On Wednesday, January 17th, Jam Cruise 16 set sail from Miami, beginning a five-day musical excursion that will detour through Central America and the Carribean before returning to port on January 22nd. Yesterday, as the cruise headed for its first destination—Roatan, Honduras—the musical madness kicked into high gear, with a jam-packed “Day At Sea” schedule featuring the likes of Voodoo Dead, Dumpstaphunk, Lettuce, Electron, Medeski Martin Scofield & Wood, Turkuaz, Steel Pulse, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Jeff Chimenti and Steve Kimock, Tom Hamilton, and more.
With three or four sets of music running simultaneously throughout the “Space Is The Place” theme night and into the early morning, it was impossible to catch everything. However, here’s a list of six of our favorite moments from Thursday, day 2, of Jam Cruise 2018. Enjoy, and stay tuned for more coverage from the Norwegian Jade.
1. Voodoo Dead Invites Roosevelt Collier, Jen Hartswick, Tom Hamilton, and Kat Wright
One of the most highly anticipated sets of the evening, Voodoo Dead featuring George Porter Jr., Steve Kimock, Jeff Chimenti, and John Kimock offered up feel-good takes on Grateful Dead tunes with an upbeat, New Orleans flare. While Anders Osborne was originally billed to be part of the lineup, weather delays made him miss the boat and artist-at-large Dan Lebowitz stepped up to fill in. After a touching introduction by Director of Artist Programming Annabel Lukins about how the Grateful Dead paved the way for Jam Cruise to be possible, Voodoo Dead invited out Tom Hamilton and Kat Wright for a rollicking rendition of “Promised Land” to start their set.
Jerry Garcia’s “That’s What Love Will Make You Do” came next, keeping up the start of the set’s jubilance and high energy. One of the many highlights of the set was the third song, “Hey Pocky Way”, which saw Jennifer Hartswick emerge to play trumpet and sing. However, George Porter Jr. stole the spotlight, taking on the vocal leads and offering up an energized, percussive bass solo at the song’s climax. The absolute standout of Voodoo Dead’s headlining set at the Pool Deck on Thursday, however, was the group’s ripping cover of “After Midnight”, which segued flawlessly through The Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” before landing back in the JJ Cale classic. The set closed with a rendition of “Bertha”, which gave Lebowitz, Hamilton, Chimenti, and Kimock each a chance to step forward and solo in between verses sung by Lebowitz and Porter Jr.
2. Electron Shreds Into The A.M.
Originally, Gramatik was scheduled to play Jam Cruise 16. However, after health issues arose following his New Year’s Eve run, the Slovenian DJ and producer was forced to bow out last minute. With Tom Hamilton and Mike Greenfield already on the boat, assembling the beloved supergroup side project Electron was an easy solution to the scheduling gap with the addition of the Disco Biscuits’ Marc Brownstein and Aron Magner, and the group certainly rose to the occasion despite the last-minute scheduling.
The group tore up the Stardust Theater late night for their first appearance. With a time slot from 2:30 am to 4 a.m., the group kept the party going with takes on “Confrontation”, “Rock Candy”, and other choice numbers. Despite only assembling occasionally each year, the quartet was fully dialed in and offered up an energetic set chock full of tight grooves and shred-heavy climaxes.
3. Aqueous Lays Out A Jam-Heavy Four-Song Set
Helping to kick the event into the late night, Aqueous’ performance at the Spinnaker Lounge offered up a master class in the art of the jam, filling the improv quota in a daily schedule leaning heavily into funk offerings. The group made the most of their hour-and-a-half long set, playing through four songs and using each as a launching pad for exploratory and expansive rock-rooted improvisations. From the set opener, “Don’t Do It”, through “Underlyer” and classic number “Warren In The Window”, the band showcased their immense potential and willingness to take risks. However, in keeping with the night’s theme of “Space Is The Place,” it was the group’s set-closing take on The Police’s “Walking On The Moon” featuring tastes of Radiohead’s “National Anthem” that took their performance to the next level.
4. Jennifer Hartswick Takes Over The Jam Room
As the night unfolded into the early hours of the morning, many folks trickled in and out of Jennifer Hartswick’s Jam Room set in the Spinnaker Lounge. Familiar faces like Natalie Cressman, Simon Allen of The New Mastersounds, and Holly Bowling all made appearances when we stopped through. With her immense vocal and trumpet-playing talents on display, Hartwick offered up a choice cover after choice cover including stand-out renditions of Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” and Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone”.
5. Tom Hamilton Welcomes The Disco Biscuits’ Aron Magner And Raina Mullen For Acoustic Atrium Set
While the performances at the larger stages around the boat tend to draw larger crowds, so far the performances at The Atrium have stood out as some of the finest —if not only for the refreshing contrast of stripped-down compositions based around the grand piano. For Tom Hamilton’s solo set yesterday, he invited The Disco Biscuits keyboardist and his Electron bandmate Aron Magner to join him in addition to Raina Mullen, guitarist and vocalist for Hamilton’s recently announced project Ghost Light. The trio’s takes on the Grateful Dead’s “Loser” as well as the first song Hamilton ever wrote, were vibrant, rich, and deeply moving, making it a favorite set of the day.
6. Steel Pulse Rings In The Evening
Yesterday, reggae group Steel Pulse locked down the Pool Deck for a perfectly placed feel-good afternoon set. Sadly, the group got word that the band’s original drummer and founding member Steve “Grizzly” Nisbett had passed away unexpectedly earlier in the day, so their performance took on a particularly special meaning. While still mourning the loss of a former bandmate, Steel Pulse showed that music truly can offer a form of healing, with their positive and feel-good set bringing smiles to the faces of all in attendance. The group’s take on the Grateful Dead’s “Franklin’s Tower” toward the end of their set stood out, as their dubbed-out rendition and sincere vocals took the classic tune and made it their own.
As a bonus, you can also check out clips from Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood and Turkuaz’s Thursday sets aboard Jam Cruise 16 below: