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20 Things You Will Only See On Jam Cruise

LIVE FOR LIVE MUSIC - January 15, 2015

Jam Cruise has more things to see than any one crew can handle, so we teamed up with our friends over at The Mischief Collective to bring you following list of unbelievable, almost indescribable moments we witnessed on Jam Cruise. Be sure to check out their galleries over on Facebook and tag your friends!

*LISTEN AS YOU SCROLL* Lettuce delivered one of their most powerful sets to date on the Pool Deck joined by a plethora of special guests including Cory Henry (Snarky Puppy), Nigel Hall, Ivan Neville, Bobby Deitch (Adam’s dad) and Tychoon (Jesus’s brother).

1. Lettuce vs. Kung Fu Ninja Ping-Pong Battle

When we saw something titled a “Ninja Ping-Pong Battle” between two of our favorite bands, our heads started reeling with the possibilities of interlocking sets, musical ping-pong and ninja battles. When walking down the stairs to the theatre, we heard “Eye of the Tiger” blaring and knew it was a traditional ping-pong battle with some unconventional players.

Those familiar with Adam Deitch know about his insane ping-pong skills, having taken down countless opponents while touring the country with Lettuce and Break Science, including leaving a battle wound on Live For Live Music’s own Kunj Shah. Knowing this, Kung Fu was still keen to take on the funkiest ping-pong battle we’ve ever seen, and ultimately proved to be a strong match for Lettuce… only losing to Lettuce by one point in the end.

2. Artists in Theme Attire

Theme nights on Jam Cruise are a great opportunity for patrons and artists alike to let their freak flags fly, and boy do they fly high. So if you ever want to catch cats like Anders Beck of Greensky Bluegrass in some silvery, sparkly fake eyelashes, you’d better pre-book for next year. On the themeless off nights, you might be able to catch Robert Randolph with a fluffy unicorn on a stick and a Mardi Gras Mask. Not sure if this is a regular occurrence or not, but we really like it.

3. Jam Cruise Bar Mitzvah

Ever been at a Bar Mitzvah with The New Orleans Klezmer All Stars (including members of Galactic) + Mike Dillon + Skerik playing as Marc Brownstein blesses the wine? We have. In honor of Jam Cruise’s 13th year, the boat appropriately celebrated with platters of bagels and lox, a cake, a sign-in board, challah, Manischewitz, yarmulkes, inflatable instruments and so much more. Mazel tov, Jam Cruise!

4. Karl Denson Sit-Ins

With three spots on the schedule, it was inevitable cruisers would be treated to more than a few guests sitting in with Karl D. Luckily, “The Dr.”, Roosevelt Collier sat in for both Tiny Universe performances, adding yet another facet to the powerhouse that is KDTU. We had yet to catch Rosie with Karl, but after hearing great things about their New Years run, we were thrilled that he would join them for the entirety of both sets. Tiny Universe’s other guests included Ivan Neville and Mike Dillon for a rowdy rendition of “You Be ‘Illin” and Cory Henry of Snarky Puppy.’

5. Ryan Montbleau Intimate Beach Set In Mexico

Apart from the usual Positive Legacy show, which was in Roatan, Honduras this year, you can find a few more intimate performances during the port stops, if you know where to go. This year, we found Ryan Montbleau playing at a little beachside restaurant in Costa Maya, Mexico called Nohoch Kay…and we spotted attendees like Jans Ingber of the Motet, Sasha Brown of Sister Sparrow and the Dirty Birds, Tim Carbone of Railroad Earth, and Paul Hoffman and Anders Beck from Greensky Bluegrass. If it weren’t for Jam Cruise…

6. Derek Vincent Smith (Pretty Lights) With The Preservation Hall Jazz Band

Maybe you didn’t know Derek Vincent Smith (Pretty Lights) could play the upright bass. We surely did not. Most people have only seen this world famous producer as the unbelievable Pretty Lights, so it was certainly a surprise to catch him sneak up on stage to lay it down with Preservation Hall Jazz Band on the pool deck in the early afternoon. Pres Hall returned the favor by joining him for the Pretty Lights Live Band Experience in the theatre later on in our Jam Cruise journey.

