Jam Cruise 18 set sail from Miami, FL on Tuesday evening for a five-day voyage aboard the MSC Divina. The ship spent the early hours of Wednesday, January 9th docked at Ocean Cay, a private island in the Bahamas, before pushing off for a day at sea en route to a port stop in Costa Maya, Mexico on Friday, January 10th. Jam Cruise will pull back into the Port of Miami on Sunday morning, but before that, we have plenty more music to enjoy.
On Wednesday, Jam Cruisers returned to the ship from their beach trip for another marathon day of music featuring sets by Keller Williams’ Grateful Grass, Chali 2na & Cut Chemist, Tank and the Bangas, Circles Around The Sun, Ivan Neville, Cory Wong, moe., Steve Poltz, Galactic, Robert Walter’s 20th Congress, Thumpasaurus, Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, OG Garage A Trois, Luke The Knife, and more in addition to a guest-filled late-night “purple” session in the Jam Room led by Robert Sput Searight and his Ghost-Note brethren. The spirits were also alive and grooving throughout the night as Jam Cruisers got into character for Voodoo Night with skulls, bones, and plenty of other spooky imagery throughout the Divina.
With multiple sets running simultaneously throughout the day, night, and into Thursday morning, it was impossible to catch everything that went down onstage. However, here are just a few of the most memorable moments from the second 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 and check out the highlights from day one here).
Chali 2na & Cut Chemist Turn The Pool Deck Into A Hip-Hop House Party
One of the most highly anticipated sets of Jam Cruise’s second day (for this writer, at least) was Chali 2na and Cut Chemist‘s throwback MC/DJ performance on the Pool Deck just after sunset. When Jam Cruise Director of Artist Programming/emcee Annabel Lukins Stelling stepped onstage to introduce the DJ/MC duo and heralded their act as one of the best live shows she’s ever seen—and she sees a lot of shows—expectations for this set rose even higher.
While stylistically different from virtually the entire rest of the Jam Cruise 18 lineup, Chali 2na and Cut Chemist delivered on Annabel’s promise with a truly memorable performance. The founding Jurassic 5 members passed the spotlight back and forth throughout their 90-minute set as they worked through new collaborations and classic hip-hop cuts by J5 and beyond.
As they did so, Chali 2na and Cut Chemist confirmed why they’re among the best in the game in their respective lanes. From vinyl scratch-assisted call-and-response between the DJ and the rapper to razor-sharp cuts by the Chemist to 2na’s effortless flow and golden voice, the skill, creativity, and loving, longtime-friend rapport between the two men was clearly apparent throughout the show. Between DJ interludes like Cut Chemist’s “and the beat grew more complex” segment, newly added 2na verses on Jurassic 5 classics like “What’s Golden”, stories of them bonding over James Brown records as kids, and even a surprisingly well-received shout-out to late, great producer J Dilla on a rendition of Grandmaster Flash classic “The Message”, Chali 2na and Cut Chemist breathed new life into time-tested tracks to turn the Pool Deck into an old school hip-hop house party.
Learning To Love moe. In The Pantheon Theater
Everyone’s got that one band that, for whatever reason, they’ve never fully been able to get into. For this writer, that band is moe. One friend onboard was determined to bridge that gap when he guided us to the Pantheon Theater to take in the jam veterans’ late-evening performance. Sometimes, it just takes the right situation for it to click…
Standing in the center of the cavernous Pantheon as moe. thundered through two hours of bass-heavy rock n’ roll grooves like “Hi and Low” and “Big World”, I finally had my “getting it” moment with moe. With both Al Schnier and Jim Loughlin rocking theme-appropriate Voodoo regalia, the set reached a high point with a nod to New Orleans in the form of a powerful “House of the Rising Sun” cover.
Following day one and early-day two schedules packed with funk, jazz, and hip-hop and notably light on traditional “jam bands,” moe. showed off some of the most satisfying “jambanding” we’ve seen thus far on Jam Cruise 18. moe.’s Friday evening set on the Pool Deck has some tough competition on the schedule, but after this performance, I’ll be making a point to sneak moe. onto the itinerary.
