This afternoon the lineup for Jam Cruise 12 came out and it’s a doozy. Jam Cruise 12 will set sail from Miami aboard the MSC Divinia (a new ship and a new port) on January 4th and will probably host performances by about 40 acts by the time it’s all said and done on January 9th. There will be a slew of HT faves aboard the boat this year including Les Claypool’s Duo de Twang, Eric Krasno, Brock Butler, Nathan Moore and The New Mastersounds.
Jam Cruise is a music festival like no other. From the time you board the boat until the time you leave, you’re visiting a utopian environment with thousands of like-minded music fans. Each year for the last four trips, I’ve left the boat thinking “this is what life is supposed to be about.” There’s opportunities to hang with the musicians in a relaxed environment, tons of music-related activies and plenty of once-in-a-lifetime collaborations. While the trip is stacked with scheduled performances, for me it’s been all about the sets you don’t see on the schedule. Whether it’s Nathan Moore holding down “The Spot” or the incredible “Jam Room” or Brock Butler’s sunrise solo acoustic sets; there’s magic happening around every corner.
Here’s a look at the initial Jam Cruise 12 artist announcement…
Over the past four years I’ve spent the first or second week of January trying to explain the unexplainable in my dispatches from Jam Cruise. On this year’s Jam Cruise 11, our pal Jefferson Waful came aboard to film an episode of his Jeff Waful + 1 show for Relix.com about the magic of the boat.
We’ll get to see the full episode later the spring, for now here’s the trailer…
As you can see, Jefferson spoke with many of the musicians, staff members, cruisers and even me about the Jam Cruise experience. We can’t wait to see how it turns out.
After four years aboard the MSC Poesia, the next Jam Cruise will take place on a different boat: the larger MSC Divinia. And the boat won’t be the only thing that’s different about Jam Cruise 12 as event organizers Cloud 9 Adventures have also revealed that the Divinia will leave from Miami instead of Jam Cruise’s usual departure port of Ft. Lauderdale.
Also of note, Jam Cruise 12 will depart a little earlier in the year than the last few trips as it’s scheduled to depart Miami on January 4th and will return on the 9th. The MSC Divinia holds 3,959 passengers, an increase from the Poesia which holds between 2,550 and 3,605 passengers depending on the setup. However, Cloud 9 aims to “limit the capacity and maintain the intimacy that you know and love.” Look for the initial Jam Cruise 12 lineup to drop on May 1st.
California’s Animal Liberation Orchestra, aka ALO, were one of the band’s that impressed me most on last month’s Jam Cruise 11. I’ve been waiting for official videos of their sets and others to appear online. Today, a clip of ALO performing Plastic Bubble, a catchy tune they’ve performed on Jam Cruise 7 and Jam Cruise 9 as well, was uploaded to the JamCruiseTV YouTube channel.
Watch as ALO plays Plastic Bubble on the Pool Deck during Jam Cruise 11…
Nearly every late night/morning on Jam Cruise 11 singer/songwriter Nathan Moore and his musical brothers-in-arms Bryan Elijah Smith and Jay Cobb Anderson held down an area of the boat each night called “The Spot” where they would perform before whoever happened to be in front of them at the time. These unscheduled performances were at the heart of Jam Cruise 11 and many musicians stopped by “The Spot” to sing and play with the trio at various points throughout the trip.
Moore had his trusty video camera with him at most times on Jam Cruise 11 and has shared a nine-minute montage which gives us a look at the trip from his point of view. Along the way we get to see some of what went down at “The Spot,” the scene on the trip and one of the first performances of a song the trio wrote on the boat called A Good Man Is Hard To Find.
While Jam Cruise 11 was out at sea and in the days immediately following the MSC Poesia’s return to Fort Lauderdale, we posted written recaps of the musical adventure (Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four, Day Five Pt. 1). Now, we’ve started presenting galleries of photographs featuring Jam Cruise 11 as shot by a handful of our favorite photographers.
Today, we view JC11 through the lens of Jake Plimack. Jake is an incredible photog who has an eye for capturing just the right moment. His snaps alternate between the musicians of Jam Cruise 11 and the cruisers who make the event so incredibly special such as this shot of “The Spot.”
Here’s a full gallery of Jake Plimack’s Jam Cruise 11 photographs…
While Jam Cruise 11 was going on and in the days immediately following the MSC Poesia’s return to Fort Lauderdale, we posted written recaps of the musical adventure (Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four, Day Five Pt. 1). Over the next few days we’ll be presenting galleries of photographs featuring Jam Cruise 11 as shot by a handful of our favorite photographers.
Yesterday I started to recap my adventures on the final day of Jam Cruise 11, so today I’ll pick up from where we left off. For the final evening, the Pool Deck was taken over by three outstanding bands from California – Tea Leaf Green, ALO and Hot Buttered Rum – while Jam Cruise stalwarts Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe and Galactic were set to close out the action at the Teatro Carlo Felice.