7. Funk Fiddle

Jans Ingber may have coined the phrase funk fiddle while introducing Tim Carbone during The Motet’s theatre set, but we sure hope the phrase is here to stay. Railroad Earth’s fiddle player brought the theatre down with the funk fiddle, and it was like nothing we’d heard before. While the band’s sail away performance on the pool deck was a perfect start to our time at sea, the theatre set stole our hearts, with the addition of incredible talents like Carbone, Kim Dawson and the undeniable Jennifer Hartswick, plus members of Snarky Puppy.

8. Umphrey’s Sit-Ins

Umphrey’s McGee wanted to leave a lasting impression on the last night of the cruise, so they brought us a landmark set filled with more sit-ins than you can count on both hands. During the first half, they mixed some newer songs in with some old favorites like “Puppet String,” later bringing out Jason Hann of String Cheese Incident, Guarav Malhotra, and Jennifer Hartswick for “Aint No Sunshine.” The boys kept the guests coming during second set and things did not cool down. We certainly hope to be wrong, but it seems Jam Cruise is the only place you’ll ever catch members of Snarky Puppy perform with Umphrey’s McGee. Determined to redeem himself for a previous flop, Marc Brownstein replaced Ryan Stasik for a powerful “In The Kitchen” before Mike Dillon, Jason Hann, Guarav Malhotra, Robert Walter and Carly Meyers all got back on to round out the set with Miles Davis’ “It’s About That Time.”

9. Sister Sparrow Atrium Set

When rain threatened Sister Sparrow’s second set on the boat, you could hear the murmurs of worry throughout the boat. After a crushing first set in the Black & White Lounge, cruisers were eager to get more of the band’s incredible, unique sound. We rejoiced upon hearing the final word that they had been rescheduled for a set in The Atrium, a space usually reserved for piano or acoustic sets. How would this funky rock band sound in this kind of intimate space? Loud, electric and absolutely perfect. How could you not love Arleigh Kincheloe’s take on Queen’s “Fat Bottomed Girls” to close out an absolutely stellar set? Most of people we spoke with ranked this show in their top five sets on the boat.

10. Pickin’ Party – Across the Pond

The Pickin’ Party is always a not-to-miss moment for The Mischief Collective, as it should be for everyone. You can get a taste of this type of magic each night at the “The Spot” outside the Pantheon theater each night, but the Pickin’ Party is where it all comes together. This year the Pickin’ Party featured Paul Hoffman, Anders Beck, Tim Carbone, The Shook Twins, Brad Parsons, and members of Fruition and Elephant Revival. The theme was “Across The Pond,” and the set featured covers like Pink Floyd’s “Time/Breathe”, and “Wonderwall” by Oasis. Anders and Paul even did a take on The Beatles’ “Why Don’t We Do It In The Road,” dedicating it to the couple they had seen getting wild on their balcony the previous night, with the words “Why Don’t We Do It On A Boat.”

11. Ivan Neville Covering DMB’s “Crash Into Me”

Ivan Neville, a Jam Cruise veteran and favorite, hosted another one of those highly coveted atrium piano sets and melted hearts with his cover of Dave Matthews Band’s “Crash Into Me” along with Eric Krasno, Benny Bloom, Weedie Braimah, and Nikki Glaspie. An MSC Divina crew member even sat in on the fiddle! Although no one wanted the song to end, he segued perfectly into Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide.”

12. Elephant Revival with Oteil Burbridge, Shook Twins & Tim Carbone

With Elephant Revival being one of the new bands on the boat, some people may not have noticed their bass player didn’t board along with the rest of us. Luckily Jam Cruise is all about improvisation and the legendary Oteil Burbridge, of The Allman Brothers Band fame, was more than happy to sit-in on bass for the entirety of the set. This was quite a treat for those of us who had never seen the band before, but have been long-time fans of Oteil. Elephant Revival gained several new fans during this set in the Black & White Lounge, playing favorite tunes from their catalog such as “Sing to the Mountain”. Can we also note that Bonnie Paine was the only artist on Jam Cruise playing the washboard? Enough said.

13. Charles Bradley’s Jam Cruise Wedding

If you happened to hit the pool deck right after we boarded in Costa Maya, Mexico, you might have noticed some silly happenings. You may have been handed a top-hat or bubbles, maybe even some rice. Luckily, you had stumbled upon the annual Jam Cruise wedding, hosted this year by none other than the very soulful Charles Bradley. Before leading the lucky couples into holy matrimony, Bradley lectured us on the many “trials and tribulations” of marriage, but promised us all the lovin’ would be worth it. Long term couples, Jam Cruise roommates, and friends alike were bound in Jam Cruise love (which lasts a lifetime).

