One of the first things you’ll notice when watching Michigan’s Greensky Bluegrass in action is the unbelievable skills of each musician. There were “jaw-drop” moments a plenty as the five guys in GB took turns driving the action during two sets aboard the Poesia. Don’t look for any gimmicks or electronic wizardry, Greensky Bluegrass is all about amazing musicianship and a timeless sound that mixes bluegrass and Americana. If the Avetts and Trampled By Turtles can crossover, so can Greensky Bluegrass.
Pimps of Joytime leader Brian J. has more stage presence in his pinky than 95% of the bands you’ll see on a regular basis in clubs across the country. While his band mates lay down a beefy stew of funk, soul and latin-tinged music, Brian captures the audience’s attention and doesn’t let go until the group leaves the stage. Pimps of Joytime’s Zebra Bar set was relentless in its energy and was so different from the more mellow Pool Deck set that kicked off the final day’s festivities. It was this variation that makes a live act stand out as one you need to catch on the regular.
While Jerry Joseph and Dave Schools may get the most press, it was the skills and passion of keyboardist Danny Louis, the shred/soul stylings of guitarist Eric McFadden and the steady drumming of Wally Ingram that made Stockholm Syndrome stand out for me. McFadden proved the perfect foil for Joseph and allowed Jerry to focus on his one-of-a-kind vocal delivery, while Eric did the heavy lifting. The latest batch of Stockholm Syndrome originals sounded fantastic live and on a boat filled with funk musicians, it sure was nice to get some old fashioned rock and roll.
6. Nathan Moore
Nathan Moore certainly made the most of his first Jam Cruise experience, as the vagabond singer/songwriter played as much as he could over the course of the trip. Late at night and into the early morning, you could always find Moore holding court on the deck near the Jam Room with his extremely talented songwriting partner Bryan Elijah Smith. Nathan’s expressive delivery and way with words comes through in each of his originals, leaving quite an impression on all those who saw him for the first time on the Poesia.
New Orleans-based musician Anders Osborne’s set in theater backed by bassist Carl DuFrene and drummer Stanton Moore can best be described a religious experience thanks to the deeply spiritual message of Osborne’s songs. He put his heart and soul into each line and each note he played during the mesmerizing set as he bounded around stage like a man possessed. Anders has been on tour with a number of amazing musicians over the last 12 months and a fantastic set was made epic by the contributions of Scott Metzger, Will Bernard, Robert Walter, Skerik and Big Chief Monk Boudreaux.
This Chicago-based five-piece won over a number of new fans on Jam Cruise thanks to two potent sets featuring the group’s uber-cool blend of rock and bluegrass. The raw power of this band was on display from the moment they took the stage and the energy was infectious. Jam Cruise 9 provided plenty of dance parties, but I’m not sure I saw cruisers groove harder than during Cornmeal’s sets.
For the last five years, HT founder Slade Sohmer kept on telling me I was missing out by not catching this Leeds-based funk outfit and boy was he right. The New Mastersounds are one of the most talented acts on the live music circuit and the parade of musicians who assembled to catch a glimpse of them in action was quite telling. Joe Tatton’s work on the keys blew me away at first, but by the end of the set I had “a moment” admiring the fuck out of each member of this band. I almost wish they invited less guests out with them during TMS’s Pool Deck set as I thought the group was at its best when it was just the four of them on stage.
Hartswick has performed with many different formations of musicians over the course of her solo career, but the supergroup JHa put together for her way-too-short set aboard Jam Cruise 9 could be the best band she’s been a part of without any redheads. Along with longtime collaborator Michael Harrison Berg, Jennifer was joined by Brock Butler, Allie Kral and The New Mastersounds’ Simon Allen and Pete Shand for the fantastic conclusion of her performance after a number of heart-felt Van Ghost originals kicked things off. The ensemble’s versions of Ray Charles’ Drown In My Own Tears and Dawes’ When My Time Comes brought goosebumps to the skin and stood out as highlights of the trip. I really hope we see more of this group.
The perfect mix of pop, jam and rock, California’s ALO had me hooked within the first few songs of their first set on the Poesia. Not only do these guys know how to perfectly craft a song, but they also know how to perfectly craft a set by mixing their catchy originals with sizzling covers. Each passing tune was a revelation and I picked up each of the band’s albums upon our return to land. I eagerly await their next trip to the East Coast.