Yes, I totally owe the readers a recap of the second half of Day Four on Jam Cruise 9 as well as the grand finale on Saturday, but before I go all newsy on ya, I wanted to tell the tale of my Jam Cruise performance debut.
[Photo by Tiny Rager]
At the start of the trip, one of the sets I was most excited to see was Brock Butler’s collaboration with DJ Wade “Wyllys” Wilby on the small Solar Stage at 5PM on the final day of the trip. Wyllys and Butler had teamed up back in October for a pair of gigs in the Southeast under the name AMBIENt, which gave Brock the opportunity to add textures to Wade’s music instead of the shredding that tends to happen during Perpetual Groove shows.
Wade, a Hidden Track contributor and one of my BFFs, told me about an idea he had for the Wyllys/Butler set in which he’d call up to the stage a number of friends he’d met through the music of Phish to sing backup on one of that band’s early songs, Sanity. Wilby asked me to help round up some of our friends and bring them to his room at 1PM on the day of his set with Brock.
READ ON for more on my Jam Cruise debut…
When I told my fellow background singers, The Joker of Coventry and Chris Cartelli of Newton Crosby, about Wade’s idea they were excited and more than willing to help. Of course, the three of us along with Wilby were in attendance at Brock Butler’s soon-to-be-legendary “trifecta” completing sunrise set from 5:30AM to 7:30AM the morning of the day our performance was set to go down. I had asked Wade at about 7:35, as the delirium was setting in, if we were still meeting at 1PM (a little more than four hours later) and in typical Wilby fashion he said “fuck, yes.”
After appointing myself road manager, I made sure all of us gathered in Wade’s room the next afternoon at 1 to rehearse. While Joker, Cartelli and I got our legs under us, Wyllys ran through a few tunes with Umphrey’s McGee keyboardist Joel Cummins. It was interesting to see how little Cummins needed to hear of the tracks he’d be sitting in on to feel comfortable enough to perform with Wade and Brock during their set.
[Brock Reps Awesometown via Wristband, Photo by JRapp]
Now, at first the background singers were just going to sing the “Boom and Pows” from Sanity behind Wyllys and Butler, but somewhere along the path it was decided that the trio of us would also add the vocals that followed each line of the verses. We ran through Sanity about four times and we sounded better with each pass. Don’t get me wrong, we’d probably be gonged if it was the Gong Show, but as Wade explained, our appearance wasn’t about blowing people’s minds with our musicality, it was more about showing the bonds of friendship that developed around our love of Phish and how that led us to where we were today – about to perform on Jam Cruise 9.
With each passing hour, the butterflies in my stomach became more intense. I’d only been on stage a few times in my life and didn’t want to let Wade and Brock down. A few fruity drinks later, I was primed and ready for my Jam Cruise performance debut.
The set started with a few down-tempo songs spun by Wyllys. Brock used his delay and loop pedals to add layers of melody to the delicious mix. Jam Cruisers gathered around the outdoor stage with some dancing, some lounging on chaise lounges and others simply sitting and bouncing their heads to the music. As the set progressed, so did the tempo and the number of folks dancing and grooving. Cummins came out about 15 minutes into the set and worked one melodic synth riff after another into the Wyllys/Brock stew.
[Waiting For My Big Moment in HT t-shirt, Photo by JRapp]
By the time Wyllys called the three of us up to the stage, there were hundreds of cruisers gathered ’round including JoJo Hermann of Widespread Panic – no pressure. Wade had us come up during his next to last song and we wound up having a secondary role as backup dancers for the five minutes before the tune finally finished. I didn’t want to make eye contact with anyone so I just watched the Seahawks/Saints game on the big screen setup on one side of the Pool Deck as I bopped and grooved.
Wyllys told the story of how we all met and got a huge response when the word Phish came out of his mouth. He also made sure to add a “fuck the haters” before hopping behind the kit and starting Sanity. Wade sang the words and played drums while Brock provided the licks Trey Anastasio originally wrote. Once the sound crew got our mics working, Joker, Cartelli and I delivered our part.
I’m not exactly sure how it sounded (and I’m almost scared to hear the results) but I had a blast. Getting to perform with one of my besties and one of my favorite musicians was the icing on the best cake I’ve ever had. Everyone’s a star on Jam Cruise 9, not just the performers on the lineup.