14. Feelin’ Alright – Joel Cummins with Paul Hoffman, Anders Beck, & Jason Hann

Veteran cruisers know to head to The Atrium when Umphrey’s McGee’s Joel Cummins is hosting a piano set and this year was no exception. The Atrium is one of the coolest venues on the boat, with three balconies providing nearly 360 degree views of the piano below. Cummins played a few Umphrey’s tunes, including “In the Kitchen”, as well as a Greensky Bluegrass original, “Burn Them”, before launching into a most fitting encore “Feelin’ Alright”. The Dave Mason/Joe Cocker cover settled in perfectly on the first day of Jam Cruise, featuring Jason Hann, Anders Beck and Paul Hoffman.

15. John Scofield’s Jazz Room

The Jazz Room this year was a one-stop shop for musical greats, being hosted by the likes of George Porter Jr. and Snarky Puppy at points during the week, but no one could match the true master of his craft, John Scofield. Joined by Nigel Hall, John Gros, Karl Denson, Stanton Moore, Oteil Burbridge, and Skerik, Scofield led us through a soulful, skillful set, leaving you feeling lucky just to have witnessed it.

16. Roosevelt Collier’s Jam Room 

Roosevelt Collier, better known as “The Dr.,” led one hell of a night of music as he took over the Black and White Lounge on the 5th night. He was joined on percussion by members of Snarky Puppy, Ike Stubblefield, Anders Beck on dobro, Todd Stoops of Kung Fu on keys, and Chris Sgammatto on the saxophone, a talented young virtuoso from the Florida band Displace, as well as many more throughout the evening.

17. Marriage Proposals

There’s nothing like Jam Cruise love, and this year it was abounding. There were several proposals this year. One was at “The Spot”, where its host, Nathan Moore, along with Anders Beck and The Shook Twins played Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon” while one lucky couple got engaged.  Later, during Nigel Hall’s piano set at The Atrium, another hopeful groom (and our friend) popped the question. As if we weren’t already leaving the boat with more love in our hearts than ever before.

From the future groom: “I was so happy to be able to spend such a magical moment with so many people I love. I think Nigel set the mood perfectly with his amazing rendition of the Beatles – Yesterday. With the room already half teary eyed, it felt like it was the perfect moment to ask some I love more then anything to spend the rest of their life with me.”

18. CK5 Lighting for Bands Who Aren’t Phish

If you peeked back in the lighting booth on the pool deck you may have been surprised to see your very favorite lighting designer, Chris Kuroda, lighting up Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe or The Motet. Seeing our beloved CK5 lighting up artists outside of Phish is a real treat for any live music fan, let alone bumping into him around the boat for days.

19. Impromptu Hallway Jams

Nowhere else will you find more random objects magically turned into musical instruments, or more talented individuals spontaneously coming together to create beautiful sounds, than on Jam Cruise. The magic doesn’t only happen on stage, but at every possible opportunity around every bend. It’s truly something that makes Jam Cruise so unique.

20. African Drum Workshop

On the final day of the ship, some of the most talented drummers/percussionists in the game came together to explain and demonstrate their craft. Jason Hann (String Cheese Incident), Weedie Braimah (The Nth Power), Mike Dillon, Jans Ingber (The Motet) and more took the time to provide some background on their instruments before delving into the demo of a lifetime for us music lovers. A mesmerizing African dancer even got involved!

JAMILY AWARD* The Deitches!

Bobby, Denise and Adam Deitch take the cake for most talented and fun family on the boat! Adam killed it with not one but FOUR bands: Break Science, Lettuce, Jon Scofield’s Uberjam and Pretty Lights. Dad sat it on everything from the most raging Break Science set we’ve ever experienced, to an unforgettable pool deck set with Lettuce, drum workshops, to various jam/jazz rooms throughout the weekend including Snarky Puppy, Jon Scofield and more. The Deitches completely took over the boat, and Denise and Bobby even got their wedding vows renewed on the ship by George Porter Jr.! Talk about a power family!