Friday night was “Spinal Tap Night” in keeping with the cruise’s theme of “This One Goes To 11.” On Jam Cruise costume nights most people dress up, but on this particular evening it seemed as if I was the only one who didn’t don heavy metal-esque gear. That also applied to the musicians and the big screens behind the band and at the far end of the pool deck which flashed images of hair bands and of the Spinal Tap logo.
Hot Buttered Rum was the first of the California bands on the Pool Deck. They quickly showed the close nature of the three Cali acts by welcoming members of both ALO and TLG to join them at various points. I didn’t think HBR’s covers of Where The Streets Had No Name and You Make Me Feel Like Dancing could be topped, but the set-closing rendition of Turn On Your Lovelight was a barn-burner thanks to frenetic lap steel work from Roosevelt Collier. Even TLG bassist Reed Mathis got in on the act by playing percussion during the Bobby Bland cover.
Ever since the MSC Poesia returned to Fort Lauderdale on Saturday morning, our pal Steve of CheeseHead Productions has been uploading footage from Jam Cruise 11 to YouTube at a fast and furious pace. One of the high points of each evening was the solo atrium piano sets featuring keyboardists such as Ivan Neville, Kyle Hollingsworth and Nigel Hall. On Thursday night Zach Gill of ALO took the honors and delivered an exceptional 90-minute, curfew-busting set.
Among the tunes Gill performed was a version of Handy Man from his 2008 solo album Stuff that featured Joel Cummins on Umphrey’s McGee sharing the piano with Zach. Check out Steve’s video of this performance, extra points if you can spot me…
The worst part about Jam Cruise is that it eventually ends. That’s not to say that five jam-packed five days of music isn’t enough, because it was, but the music stopped at 6AM on Saturday morning and disembarkation started just an hour later. Saying goodbye to all the amazing people I spent the week with was such sweet sorrow and returning to reality was painful. That said, I hope to take the lessons I learned, the amazing musical experiences and the positive energy with which Jam Cruise is infused with me for the rest of the year.
Unlike the past few years, Jam Cruise 11 visited a port on the last full day of the trip. Instead of a “day at sea,” the MSC Poesia docked at Coco Cay in the Bahamas. Actually, “docked” isn’t accurate – we had to take small boats (tenders) to the port from the cruise ship. After writing my report on the magical music that took place on Thursday, I took a tender to the beach. Coco Cay is a private island owned by Royal Caribbean. Our cruise line, MSC, took over the island for the day which meant it was just Jam Cruisers and staff on the 140-acre site. There were paid excursions to choose from such as nature walks, jetski adventures and snorkeling. I, however, decided to relax on the beach where guitarists Scott Law and Brock Butler were performing.
I got to the stage just as singer-songwriter Scott Law was finishing a batch of tunes. Butler joined him for an amazing three-song string of covers: When I Paint My Masterpiece (Bob Dylan), Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes (Paul Simon) and Pepper (Butthole Surfers). After that, Law left Butler by his lonesome and the PGroove singer went on to perform a rousing set of 12 tunes using a looper to add color and layers to a batch of covers and originals. Highlights included Brock’s takes on Down By The Seaside (Led Zeppelin), Big Country (Bela Fleck and the Flecktones), Little Bit of Everything (Dawes), Queen Bee (Taj Mahal) and Us and Them > Any Colour You Like (Pink Floyd). Butler concluded with an epic, looped-out 13-minute version of the fitting On A Beach by Richard Ashcroft of The Verve fame.
For each night of Jam Cruise there’s a theme that dictates how many cruisers will dress. Past theme nights included Super Hero Night, Green Night and Disco Party. Thursday’s theme was “Cirque Du Funk” and I’d say about 80% of those on board dressed in costume. In the four years I’ve done Jam Cruise, I’ve never seen as many people dress up as they did on Thursday which made the experience of walking around the boat even more surreal than usual.
The schedule for this year’s cruise is a little different than in years past. Previously the final full day on the boat was spent at sea after two visits to ports. For Jam Cruise 11 we visit The Bahamas on the final full day making Thursday our second full day at sea of the trip. The music started at noon and ran past sunrise.
[All Photos by Dave Vann]
Options for those getting up at noon included a screening of a documentary about Col. Bruce Hampton, a set from California’s Brokedown In Bakersfield and yoga lessons on the Sports Deck. I hit the ground running for the second set of the day which featured Steve Kimock teaming up Bernie Worrell, Wally Ingram, John Morgan Kimock and Andy Hess. Hampton made his first appearance of the trip during this set when he came out for a Space Is The Place rap. Other highlights of Kimock’s set were a jam on Get Up, Stand Up, a nasty take on Come Together (The Beatles) that put a sheen of ’60s R&B on the familair tune and a gorgeous version of Tangled Hangers. Earlier on the cruise at Steve’s first set Bernie Worrell “sang” Naive Melody by the Talking Heads which just sounded weird because Worrell more talks the lyrics than sings them. This was the case again on Thursday when the legendary keyboardist handled vocals for Burning Down The House. Let’s just say, perhaps those tunes should’ve been performed as instrumentals.
