Greetings from just off the coast of Cuba, my friends. We’ve awoke to another gorgeous day of weather on the high seas as we motor back to Fort Lauderdale. Everyone seems surprisingly alert for Day Five of this marathon adventure and we’ve got an intense day and night ahead that leads into the dreaded disembarkation calls over the PA at 7AM tomorrow morning.
I think we’re at the point in the trip, where I can officially declare Jam Cruise 9 better than last year’s event on a musical level. While the “mindblown” factor of my first trip can never be duplicated, the artists on JC9 have all put together amazing sit-ins and action packed sets. No one wants to be “that band” or “that guy” who plays a bad show. Trust me, word spreads fast on this boat.
When I first looked at the schedule, I thought yesterday might be my least favorite of the five days. Yet, Friday turned out to crush. We were docked in Costa Maya, Mexico from 8AM to 3PM and I’d love to tell you all about it, but I took that opportunity to sleep. Zs are at a premium with “once-in-a-lifetime” collaborations likely to bust out at any time. I heard great stories of those who either went to the beach, took part in the Positive Legacy excursion, visited the Mayan Ruins or made their own adventure.
Jam Cruise is all about making your own adventure. Each attendee has a completely different experience and trading tales the next day is part of the fun. My day started with Rock Star Karoake featuring ALO. This California band is near the top of the list of acts who left a big impression on me. Not only are their originals funky and boogie-fueled without being trite, but they can also handle cover tunes with the best of ‘em.
READ ON on for more of Part 1 of Day 4 of Jam Cruise.
Rock Star Karoake allows fans to sing or perform with ALO and David Gans on the theater’s stage. Anyone interest in participating could pick a cover off a list and put their name into a hat to be picked by Activities Guru Seth Weiner. I caught five songs and four of the cruisers killed it. One lady poured her heart into one of the more soulful Beast of Burdens these ears have ever heard. Another fine female vocalist delivered a sassy rendition of Use Me. The gentleman who sang Psycho Killer will not be the next American Idol.
I had the pleasure of sitting with Cruise Director Annabel “Julie McCoy” Lukins as Weiner announced that her husband, Peter, would be singing All Along The Watchtower. Peter’s got some pipes and the look of surprise and excitement on Annabel’s face was priceless.
Directly after Rock Star Karoake, Taylor Hicks hosted the Gong Show in the theater, which was hilarious. Most contestants were gonged after getting heckled relentless by the audience. Judges included Jennifer Hartswick, Ron Johnson and Skerik, all of whom were extremely tough on those singing or performing. Hicks continued to embrace the Jam Cruise Experience on Day Four by performing a short set for those eating lunch in the cafeteria and by consoling the dejected contestants after they were gonged.
At 7:30PM, JoJo Hermann of Widespread Panic sat at the piano in the atrium for a 45-minute set that featured an instrumental Tipitina and a raucous singalong version of JJ Cale’s Ride Me High. JoJo sang and played unamplified, so in those situations you need the crowd to cooperate by piping down. Unfortunately, those who came to the set thought it was more important to chat with their friends than to listen to JoJo. One of the few bummers of JC9.
God Street Wine wasn’t exactly known for bringing guests up during their heyday in the ’90s. I’m really glad that the guys embraced the sit-in spirit and welcomed Anders Osborne, Anders Beck (Greensky Bluegrass) and Leo Nocentelli of The Meters up to the stage during GSW’s two-hour Pool Deck set. The group rolled through a number of classic tunes with girls’ names in the title such as Molly, Goodnight Gretchen, Imogene and Wendy. Nocentelli mixed impressive rhythm work with brash solos during the jam out of The Other Shore and Fourth of July.
Osborne and GSW guitarist Aaron Maxwell traded intense slide licks on the aforementioned Goodnight Gretchen before Beck added tasteful dobro work to Epilog. We thought Get On The Train – which featured dueling Anderses (is that the plural of Anders?) – would be the last song of the night, but GSW fitting ended the last gig on their schedule for the foreseeable future with Into The Sea.
While God Street rocked the Pool Deck, Karl D. was turning his KDTU set into a super jam. An epic version of Maggot Brain featured Big Sam, Taylor Hicks, Leo Nocentelli and Ivan Neville coming out one by one to shred a solo before ducking back off stage. Later, Jennifer Hartswick and Fred Wesley paired out to form a mini-horn section and Mike Dillion (check spelling please :)) added percussion fuel to the KDTU fire. The Easy Allstars set also contained a sit-in with Big Sam throwing his powerful trombone skills into the mix.
That brings you through the prime time sets of Day Four. Tune in tomorrow (hopefully) for the tale of dueling sunrise sets and how Brock Butler pulled off a trifecta.