This was my second Jam Cruise. Two years ago, our band got voted on to the boat for Jam Cruise 8. This year they invited me to play as a solo performer. 5 days and nights on a luxury liner with with my girlfriend in a cabin that had a balcony off the side of the boat. 3,000 raging party-goers, five stages, maybe 35 bands with about a zillion musicians who would blow my mind.
It’s hard to fit it all into words, it’s actually impossible. I remember one of my favorite little personal moments of the trip was in the artist’s lounge/wine bar on the seventh floor near the jam room. The room was nearly empty (it usually is), but in the corner sat Bill Kreutzman of the Grateful Dead giving an interview alongside Papa Mali. Kreutzman told a funny story about how he was a little nervous when he was going to be playing with George Porter Jr. but when he showed up for their first gig together, George was already there, setting up Bill’s drums for him. I turned to head out of the lounge when the interview was over and there at the piano in the same room was Nigel Hall going over a tune with Living Color’s Corey Glover.
Just waiting in the artist/staff line to get on to the boat is enough to make any fan of the jam world’s head spin. We made room in the aisle where Neal Evans caught up with Karl Denson in front of us. When the line started to move, we passed Marco Benevento sitting to the side with his wife and beautiful kids. Met Raul from Ozomatli for the first time. Said hello to Anders Osborne and to George Porter and met George’s wife. Chatted with Robert Mercurio from Galactic. Slapped hands with Trombone Shorty’s guys.
My intention is not to name-drop here. I’m just saying this was THE FIRST 30 MINUTES OF GETTING THERE, WAITING TO GET ON THE BOAT. I was like:
“Holy shit there are some talented people getting on to this boat right now. If a terrorist blew up this building there would be no jamming in the United States for the next two decades.”
And that, by far is the overwhelming force of jam cruise: the music. This sounds obvious, but bear in mind, you’re on a enormous cruise ship with 15 floors, restaurants, bars, lounges, a spa, a mini-golf course, a disco. You’re cruising into the Caribbean Sea making stops in Haiti and Jamaica… believe me there is plenty of other stimulation to go around! But the tidal wave of music on this thing just trumps it all.
I think Eric Krasno is a genius. Beyond his musicianship, beyond his guitar playing, I tend to think that he’s this kind of special connector point for a ton of music and musicians coming together. It’s hard to imagine the jam scene without him. And it’s a testament to his vision of music that what he does is not really “jam band” (whatever that means anymore) in the first place. I will say on that note, he sounds better than ever. Dude is RIPPING, not to mention he had some beautiful, sublime quieter moments during Soulive’s theater set. And watching him at work in his home studio a few months ago, it’s clear that he understands the ins and outs of tunes as well as anyone out there. Breathes music.
Speaking of Krasno… Lettuce must be the sickest funk/soul band on the planet. It’s just hard to imagine it getting much better. Adam Deitch is a special drummer. They’re all special players.
Mike Dillon has moved into my “favorite musicians on the planet” category.
Here are my favorite musical moments/sets from Jam Cruise X:
- Anders Osborne doing the original Paul Pena version of “Jet Airliner” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cjr5U7g6aiA with Galactic and Corey Glover on the pool deck at night.
- Keller and the Keels in the theater. This one surprised me. Jaw-dropping picking and fun, fun, fun.
- Soulive in the theater. The early originals, the Beatles tunes, and for me, the crusher: D’Angelo’s Untitled (How Does it Feel), which got quiet and sublimely beautiful.
- Dead Kenny G’s late night in the Zebra Lounge. Mike Dillon and Skerik taking you to hell and back with sit-ins from Stanton Moore and Brad Barr. Mind blowing musical genius with punk rock energy.
- Toots and the Maytals on the pool deck in the sun. 54-46 into a gospel jam out in the breeze with frozen drinks as we leave Jamaica? Yes please.
And my own musical moments:
- Sitting in with Galactic for “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.”
- Playing tunes at “The Spot” with Nathan Moore, Brad Barr, and others. Great blog about this by Scotty Bernstein: http://www.glidemagazine.com/hiddentrack/jc10-journal-on-the-16-of-every-hour-final-night-at-the-spot/
- Singing “Love Rears It’s Ugly Head” with Living Colour’s Corey Glover and Galactic. Total dream come true for me. I used to listen to that song over and over in my Walkman in the backseat of my parents car as they drove. Cut to Jam Cruise 2012 and Corey’s got his arm around my neck and we’re singing it together on stage.
- Watching the end of Trombone Shorty’s set from the back of the stage on the pool deck. People in the crowd singing the words that I wrote to “Something Beautiful” while Troy performed it. I got tears in my eyes.
- Playing a set on the pool deck with the crowd yelling either “Polo!” or “Benevento!” every time I yelled “Marco!”
- Serenading the good folks of Positive Legacy in the fine dining restaurant. When I played “Don’t Worry Be Happy,” even the waiters started singing and dancing.
I also sang “Pumped Up Kicks” on stage with Toubab Krewe but it wasn’t my finest work. Still, an honor to sit in with that band.
I leave tomorrow for a tour that will take me on another cruise: Cayamo. WAY, way different then Jam Cruise by all accounts and I am blessed to be able to do both. Ironically, we will have the full band. This one is a songwriter cruise: Lyle Lovett, John Prine, John Hiatt, Richard Thompson, Lucinda Williams, Greg Brown, many others. More about the listening than the dancing and raging. Still, I am psyched to throw down with the guys and I will be sure to blog about it.