It isn’t often I think about reality while on Jam Cruise, but I couldn’t help but smile on Wednesday afternoon when I thought about what I’d be doing on any other work week Wednesday. Instead of working at the office I was sitting on a magical boat in the middle of the Caribbean about to take in another full day of exciting musical adventures. Wednesday was our first day at a port and it was nice to have a short break from the relentless onslaught of unbelievable music.
The first port Jam Cruise 11 visited was Grand Turk in Turks and Caicos. Those smart enough to schedule excursions in advance were able to participate in such adventures as snorkeling, rides in glass bottom boats, scuba diving and a trip through Cloud 9′s Positive Legacy arm in which cruisers brought much-needed school supplies and other materials to a school on the small island. In return, these cruisers feasted on a local meal consisting of conch and were entertained by a local band. The members of Hot Buttered Rum accompanied those on the Positive Legacy trip and jammed on some reggae tunes with the local musicians. For most though, the trip to Grand Turk gave us a chance to sit on a beach and drink cocktails while dipping our toes in the aqua blue ocean.
The second day of Jam Cruise is a day spent at sea steaming towards our first port. The schedule of music and activities starts at noon, just a few hours after the last notes had been played the previous night, and runs until early the next morning – and that’s just the music that’s been scheduled. My favorite part of Jam Cruise are the impromptu performances you won’t find on any schedules.
Northern California’s Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers opened the Pool Deck at noon and attracted a surprisingly large crowd considering the “early” hour. You may best known Bluhm and her band from the “Van Sessions” videos they’ve created which have went viral. Blumn has a sweet, gorgeous voice and was a vision with her long black hair swaying in the wind. Her band includes husband Tim Bluhm of The Mother Hips on guitar and piano and ALO’s Steve Adams on bass. Nicki sang Tumbling Dice with Steve Kimock on Day One of the trip, so he returned the favor on a cover of Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever. As much as I enjoyed the group’s covers, I was struck by The Band-like vibe of their original material. Bluhm has powerful pipes that just might make her a crossover star one day.
[All Photos by Dave Vann]
Greensky Bluegrass makes their return on Jam Cruise 11 after taking last year off (besides Anders Beck who was on as a special guest). With Greensky’s instrumental setup (banjo, guitar, dobro and bass) keyboards fit nicely when it comes to guests, so the band took the opportunity to welcome Kyle Hollingsworth of String Cheese Incident and Joel Cummins of Umphrey’s McGee to help out for a song a piece. Cummins dueled with Beck on a fiery Don’t Lie, but for my money the highlight of the set was GB’s arrangement of Atlantic City by Bruce Springsteen. Bluegrass serves The Boss’s music well.
It’s time once again for me to try to describe the indescribable: Jam Cruise. For those unfamiliar, Cloud 9 Adventures charters a cruise ship each January, fills it with outstanding musicians and the music fans who love them for a five-day adventure at sea. With six “official” venues on the boat and plenty of impromptu picking parties and jam sessions on every corner, the options are limitless for fans of the many styles of music that fall under the “jam” moniker.
As has been mentioned in the past – this is my fourth Jam Cruise – this trip is the ultimate “choose your own adventure” vacation. Each of the thousands of attendees have a completely different experience and part of the fun is catching up with all your friends to see what they saw that you may have missed and vice versa.
The MSC Poesia, home to Jam Cruise 11, left from Fort Lauderdale on Monday afternoon. Despite torrential rain in the morning, the weather had cleared by the time the Poesia was open for check in. Getting on the boat was a quick and painless process this year. These guys have the process down after 11 trips and within 45 minutes of my arrival at the port I was sitting on the pool deck enjoying a Pina Colada.
There’s news on the Jam Cruise front this morning as a number of additional special guests artists have been announced, along with the lists of those performing the famed solo piano sets in the atrium and those leading the action in the Jam Room each night. Let’s start with the three special guests that have been added to Jam Cruise 11: Umphrey’s McGee keyboardist Joel Cummins, String Cheese Incident keyboardist Kyle Hollingsworth and lap steel master Roosevelt Collier of The Lee Boys.
Each night on Jam Cruise one of the talented keyboardists on board plays a solo set at the gorgeous piano installed in the ship’s atrium. This year Zach Gill of ALO, JJ Grey, Ivan Neville, Nigel Hall and Kyle Hollingsworth will each play a set in the intimate setting. The hosts for the Jam Room on JC11 will be Joey Porter, Karl Denson, Dan Lebowitz, Brian J and Mike Dillon.
Also of note, Jam Cruise organizers have announced a workshop entitled “Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood – Between the Beats” in which they’ll share their ideas and approaches to collaborative songwriting, developing technique and how they continue to evolve musically. A limited number of cabins for Jam Cruise 11 are still available through the event’s website. Jam Cruise 11 departs Ft. Lauderdale on January 7th and returns on January 12th boasting a lineup that includes moe., Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood, ALO, Galactic, funky Meters and more.