Jam Cruise 18 set sail from Miami, FL on Tuesday evening for a five-day voyage aboard the MSC Divina. After a stop today, Wednesday, January 8th, at Ocean Cay, a private island in the Bahamas, Jam Cruise will continue toward Mexico for a port stop in Costa Maya on Friday, January 10th before returning to Miami on Sunday, January 12th.
After some production delays pushed the start of the festivities by roughly 90 minutes, Jam Cruisers were primed and ready for a funky, psychedelic day one featuring performances by The Claypool Lennon Delirium, Les Claypool’s Bastard Jazz, Lettuce, Dumpstaphunk (with surprise guests The Soul Rebels), Robert Walter, Kitchen Dwellers, Mihali, Lotus (featuring a sit-in by Cory Wong), Turkuaz, Ghost-Note, Joe Hertler & The Rainbow Seekers, Maddy O’Neal, and more, as well as a Jazz Lounge set led by Steve Kimock and a late-night Jam Room session run by Jam Cruise lifer George Porter Jr. of The Meters fame.
With several sets running simultaneously throughout most of the night, it was impossible to catch everything that went down onstage on the Divina. Here are just a few of the most memorable moments from the first day of Jam Cruise 18. (You can also head to Live For Live Music‘s Instagram and Instagram stories to follow along in real-time).
Anticipation Primes The Divina For An Explosive Lettuce Kickoff
Over the course of Tuesday afternoon, Jam Cruisers filed onto the MSC Divina and began to get acclimated to this year’s vessel. By the scheduled departure time of 7 p.m., the masses flooded the upper deck in preparation of a sail-away set with Grammy-nominated funk outfit Lettuce. However, production delays stalled the ship’s departure and with it, the music schedule. Before the night’s music lineup began, all of the Pool Deck sets were pushed back by 90 minutes, while all the sets in the Pantheon Theater were delayed by an hour. Kiss those nice, organized schedule laminates goodbye—they won’t help you tonight. Day one, freestyling it.
As game-ready Jam Cruisers passed those first ninety minutes without music, you could feel the anticipation on the boat mount to heights unusual for (pre-)day one. The potential energy stored during the wait time exploded as soon as Lettuce finally hit the stage. While the day one sail-away set is often a more relaxed affair—catching up with old friends and taking in the surroundings as you push off into the sunset—both the crowd and the band were ready to dispense with the pleasantries and commence with the funk as soon as they got the green light. The result? An all-out, mid-cruise form party atmosphere from the very first notes. Jam Cruise 18 is off to the races.
The Claypool Lennon Delirium Delivers “The Eerie Portion Of The Program” On The Pool Deck
Les Claypool, Sean Lennon and company only had one night on the boat before disembarking in the Bahamas today, but they made sure to make it count. Early in the evening, Les and Sean conducted a light-hearted, characteristically amusing Q&A session for curious Jam Cruisers at the Black Crab. Close to 11:00 p.m., The Delirium took to the Pool Deck for a fantastic set that ran the gamut of emotions from happy rainbow colors to haunting soundscapes and everything in between. With Claypool providing his famously complex and tonally unique “lead bass” stylings and Lennon adding billowing psychedelic texture on guitar, the band worked through a number of songs from their two full-length LPs (2019’s South of Reality and 2016’s Monolith of Phobos) as well as some choice selections from Claypool’s Primus catalog. They also broke out one of the covers they recorded for their 2017 Lime & Limpid Green EP, King Crimson‘s “The Court of the Crimson King”, with appropriate regality.
All the while, Les Claypool and Sean Lennon (a.k.a. Shiner Lemmon) inserted their prankster banter between songs, informing us that the “eeeeeeerie portion of the program” was actually just necessary runoff from Primus’ recent stint on tour with Slayer and riffing with particularly vocal members of the crowd about the one cruise that’s (allegedly) wilder than Jam Cruise: Swinger Cruise. The requisite dirty jokes ensued.
