When the Waves Turn the Minutes to Hours – a Jam Cruise Adventure
To get myself excited about Jam Cruise this year, I decided to make a playlist about sailing and bodies of water. It’s then when I noticed the pattern – most songs about life on the water are depressing. "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald," "Off to Sea Once More," Sloop John B," they’re all about death and misery. You would think that a society that romanticizes piracy the way that ours does – sure they randomly kidnapped and murdered people, but look at this mythos that we invented for them! – would have a lot more songs about the joys and freedom of sailing. Instead, it’s all about dying and, "A man must be blind to make up his mind to go to sea once more," and, "This is the worst trip I’ve ever been on." Sure, Perpetual Groove sings that out here in the middle of the ocean they see things so differently, but that seems more of an exception than a rule. The sea is exciting and liberating, but it can also be home to disaster. One of these years, it just might catch up to us.
Day 1: The Day Where Our Scheduling Was Magically Perfectious.
My obsessive compulsiveness comes into play when I go on a vacation. I can’t just stumble into an airport an hour before takeoff; I stress out if I’m not there two hours early. The same thing happens on the boat. I don’t ever want to risk somehow missing the cruise, so sure enough, I’m there around the time that the artists board, trying to get on as soon as possible. If nothing else, it gives us time to explore the boat and take that one last power nap. The flip side of that is that you get to see the boarding process before it is completely organized. Some years that leads to a lot of sitting around and being frustrated, but 2008 was the year where the process was streamlined. A half-hour before the official boarding time, they let us into the terminal. Presumably, that was going be letting us into the waiting room, but they just kept us moving through the lines and the next thing we knew we were onboard, a full hour before official boarding time. It’s a little ironic that I’ll remember the year where the computers went down (about an hour after we boarded) leading to incredibly long wait times as the year with the smoothest boarding times, but that’s the way Friday was working.
Jam Cruise really only has one recurring problem. Every year, it’s the same thing. The merchandise booth is scheduled to open at 8, and it’s 8:15, 8:30, and the line gets longer and longer but the store isn’t open. The first day merchandise line is frustrating but if you want to make sure that you get the full selection, you have to make it there. Three previous years of experiencing the line made me calm about the delay, but others were expressing frustration. By the time I successfully left the room with my new possessions, Soulive had already finished their set. Fortunately, it wasn’t just an hour of music I missed. There was a massive rainstorm that rolled through when I was safely indoors.
The first night had an obvious conflict for people – Everyone Orchestra was playing down in the theatre while Warren Haynes was at the pool stage. I’m not a huge Warren fan, so the decision was easy for me. Like most people who don’t love him, my experience seeing a Haynes show can be described as two hours of sitting around waiting for ‘Soul Shine’ and then loving the hell out of that song. Looking at the schedule made it easy. Everyone Orchestra was ending a half hour before Warren. I figured, I could see the whole set, walk upstairs, and odds are that I’d just be in time to see ‘Soul Shine.’ He would be saving his best song for last, right?
That didn’t mean that there was no potential for this plan to backfire. EO can be hit or miss, but I had a very good feeling about this one. An earlier EO with Fishman at the Crystal Ballroom was just incredible and this set had an incredible lineup. With the center part of the stage taken up with Jeff Coffin (from Bela Fleck), George Porter Junior, Jon Fishman, and Steve Kimock, how bad could it be? When even the sound check ended up being a 15 minute beautiful jam, the rest of the show is likely to be really good.
The show revolved around three vocal pieces. A phrase was repeated that was simple enough to inspire vocal improvisation around it. The band would then play and then the theme would be reprised. It seems like a simple enough formula, but these three songs – one about riding the waves, one that was excitement over the (unfortunately brief) correction of a loud buzz in the PA, and one about waiting for the sunrise – took over half of the set and built to wonderful peaks. We hadn’t been in international waters for an hour yet, and already the bar was raised. Maybe it was just how little great music I was blessed to see in 2007, but the first set of the boat had me wondering how it could be topped.
When the set ended, I stuck to my plan and wandered upstairs. Apparently Warren had been playing through a rainstorm. We found a relatively dry spot and settled in to hear a solid cover of the Grateful Dead’s ‘To Lay Me Down.’ After it finished, Warren looked at the smallish crowd getting soaked and gave them – or at least me – what they wanted. ‘Damn sure better than the rain’ indeed. My joking plan actually worked to perfection.
