It’s hard for me to even believe I’ll be on another music cruise Sunday…I guess that’s why I’ve yet to blog about it! Is it real?! It is…
7 days of some of the greatest folk music I could ever ask for is ahead of me. These are just a few of the artists performing…the acts I’m most excited to see:
Loudon Wainwright III
The Civil Wars
The Belle Brigade
I’m VERY interested to see how this cruise compares to Jam Cruise. I have a feeling it could be a mighty bit different. We’ll be sitting and listening to the words of these tunes…and the stories from these amazing songwriters. The performances end not too long after midnight, and maybe I’m wrong but I think I may actually get some sleep!
Just 3 days till another musical adventure on the open water…I’ll be blogging as much as I can, so ‘stay tuned’!
It seems impossible to even wrap my mind around all that I experienced on Jam Cruise, so it’s definitely not easy to wrap it up in a single blog post. But I have to move on from the experience at some point (on my blog at least). So I’ll try to express how special this cruise really is.
Any cruise is special. If you’ve been on one of these luxury ships, you know…the cabins, the lounges, the restaurants, the theatre, the bars, the pool deck, the spa, the VIEW – the MSC Poesia was certainly a nice place to stay for a few days! So imagine this ship (pictured above), and add 30 or so amazing musical acts and 3,000 cruisers ready to party. Now imagine there are about 75 scheduled performances in 6 different ‘venues’ on the ship all over the course of just 5 days. Jam Cruise is basically a huge music festival ON A CRUISE SHIP. Sounds fun, right?
But what REALLY sets this event apart from others is the fact that musicians and fans are experiencing the whole thing together. When I took my first ride in the elevator on night one, it was with George Porter Jr. and his wife. For my first meal on board, I sat behind Marco Benevento and his family (really cute kids!). And when I went into the gym to work out, I saw Brad Barr coming out of the sauna in a towel. These interactions add a sort of surreal feeling to it all. But what’s really special about everyone being ‘stuck’ on a boat together, is that musical magic is bound to happen. Over and over and over again. And fans and musicians alike are WOWed.
Surprise sit ins, jams, impromptu performances, unexpected covers, rogue sets all over the boat…and all night long. Nobody wants to miss these magical moments, so sleeping is not a priority. Theme nights encourage creative costumes, so everyone dresses however the hell they want! The energy on board is heightened, the attitude in general is extremely positive, and oh yea, it’s 75 degrees and sunny. Put that in a ship and sail it…Jam Cruise is really like nothing else out there. Everyone leaves thinking – did that just happen? And… it did!
Before his band began to play in the Zebra bar, Surprise Me Mr. Davis front man Nathan Moore said to the crowd, “It’s not every day you start your set at 2am…usually they’re kicking your butt out at that time.” Nothing on Jam Cruise is the usual, and this eclectic super group is another example of just that. I should mention – although I said ‘crowd’, there couldn’t have been more than 50 people gathered in front of the stage for this set; it was a light crowd for Jam Cruise. But what was evident (and telling) were the amount of musicians in the audience.
SMMD consists of The Slip, Nathan Moore, and Marco Benevento. The distinctive differences in these three acts make the scope of their collective sound practically limitless. There were songs during their late night set that could be described simply as folk…others were rock…while most tunes could not be neatly classified. While it’s difficult to describe the music, it’s easy to say that this band is even better than the sum of its parts.
With very few acts on Jam Cruise focused on ‘the song’ (it’s called JAM cruise for a reason), it was a breath of fresh air to hear brilliant lyrics and vocals from Nathan Moore. With the backing of such solid musicians and a bond of friendship clearly guiding their tight sound, SMMD delighted many cruisers who appreciated their skill for crafting a song.
Surprise Me Mr. Davis
I’m off the ship and home from Jam Cruise, but my mind is still wrapping itself around all that I saw and heard on board. Soulive’s theatre set was one of my favorites of the whole week. The three-piece consists of brothers Alan and Neal Evans on drums and keys respectively and Eric Krasno on guitar. It’s all instrumental, and it’s some of the smoothest and funkiest sounding soul and jazz I’ve ever heard.
Soulive put out an album of Beatles covers in 2010, and I was delighted that they incorporated many of those into their set. They did “Come Together” and “Eleanor Rigby” brilliantly…and played a powerful, building version of “I Want You” with “Tomorrow Never Knows” stuck in the middle of it. There was something very classy about their renditions…I think any Beatles fan would’ve been proud.
