Last year we started a recurring feature on HT called Jam Cruise Files, where we asked artists a number of questions about their Jam Cruise experiences. Jam Cruise 9, on the MSC Poesia, sets sail from Ft. Lauderdale on Jan. 4th – a little more than six months away, with a power-packed lineup that includes Bob Weir’s Scaring The Children, God Street Wine, Galactic & the Rhythm Devils. We kick off the second year of Jam Cruise Files columns by talking with Cruise Director Annabel Lukins – aka Julie McCoy.
Hidden Track: What were a few of your highlights from Jam Cruise 8?
Julie McCoy: Two words: Nigel Hall. During the Fantastic 4 set on the pool deck, which was one of my most anticipated shows since we booked them, Nigel came on stage for Love Having You Around where he proceeded to yell to the crowd, “Where’s Annabel at, I want to sing this to her?” I humbly made my way to his side, and he serenaded me while I danced effortlessly next to him. The smile on my face was permanent, tears flowed from my face, and I felt such deep love and affection from my dear friend. It was truly a magical and humbling moment in my life, let alone my absolute Jam Cruise 8 highlight.
[Photo by Jeffrey Dupuis]
A few others worth mentioning:
Sexual Chocolate, Karl Denson’s brainchild…I was once again called up to sing in the final song with the supergroup, swaying back and forth next to Liza Oxnard and others. I truly felt a part of musical history.
Pretty Lights – 4:00am – Pool Deck. I have never danced so hard on Jam Cruise late night than I did during Pretty Lights. The entire pool deck was packed and everyone was grooving constantly to the ridiculously talented duo. READ ON for more of Jam Cruise Files with Julie McCoy…
Maceo Parker – Maceo has been one of my musical heroes for well over a decade. While many of our musicians on board idolize him for his lifelong dedication to creating pure funk music, I’ve never known him to be a serious “out of the box” guy. He plays by the rules. On Jam Cruise, there are no rules. So requesting that he head to the Jam Room at 3:00am wasn’t the easiest mission. “What, do I just go up and play?” “Yes, Maceo, that’s exactly what you do.” After sitting on the sidelines for a little while to get the feel of it, he jumped on stage and proceeded to let his guard down and go with the flow in such a powerful way that people are STILL talking about Maceo in the Jam Room. All bets are off in the Jam Room. And I truly believe that those moments changed Maceo’s life in a profound way and he gets the jamband scene a lot more. We know it changed our lives.
Needless to say, when we asked him to host the Super Jam for JC9, he accepted.
HT: Which are a few of the acts who will make their first Jam Cruise voyage on JC9 that you are most excited about?
JM: Robert Randolph & The Family Band! I have been nurturing these boys, supporting them as friends and their career since Day 1. Robert had such an outstanding time last year with the Word and we are thrilled that he helped encourage the Family Band to join him this year.
God Street Wine! These boys were one of my favorite bar bands back in the days of Wetlands in NYC. We were immediately drawn to book them once we got wind of their reunion shows back east.
Anders Osborne!!! Hear it loud and clear! I have been lucky enough to been seeing this man perform since I was in college and ever since, I have been head over heels for the guy….his songwriting and vocal precision is so powerful that my mouth gapes open every time I hear him. His guitar playing is so outrageously emotional that I shake my head in disbelief or his raw talent.
And of course, being a huge Deadhead & Spreadhead, I am OVER the moon to have Bobby, Mickey, Billy, Schools & JoJo. This is the FIRST time we’ve ever had members of the Grateful Dead & Widespread Panic on board and we can’t wait to set sail with them!
HT: Were there any specific issues on Jam Cruise 8 that Cloud 9 aims to rectify for JC9?
JM: Well we’re still trying to figure out how to clone George Porter so that he can be everywhere all the time – I’ll have to get back to you on that when we find a solution – but I will tell you that he has asked for a radio so that we can call him anytime something is going on that is not to be missed
In all seriousness, Jam Cruise 8 was literally the smoothest cruise we’ve ever had. I mean, we are always looking for ways to challenge ourselves and take things to new heights from one year to the next, and we definitely have a few surprises up our sleeves – but not necessarily in response to any specific issues – just out of inspiration to continue to produce over the top events.
