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Columns > Annabel Lukins - Both Sides of the Rail

Published: 2011/03/17
by Annabel Lukins

Best Jam Cruise Ever (Again)

I feel like a broken record. Year after year, I say Jam Cruise was the best yet. But I really mean it. This year as we sailed on our 9th cruise. It was not only a paramount event, but there was something mystical happening on board.

I believe most of you know, but I have been a part of Cloud 9 Adventures since Jam Cruise 1…gratefully.

I was at the Boulder Theater the other night for a super jam featuring Jam Cruise favorites George Porter, Jr. & Karl Denson. At setbreak, I went backstage and hung with Karl for a few. Here was a recap of our convo:

Karl: “Annabel, Jam Cruise was so great this year.”
Me: “I KNOW!”
Karl: “How does it keep getting better?”
Me: “Trust me, I can’t even tell you. But I feel the same way.”

I had another conversation with a guy that night that just experienced his first Jam Cruise. He proceeded to tell me that he had expected to have fun, but there were indescribable aspects of it that he keeps trying to tell people about but just can’t.

Even Dave Schools wants to come back on board.

The lifeboat drill is one of my favorite parts of the cruise. Before we set sail, all passengers are required to put their jackets on and proceed to their muster stations. I run around the ship with my camera yelling, “you MUST muster!” Seeing the artists wearing the orange jackets cracks me up Schools and posed PERFECTLY for this photo.

Let’s talk about Schools for a minute. He was DEFINITELY a skeptic about the cruise. In fact, he thought it would be a nightmare. When I hung with him at Jazzfest last year, he said, “Annabel, I’m only coming on because it’s good for the band (Stockholm Syndrome).

Yet, he just wrote a blog called “Confessions of a Jam Cruise convert.” Jam Cruise is so special that even the skeptics become lovers.

My dear boy Anders Osborne…I wanted him on board so badly. The main reason was because I want the Jamband scene to embrace him. The obvious selfish reason was so that I could spend time with him and see him perform. Anders and I have been friends since I was in college (’94) and I have supported his career ever since. I gushed to the crowd over his show the first night and without knowing it, he came and kissed me on the cheek. It was sweet.

If it weren’t for the Grateful Dead, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. It helped shape my identity. Enter Jam Cruise…the most life-changing event for me since the Dead. Now let’s bring Bob Weir on board and combine the two magical events. Bob had so much more fun on board than anyone could have imagined. He sat in with 3 bands: KDTU, God Street Wine & Some Cat From Japan! If we can get Bob Weir to feel comfortable enough to let go and let the improv vibe happen, we know we’re doing something right!

Back in 2000, Robert Randolph started playing in a hole in the wall bar in NYC called the Lakeside Lounge. I was there. When he started his residency at the Mercury Lounge, I was there. When I needed a job and his manager put me on a train every day to New Jersey to help assist, I was there with bells on. The Family Band has been a vital part of my life for over a decade. After Robert’s debut on board JC8 with the Word, it didn’t take a lot of arm-twisting to get him back with his band. This happens on Jam Cruise all the time. Bands/fans come on knowing it will be a good time, but they leave counting the days till next year. We can add The Family band to that popular group.

Just another perfect day at sea…I mean come on, a floating music festival in the Caribbean? Even though I help run the event, I am still in awe at how extraordinary it is.

Artist activities are one of the highlights on board every year. Here my boy Chef Karl participated in a “Spicy Chef” competition. Needless to say, his outfit was adorable.

One of the most cherished parts of my career has been the deep and meaningful friendships that have developed with the musicians. And one of the most important relationships has been with Bruce Hampton. Yes, he’s a talented musician who has been around forever. Yes, he’s “out there,” but he’s truly one of the warmest and most caring people I’ve ever met.

But let’s go back to his persona of being “out there.” I write the bios for the program and for the past two years, I took a deep breath and created scenarios that matched his personality so closely that his wife is going to use this year’s as inspiration for their next tour poster. Do they make sense? No. Does it matter? Not at all. Here you go…

JC8

All hail the king! For years, Col Bruce Hampton was stranded on a desert island. There, he learned how to play guitar and became “one” with the natives. Each month, they had a celebratory bonfire on the sand and everyone danced around Bruce. He told the members what their birthday’s were and played a little tune to welcome the next year of life. He was rescued by a family of otters that happen to fall in love with one of his songs. They put him on their back and safely brought him to the side of the MSC Poesia where Julie McCoy recognized his southern sound and had the crew bring him onto the pool deck where we found him….still singing, still smiling….still Bruce. WELCOME HOME!

JC9

Last time we checked in with Col Bruce, he was training the manatees to sing the National Anthem off the coast of Cuba. All seemed well except that he kept sending smoke signals shaped like bow ties which could only mean one thing: he was hungry. So we sent Dave Schools out on a rowboat with a few turkey sandwiches. Julie McCoy had begged him to come back on board Jam Cruise, but he resisted, insisting that the manatees were close to perfecting their song. He said, “Look for sneakers in the sky. That will mean I’m ready.” Ok, you’re the King.

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Comments

There are 2 comments associated with this post

Jeff Kasky April 19, 2011, 14:39:26

Outstanding piece! I make a living on using words, and I couldn’t have said it better myself. No one I know can stand waiting to see what Jam Cruise X has in store!

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