Turkuaz Brings ‘Kuadrochrome’ To Jam Cruise
Brooklyn-based nine-piece funk outfit Turkuaz has become a staple on Jam Cruise. This year, however, a new-look Turkuaz boarded the MSC Divina. With the colors in the rearview and the Kuadrochrome era in full effect, fans buzzed with excitement ahead of the band’s Pool Deck set on night one. For those Turkuaz diehards still not sold on the new direction, take our word: While the color palette onstage may be a bit more muted now, the new live show is everything you love about Turkuaz taken to dramatic new levels. The band is red-hot, the new material feels unique yet familiar (in true Turkuaz fashion). Even as they prepare to hit a slew of high profile festivals as the backing band for Talking Heads‘ Adrian Belew and Jerry Harrison‘s Remain In Light 40th-anniversary tour, Turkuaz continues to show off their own creative evolution in bold new ways. 2020 is shaping up to be a big year for Kuadrochrome-era Turkuaz. But before we look too far into the coming year and the untold surprises it holds, we’ve still got Friday’s Turkuaz & Friends Mystery Album set in the Pantheon Theater to look forward to. We hear it’s a good one…
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Les Claypool’s Bastard Jazz: Some Serious Sh*t
An easy highlight of 2019’s New Orleans Jazz Fest after dark festivities, Les Claypool’s Bastard Jazz—comprised of Claypool, saxophonist Skerik, melodic percussionist Mike Dillon, and drummer Stanton Moore (Galactic)—reformed on day one of Jam Cruise 18 for a late-night session in the Pantheon Theater. The free-form set of dark, deranged improvisation made good on the hype from Jazz Fest, leaving jaws on the floor and Jam Cruisers stumbling out of the venue with scrambled brains by the time they finished. This music was not for the faint of heart.
With years of experience playing together in various projects, Claypool, Skerik, and Dillon adeptly built off each other’s out-there ideas throughout the set, coaxing the Bastard Jazz deeper and deeper into madness. The mighty Stanton Moore served as the anchor, a tight rhythmic foundation for Les, Mike, and Skerik’s deranged musical tangents. While performances by this project will likely remain a rare occurrence, you can bet we’ll be there if they ever happen to come together again.
Ghost-Note Goes Late On The Pool Deck
Funk-fusion collective Ghost-Note, initially scheduled to hit the Pool Deck for a 2:15 a.m. late-night set, caught the brunt of the initial delays. By the time they finally took the stage, it was after 4 a.m.—well past the time when Pool Deck programming was supposed to be over. The Robert Sput Searight and Nate Werth-led band of world-class musicians braved the swirling top deck winds to keep the party going past 5 a.m. with their eclectic blend funk, jazz, hip-hop, and more. What other band can groove with James Brown swagger one second and slide into an airy, three-flute interlude the next?
Sput was, as always, the consummate emcee, “playing” the band like an instrument as he led them through the breaks and changes. He even used some wind-inflicted sound issues to the band’s advantage, segueing smoothly from vocal exchanges with the front of house team into chill-inducing, full band count-offs. This band is beyond tight, and their set at the Black & White Lounge on Thursday (and Sput’s Jam Room session tonight) are circled in red marker on our schedules for the week.
George Porter Jr. Holds Down The Jam Room
George Porter Jr. is a fixture on Jam Cruise, and his late-night Jam Room sessions consistently offer some of the finest off-the-cuff collabs of the event—like Frenchmen Street on the high seas. While we didn’t get to spend as much time as we would have liked at George’s Jam Room, we did get to catch him play and growl his way through a couple of The Meters classics like “He Bite Me (The Dragon)” and “I Need More Time” with a rotating cast of supporting musicians including Nikki Glaspie (The Nth Power), Ian Neville, Ivan Neville, Eric McFadden, and more.
Check back tomorrow for more coverage from aboard Jam Cruise 18, and don’t forget to tune into Live For Live Music’s Instagram stories to follow the action in real-time.