HT: What is the criteria for picking artists at large (ie – Special Guests)?
JM: We first look at musicians who have a strong individual vibe that would bring something special to the event. Then we see based on our lineup who has the most potential to sit in with various bands on board. We also try to diversify with genres & instruments to help round out the overall musicianship on board.
HT: How soon after JC8 did you start figuring out the lineup for JC9?
JM: We started figuring out the JC9 lineup WAY before we set sail on JC8!
HT: Of all the Jam Cruises, what are a few of your favorite moments of all-time?
That’s such an easy question – there are three…
I already mentioned one of them above…the moment Nigel Hall brought me on stage and sang into my soul on Jam Cruise 8.
Jam Cruise 4: Each year, our resident live artist, Lebo, creates beautiful paintings during numerous shows. One of them was of Les Claypool, who just so happens to be one of my favorite musicians of all time. I remember saying to my boss, Mark Brown, “I wish I could afford one of those paintings some day.” Fast forward to the awards show on the last night. I was helping to emcee when Marc Brownstein grabs the mic and says, “We’ve got a special award for you, Annabel” and Mark Brown, Lebo and Captain Toast proceed to walk on stage with a Lebo of Les Claypool signed by the band and presented it to me while thanking me for all my hard work and undying love for Jam Cruise. I was beyond humbled by Mark’s generosity, thoughtfulness and true appreciation. Still to this day, that piece lives prominently on my wall and it’s one of my favorite stories to tell people when they look at it.
Jam Cruise 5: The theme night of the last night was Pirate Night. While dressing up in my head-to-toe costume, I turned to my boyfriend, Peter and asked if he was going to dress up too. “I don’t want to be a pirate, sorry,” he said. So off I went in a silly outfit to seize the evening. Most of my days on board Jam Cruise are stupendous, flowing with ease and comfort despite being so busy. On this particular day, I was stressed, a bit pissed off and extremely tired. Plus, I was dressed as a pirate. The Disco Biscuits were setting up their instruments while we started the awards show. I felt like I was getting in the way. I was trying to put on a happy face but it was challenging. I noticed Peter in the crowd looking nice in a white button down shirt. I thought to myself how handsome he was. After about 5 awards were given to our passengers, Marc Brownstein once again grabs the mic and says, “We have another painting to give you, Annabel, this time we are going to blindfold you.” I was thinking to myself, “Come ON! I don’t want another painting, put the focus on someone else this year, ok? I need a nap!”
They blindfolded me, I couldn’t see anything. The next thing that happened was the most shocking moment of my life….I hear Peter saying, “Ok, baby, be my partner?” I take the blindfold off and PETER WAS ON HIS KNEE PROPOSING TO ME IN FRONT OF 500 PEOPLE! CAMERAS, LIGHTS, KARL DENSON AND MY BEST FRIENDS IN THE FRONT ROW WERE ALL EYES ON ME and THERE I am in a pirates outfit with tears in my eyes shaking because I was so clueless about any of the plans. I PRIDE myself of knowing all plans at all times. Peter, Mark Brown, and many others were in on the best and biggest secret possible. I love Jam Cruise for this reason and countless others.
[Photo by Dave Vann]
HT: Why did you pick this specific itinerary for JC9?
JM: At the end of each cruise, we survey our passengers and ask them which ports they would like to visit on the next adventure. We take their suggestions and bring them to the cruise ship. Then we come up with an itinerary that works for everyone!
HT: If you could share one piece of advice with first-time cruisers, what would it be?
JM: The people that you meet on Jam Cruise are some of the most friendly, kind and amazing people on the planet. For all you first timers out there, just know that the people you are about to meet are likely to become your best friends. Take time to meet your neighbors. Say hi to a stranger. You never know who you might be in the elevator with, or who could be sitting next to you at dinner, or filling up their water bottle as you wait to get to the next show.
And above all, get ready to have the time of your life!
Jam Cruise 9 runs from January 4 to January 9 and visits Roatan, Honduras and Costa Maya, Mexico. A few cabins are still available. Be sure to visit jamcruise.com for more details on this incredible adventure.