Ivan Neville Piano Set in The Atrium
Much like the George Porter Jr. Jam Room, Ivan Neville‘s piano set in the Atrium has become a can’t-miss Jam Cruise tradition. After starting with a moving nod to recently departed New Orleans music legends Dr. John and Art “Poppa Funk” Neville, Ivan proceeded to regale the packed Atrium with amusing anecdotes from his years on the road, stories about his first impressions of Dumpstaphunk bandmate Tony Hall as a young kid, and more.
Hall was the first of many artists to join in with Neville, offering subtle harmonies under Ivan’s soulful crooning. As the set wore on, a string of guests from Turkuaz vocalist Shira Elias to Dumpstaphunk drummer Devin Trusclair to guitarist and Neville Jacobs bandmate Cris Jacobs stepped up to get in on the action.
The performance picked up more and more steam as Neville moved through some of his favorite “weird song” selections like Dave Matthews Band‘s “Crash Into Me”, Fleetwood Mac‘s “Landslide”, and Don Henley‘s “The Boys of Summer” as a slew of seemingly unplanned guest artists like Robert Sput Searight, Marcus King, Karl Denson, and more jumped in from the reverent audience. Finally, Neville got the New Orleans family (including Ian Neville and George Porter Jr.) involved on the set’s closing number: a powerful rendition of Jimmy Cliff‘s “Sitting In Limbo”. A word to the wise: If you ever find yourself on Jam Cruise in the future, make certain you’re in the Atrium when Ivan sits down behind that piano.
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@ivanneville’s piano set in the atrium is always so special. Fun sing-alongs like “Crash Into Me”, “Boys of Summer” and “Landslide” with some great guests like @cris_jacobs, #karldenson, @realmarcusking, @sputacular and so many more . #jamcruise #dmb #stevienicks #donhenley #jamcruise #jamcruise18 #liveforlivemusic
It Wasn’t Galactic
New Orleans’ Galactic is a Jam Cruise institution, and the band’s two annual sets onboard serve relatively specific purposes. While their indoor set traditionally closes down the schedule at the Theater on the event’s final day, their Pool Deck set frequently sees them welcome special guests for exciting and unusual covers. Galactic’s Wednesday evening Pool Deck set was no exception: The highlight of the show came when Ryan Montbleau took the stage to sing the Rik Rok vocal part of Shaggy‘s 2000 worldwide smash hit, “It Wasn’t Me”. As he handled the opening vocals admirably, fans couldn’t help but wonder how Montbleau would approach Shaggy’s rapidly rhymed verses. Turns out, he wouldn’t: Instead, the incomparable Chali 2na stormed the stage to round out this surprising but highly entertaining sit-in/cover.
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Schtick, Schmaltz, and Sit-Ins With Benny Bloom In The Jazz Lounge
Lettuce trumpeter Eric Benny Bloom is known by fans as much for his mischievous sense of humor as he is for his horn skills. Less widely known-of are his regular solo jazz sets in his home of New Orleans, where he shows off his classically trained abilities and earnest appreciation for the jazz greats alongside plenty of Bloom-y schmoozing with the audience.
For his Wednesday night Jazz Lounge set, Bloom combined the intimate, jovial nature of his solo jazz sets with the collaborative spirit of Jam Cruise for what was easily among the most entertaining sets of the voyage so far. As shows continued on the two main stages, countless artists from elsewhere on the bill packed the lounge and the side stage areas to get a look at Benny’s performance—always a strong indicator that you’ve made a good choice in that time slot.
With the help of a backing band comprised of bassist Garrett Sayers (The Motet), keyboardist Aron Magner (The Disco Biscuits, SPAGA), and drummer Matt Scarano (SPAGA), Bloom worked through material by jazz greats like Ornette Coleman, Nat King Cole, and more between his tangents of side-splitting banter. He also welcomed a number of those artists in the audience to join the band throughout the set, including Eric Krasno, Marcus King, Mike Dillon, and a veritable army of horns.