The final planned set for the night for me was Bruce and Grant. Colonel Bruce Hampton (Retired) and Grant Green Junior had a set and since the Colonel was my highlight of Jam Cruise 3, I figured this was a must see. We were expecting a mellow set, but when we got to the stage, we discovered that George Porter Jr., Robert Walter, and Stanton Moore were also playing. That made things more interesting.
I had no idea what to expect from Green, having never seen him before, but he worked incredibly off of Hampton. The two of them had this high-energy blues going for them. It didn’t hurt that Karl Denson joined them in the middle of their second song, soon to be joined by Jeff Coffin. The highlight of their set – and of the night, Everyone Orchestra’s supremacy lasted all of an hour – were the covers of ‘I’m So Glad,’ and ‘Little Wing.’ During the latter, the inevitable Warren sit in occurred. Swapping off between three incredible guitarists, it was easy to forget that Jeff and Karl were around well until they chimed in. This was primal music. Halfway through ‘Little Wing,’ Melissa turned to me, with my eyes huge and my smile larger and said, ‘I haven’t seen that expression on your face in a long time.’ Good music is fun and worthy of my money, but great music, life changing music, is a lot rarer. I wasn’t expecting to see it in the Jam Room at 2 AM (especially in its new location in the middle of the upscale stores for the more typical cruises), but it was all the more powerful for that.
Apparently, the rest of the boat agreed with me about the power of that set. The Jam Room – scheduled to start after the set – never did take off. Dark Star Orchestra didn’t seem like an adequate follow up for such incredible music; after having the feeling that the Grateful Dead inspired, it seemed a little silly to go see a band cover their music. So I grabbed a little snack and made one last sweep of the Jam Room.
There was no music going on, but Fishman was sitting there holding court. We talked about old times, and by way of perspective, he talked about ‘The Cossacks’ – a Tolstoy story he had recently read in which a young man goes off to fight a war for the Russian Army. The insight that he came away with was, ‘Youth is a currency that has to be spent. You can’t horde it or keep it.’ He then turned to us and his face lit up as he said, ‘And I spent it so well!’
Since Jam Cruise is all about the sit ins, I decided to make a game out of it. Who would I end up seeing the most? I’ll drop people in and out of the standings based upon if it looks like they’re going to be playing everywhere.
Times seen standings:
George Porter Jr. – 2
Jeff Coffin – 2
Warren Haynes – 2
Karl Denson – 1
- Day 2* – The Day Where a Football Game Predicts Our Future
Our first full day at sea started the same way the previous one did. We ran into a rainstorm. Jam Cruise is a cruise as much as it is a festival; a large part of the reason why 2007 was better than 2006 was that the weather was utterly stunning. Captains can do a little to try to steer around the worst of the rain, but there’s only so much that can be accomplished sometimes. 2008, unfortunately, was shaping up to be the year of the rain.
At least that’s how it felt around breakfast time. While hiding from the storm, I ran into – who else – George Porter Jr. I told him about my game and he assured me that he was going to win it, no question. Seeing how I can’t even escape him at breakfast, I wasn’t too surprised by that claim.
Around 11 or so, I looked up at the sky again. The horrible clouds had all suddenly parted and the sky was clear. It would turn out that way for the rest of the daylight hours. It was a beautiful day at sea after all. Perhaps this captain does know what he’s doing more than some random passenger.
The early afternoon was spent the way of many days at sea. There are a few venues that are able to elevate any artist. When you’re at Red Rocks or The Gorge, a fair show becomes great and a good show transforms into a life changing experience. The pool deck is one of those places. It’s hard to overstate just how incredible it is to see music lying on a deck chair in the sun or floating effortlessly in a salt-water pool. The transformation from a vitamin D shortage to an overload is euphoric by itself. Throw good music on top of that and, well, you’ll find yourself spending thousands of dollars every year. You’re peddling an addictive drug Annabel.
The highlight of the afternoon was my first exposure to Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. Rhythm and blues might not always be my preferred genre, but Sharon is so much fun that it’s hard to not love her. Her force of personality easily breaks down my cynical nature I definitely look forward to seeing her perform again.
Being in the first week of January, Jam Cruise always intersects with the NFL playoffs. Like Jam Cruise 3 and Jam Cruise 5, the Seahawks were playing. The parallels were more direct here, as Brock Butler would be playing during the early part of the game; one of my strongest memories of Jam Cruise 3 was having Butler break into ‘Na Melody’ as the Seahawks finally took the (unfortunately short lived) lead. Hoping for a repeat of that moment, I requested the song on the Perpetual Groove board. I might have more of a shot if Brock didn’t turn out to be a Redskins fan. His loyalties escalated the stakes. I would be going up front for the night set in a Seahawks jersey. Would I be celebrating a victory or be getting crap from the stage?