What struck me about this music was that I was pulled in and captivated by the songs even with no lyrics to grab me. And usually with any instrumental music, I expect to be dancing like crazy, but this was something else…a different kind of groovy that I really enjoyed just sitting and watching. My attention was held by the true talent and soul dripping from every note.
After a day in Jamaica yesterday, what could’ve been better than a little reggae music? And not just any reggae…classic songs we know and love from a legendary band like Toots and the Maytals! It was a special set, for sure.
The music lovers on board Jam cruise aren’t really the type to clap along to the music or shout “Amen!” and “Hallelujah!”, but that’s exactly what they were doing during this performance. There’s something so contagiously fun about really good reggae music and yet so relaxing at the same time.
That chillllll, happy vibe was the perfect soundtrack as the warm Caribbean wind whirled around us outside on the pool deck and the sun lit up the passing clouds pink and peach. As the band started up “54-46 Was My Number”, I think inside we all said one of many thank yous for this amazing musical adventure.
Toots & the Maytals
I honestly might not have checked out this band had my good friend not suggested it. He said I should bring my dancing shoes and be prepared for them to put on a hell of a show. Well he was certainly right on! This band is the epitome of HIGH ENERGY. Aside from the drummer, each band member is a multi instrumentalist who also sings. Throughout the set, each singer took a turn on lead vocals and got the crowd riled up in their own way…with call and response and LIVELY dance moves! There were even times when the whole band would dance in unison, getting the crowd to move along wth them.
Despite the mid day dip of energy among the cruisers, it seemed like everyone who decided to take a quick listen to Ozomatli was pulled in and had no choice but to stay and dance. Even those who weren’t up for dancing were moving in some way…it was impossible not to feed off the energetic performance of the band not to mention their fast paced, world music sound. Check these guys out live if you ever get the chance! I’m looking forward to another set from them in the theatre tonight.
This was probably one of the acts I was most looking forward to on Jam Cruise. If you read my blog or listen to my radio station, you probably know that JAM music isn’t necessarily my genre of choice. A singer/songwriter like Bruce Hornsby is more up my alley…and when you add in his noisemakin’ band, I’m totally in. I was excited to see how Hornsby would adapt to being on a ship full of jam bands…and the truth is, he didn’t have to! His band was incredibly tight and at times very funky. Plus, special guests like George Porter on bass and Ivan Neville on piano created even more of a jam on stage and therefore a buzz in the audience.
During his set, Hornsby would definitely take the pace down and even play solo for a bit, but the tunes would always build up…with other band members joining in, creating a full sound and getting the crowd amped! I was struck by how much of a commanding presence he had up there…at times it even seemed liked he was conducting an orchestra, motioning to the band and cuing them to follow his lead.
A friend of mine asked how many people showed up for this performance, and said he was a little confused as to who on Jam Cruise was a fan of Bruce Hornsby. Of course I told him he was looking at one :) but I also think any music lover can appreciate a pro like Hornsby (and of course his kickin’ band), and a lot of them DID out on the pool deck during this performance, possibly to their surprise.
After yesterday’s sail away party and a night FILLED with music, I think a lot of first time Jam Cruisers and veterans alike were feeling groggy this morning. It’s not easy to get your sea legs and adjust to the late night schedule on day 1. So the start of day 2 today was a slow one. At close to 2pm on the Pool Deck stage, Keller & the Keels made the sun seem even brighter with their infectious bluegrass music. This trio provided the perfect soundtrack to the beautiful sunny day and delighted with covers of well-known tunes that made everyone smile and sing along. It’s no surprise that Keller Williams brings some comedy into this act, and the trio creates a kind of breath of fresh air with their unique music…music that most importantly, you can shake a leg to!
Keller & the Keels
Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers – “Prairie Dog Town”
A while back, I saw Bruce Hornsby at the Cape Cod Melody tent. He was at the piano, and he wowed me with his beautiful playing of course… but I had no idea that he had a funkier side with his band the Noisemakers. I remember when I first heard this single, I was shocked! I assume we’ll be seeing this funky side of Bruce Hornsby on Jam Cruise, and I can’t wait! It all starts TOMORROW!
Bruce Hornsby & the Noisemakers
Keller & the Keels – “Don’t Cuss The Fiddle”
I’ve seen Keller Williams before and I do enjoy his one man band show…but I’m REALLY excited to see him play with Larry and Jenny Keels on Jam Cruise. Their sophomore release as Keller & the Keels, Thief, has 13 unconventional bluegrass covers that really are a lot of fun. I can imagine they’ll be a blast to see live! Here they perform an old Kris Kristofferson tune:
Keller & the Keels