’re definitely going late tonight, but we’re Jam Cruisers and we train for this all year long.”

Lettuce Set Sail

A little after 8:30 p.m. Lettuce finally hit the stage for Jam Cruise’s sail-away set, with Lukins popping a bottle of champagne and introducing their “trumphant return” to the boat.

In turn, the funk staple wasted no time, giving eager fans on the pool deck a high-energy, eight-song offering.

After opening with “The New Reel” off 2015’s Crush, Lettuce hit their stride with a mid-set trio of “Shmink Dabby” (with Adam ‘Shmeeans’ Smirnoff’s wailing guitar tone channeling his inner Carlos Santana), “Let It GOGO” and keyboardist/singer Nigel Hall’s version of Tears For Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule The World.”

Dumpstaphunk and The Soul Rebels Channel Dr. John

It’s well documented that the members of Dumpstaphunk – Ivan Neville and Tony Hall, among others – are New Orleans music royalty.

However, it wasn’t until the end of their set in the Pantheon Theater that fans were transported to the Big Easy, as the skilled brass of The Soul Rebels amplified the Dr. John classic “Right Place Wrong Time.”

After the audience went wild, Hall had some advice for rowdy Jam Cruisers, saying with a wink, “Tonight has just begun.” 

Les Claypool and Sean Lennon Get Delirious

By the time The Claypool Lennon Delirium hit the pool deck stage, the clock was inching toward the Midnight hour.

The band opened with a venue-appropriate version of “Little Fishes,” and among their predictably-strange stage banter, bassist Les Claypool noted how among Jam Cruise’s “sea people,” he felt like he was with family.

A mid-set cover of The Rolling Stones “She’s a Rainbow” was perhaps the biggest surprise, as was a moment when Sean Lennon decided to wear a bright pink hat (thrown by a fan onstage) for the entirety of the set.

Once In A Lifetime

As late night turned into early morning on Jam Cruise, the Talking Heads seemed to appear out of the ether time and time again.

After a Cory Wong sit-in, Lotus wrapped their dance-laden set at the Pantheon Theater with a sing-along of “Once In A Lifetime.”

Meanwhile, newly-minted Jerry Harrison collaborators Turkuaz got funky on the pool deck serving up samples from their new Kuadrochrome EP and busting out a version of “Crosseyed and Painless.”

“Jam cruise! Right on schedule everybody!” Dave Brandwein joked just before 2 a.m.