The game itself was an exciting one. The Seahawks seem incapable of playing a boring game  when I’m on the boat lest I actually be able to leave my room  and see some music. It was a little easier this year to watch the game, because we had a balcony room. I could just open up the door and hear Yonder Mountain’s set just fine. It still would have been nice to be able to see the set – not to mention Rock Star Karaoke which had to be blown off due to the scheduling conflict – but the Hawks just couldn’t put Washington away easily. The game started out well enough with Seattle having a 13-0 lead at the start of the 4th quarter, but that final period was one of those that made me wish that I could just stop caring about sports. First the Redskins scored a touchdown. Then they picked off Hasselbeck and quickly scored again. On the ensuing kickoff, the Seahawks kind of forgot to actually get the ball and a Redskin grabbed it and ran it in. In the course of four minutes of game time, a 13-0 lead was now 21-13 in favor of the bad guys, and I threw a pillow at the television.
Well it would have been 21-13 if it weren’t against the rules to run an onside kick in. Washington got to keep the ball, but not the 7 points. A missed field goal kept the Seahawks in the game, but it was still 14-13 with 6 minutes left. In a turnaround as stunning as the one that the Skins did to the Hawks earlier, 15 points were scored in the space of a minute. Euphoria quickly transformed to bleakness only to have that fate reversed. Little did I know how much the next 24 hours of my life would follow that pattern.
Perhaps it was my fault. In last year’s Jam Cruise column, I mentioned how it was nearly impossible to have a bad day on the boat. Apparently some power took that as a challenge. Its aim was slightly off or it – like a villain who discovers a superhero’s secret identity – decided to get to me through my loved ones. Melissa was suddenly hit with a debilitating migraine. She thought that maybe some food might help, so I went upstairs to find some, only to discover that the buffet had no vegetarian options. I finally was able to get something for her – the maitre d saw my plight and had the chef make a special order for us – but it was frustrating. As if that wasn’t enough, the seas decided that this would be the right time to see just how much they could make the boat rock. Sure New Monsoon played a beautiful jam when I wandered by the Lirica Lounge and Perpetual Groove performed a stunning ‘Out Here,’ but it was hard to enjoy the music with a sick fianctuck in the cabin and of course, the flip side to being able to hear the music in your room is that you can’t avoid the music when you need to get rid of a headache. We were only two days into the cruise. If her health didn’t improve soon, this could easily be the Cruise of Disaster.
Times Seen Standings after Day 2:
Warren drops out of the standings on the news that he would be leaving the cruise In Roatan.
George Porter Jr. – 3
Brock Butler – 2
Jeff Coffin – 2
Skerik – 2
Day 3 The Day Where the Most Important Artist Interaction Ever Happened
When Melissa woke the next morning, her headache was more of a dull throb. That was promising, but we figured that we should probably cancel our planned zip line adventure in favor of a relaxing day at the beach. There were plenty of warnings on the Internet about the port, so we played it safe and went on the official excursion to Tabyana Beach. It sounded interesting as the beach dissolved straight into the jungle.
Tabyana might be a chichi resort on a very poor island but it is stunning. The water is clear, there are fish that will swim right up to you even in the shallows, and the jungle comes almost all the way out to the sand. It would be a perfect place to be on a clear, sunny day, but I was still being punished, so it started to pour. Fortunately, the gods of Jam Cruise are stronger than those that want to destroy it; they were quickly able to blow the rain away before we all drowned. That angered the rebels to the point where they decided that direct action was needed.
It started out simply enough. Mel and I were playing frisbee on the beach when one of her throws got caught up in the wind. It was blown into the ocean. I ran into there to try to make the catch, when suddenly I was felled by a horrid leg cramp. I landed face down in the water, unable to get up. It was a scary moment, but Jam Cruise apparently had prepared for such an eventuality. They booked Toots and the Maytals, which meant that their guitarist Carl Harvey was on board. He helped me stretch out the leg and I was able to get up. Jam Cruise promotes the accessibility of the artists, but I was probably the first person ever to be rescued from a potentially life threatening situation by one.
That moment was the turning point of the cruise. The forces of destruction quickly learned that the Legion of Super-Maytals  was more than a match of their abilities and focused their attentions elsewhere.
Right outside of the Lirica, there were some traditional artists – well that’s what they claimed at least, I don’t know enough about Honduran culture to know if they were just seeing if they could get us to believe anything – were performing. People had to walk past some drummers and dancers in order to get back to the boat. Hippies can be Pavlovian sometimes. Play some drums and we will dance. Roatan traditional dancing met hippie traditional dancing. It wasn’t always the prettiest pairing, but the spontaneity of the interaction made a cheesy attraction for cruise ships seem more natural.