These kinds of relaxed, intimate, light-hearted affairs are what Jam Cruise is all about, and the addition of Bloom’s one-of-a-kind sense of humor only served to solidify that status for this Jazz Lounge set. For Cruisers who missed out on all the schmaltz at Benny’s Jazz Lounge set, fear not—the real shenanigans are still to come at his Atrium set on Friday, aptly billed as “Eric Benny Bloom’s Really Tacky Show.”
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@ericbennybloom’s Jazz Lounge sry was a high point of night 2. Equal parts guest-filled musical badassery and Tony Clifton-style schtick… As they say in France, who’s partying? . #ericbennybloom #erickrasno #garrettsayers #lettuce #spaga #aronmagner #mattscarano #jamcruise #jazzlounge #liveforlivemusic
Thumpasaurus Gets Weird At The Brews At Sea Stage
Without a doubt, one of the best parts about events like Jam Cruise is accidentally happening upon a new band you’ve never seen. That’s what many Cruisers experienced on Wednesday night when they popped up to the Pool Deck to find outer space punk/funk outfit Thumpasaurus doing their thing at the deck’s secondary Brews at Sea Stage.
With a unique sound that falls somewhere between Les Claypool and Fishbone and a memorable aesthetic by way of their white and gold “thump suits,” the L.A.-based outfit captivated their relatively small but wholly invested crowd. They also welcomed the Too Many Zooz horns during the set for some added thumpage. This band may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they were the perfect act to happen upon during a busy festival night. We’ll be sure to keep our eyes and ears on Thumpasaurus going forward.
The Sweet Lillies Save The Day With Hip-Hop Americana In The Jazz Lounge
Colorado-based Americana outfit The Sweet Lillies was the new band that turned our heads on last year’s Jam Cruise. While not initially scheduled to perform, The Sweet Lillies were tapped as a last-minute replacement when Jay Starling had to pull out due to health issues. The Lillies took over Starling’s scheduled 9 p.m.–11 p.m. Pickin’ Lounge set with a genre-bending Americana hip-hop set featuring creative mashups of choice cuts like Salt-N-Peppa‘s “None of Your Business”, Beastie Boys‘ “Intergalactic”, Run-D.M.C.‘s “It’s Tricky”, the Ludacris verse from Usher‘s “Yeah”, and more. Most people wouldn’t endeavor to play hip-hop songs on acoustic stringed instruments, let alone learn enough of them to fill out a last-minute Americana hip-hop show. That commitment to putting a creative spin on familiar sounds makes The Sweet Lillies a can’t-miss band.
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Sput & The Ghost-Note Crew Gather The Best Of The Best For A “Purple” Jam Cruise Session
Since the schedule came out, we’ve had our eyes on Robert Sput Searight‘s Wednesday night Jam Room set. With his entire Ghost-Note squad onboard and a notably wide-ranging musical network beyond them both on and off the boat, the late-night session seemed destined to be one of the jams of the week. Close to 3 a.m., Sput took the stage along with the rest of Ghost-Note as the house band and informed the crowd that this would be a “Purple” Jam Room session. As you may or may not know, the pedigree of Prince is well-represented in Ghost-Note: Bassist MonoNeon, baritone saxophonist Sylvester Onyejiaka, and keyboardist Dominique Xavier Taplin all worked with the late artist during his illustrious career.
With Sput serving as the MC, the Ghost-Note crew was assisted on an array of hits and b-sides from across the Prince catalog by a steady stream of guests including Phillip Lassiter (another former Prince collaborator), Marcus King, Cory Wong, Turkuaz’s Michelangelo Carubba, Shira Elias, Sammi Garett, and Craig Brodhead, Lettuce’s Ryan Zoidis, Adam Deitch, and Eric Benny Bloom, The Nth Power’s Nikki Glaspie, Alfreda Gerald, Casey Benjamin, Casey Russell, and more. The spirit of the Purple One loomed large over the Jam Room on night two.
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. You can also check out the highlights from day one here.