One of the changes that Jam Cruise had this year was a move away from focusing on bands to focusing on musicians. There were many artists at large and plenty of pseudo-bands like Everyone Orchestra. The potential downside to that is sometimes jam sessions don’t have any song structures to provide contrasts with the jams. The jams on the boat somehow managed to steer clear of the worst of that.
The secret seemed to be to have a ringleader. There wasn’t a Super Jam, there was Karl Denson’s Super Jam. He performed a lot of the role that Matt Butler does in Everyone Orchestra; he chose the songs to play, decided who would be in the band, called out who should solo and when, and kept it from falling apart. With the structure secured, the band was free to use their talent, which was just embarrassing in its excess. The keyboardists were Ivan Neville and Robert Walter. At one point Stanton Moore, Jon Fishman, and Russell Batiste were all drumming.
There was a song where Brock Butler might have been my third favorite guitarist on stage (behind Steve Kimock and Grant Green Junior) and a sax breakdown where Karl, Skerik, and Jeff Coffin played in beautiful harmony. This is where Jam Cruise shines. Other festivals have sit ins and even designated jam sessions, but it seems like this sort of Super Jam only happens on the boat. I think that comes out of everyone being on the boat all day. When we’re at sea, your main options are eat, sleep, look out at the water (which is a lot more fun than it sounds, believe it or not), or see music. If you’re an artist and you’re spending that much time seeing music, at some point you’re going to want to sit in. The isolation has its advantages.
It also helps that Jam Cruise tries hard to reduce the distinction between artist and customer. We wait in the same lines, go to the same bars, and eat the same food in the same buffets. When the distinction between fan and musician is lowered, it also collapses the tiers of musicians on board, making it easier for people to play with their idols.
After the Super Jam, I had a dilemma. On the 7th floor, Skerik and Mike D were playing. A level below was Sharon Jones. Continuing down the stairs for another flight would take me to the Jam Room. This would be perfect if I were from the planet Cragg , but instead I would have some decisions to make.
I started out with Skerik. After dedicating their set to the massacre of Indians and slaughter in general , they went into a loud punk rock jam. I stayed there for a few minutes and then wandered down a floor.
There really isn’t a good transition between Skerik and Mike D to Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. Instead of a loud saxophone/xylophone jam, I suddenly was seeing high energy R&B. It takes a few minutes to get over the shock, but Sharon is just as enjoyable in a completely different way. Fifteen minutes of the Dap Kings later, it was time to go back upstairs.
When I returned to the Liricia Lounge Skerik was playing ‘God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman’ in the middle of a jam. Afterwards, we got the long awaited sequel to Skerik’s pizza rant from Jam Cruise 4. Allegedly Mike D was fasting on this boat because of the quality of the food presented. ‘There’s no tofu! There’s no Thai food!’ My plan said that it was time to go back downstairs, but George Porter Jr. was starting to plug in.
Skerik and Mike D was becoming the Jam Room. Sorry Dap Kings, but I’m afraid that I’m stuck here for the duration.
The set ended at 3 AM, just in time to realize how tired I was. It was time to call it a night. I just wanted to check out the Jam Room one last time before I went to bed.
I ended up staying there for two hours.
When I came it, it was Brock Butler, Ivan Neville, Steve Kimock, and George Porter leading a high-energy jam. About a half hour later, Stanton joined in on the drums. George Porter Jr. (who else) gave the jam structure by singing New Orleans songs.
As if that wasn’t enough, Fishman was just sitting behind the drum kit, watching the activities. Eventually he had enough of lurking and kicked out Stanton. I don’t think anyone – Fishman included – expected him to be sitting in there, but the spirit of the Jam Room is contagious. Why sit in your room if you can watch music? Why watch music if you can play?
Times Seen Standings after Day 3:
It was a good day for Team New Orleans as they start to pull away from the pack.
George Porter Jr. – 6
Stanton Moore – 5
Ivan Neville -5
Brock Butler – 4
Jeff Coffin – 4
Day 4: The Day Where the Conflicts Get Worse
After a day spent shopping in Cozumel – Mel got a cool Kokopelli necklace, I discovered that Mexico sells Kinder Eggs – we returned to the boat to discover something amusing. There was a giant Carnival boat parked next to us. Most of us on Jam Cruise 3, have mixed (at best) feelings towards Carnival. I liked their food but I never thought they were quite comfortable with us and our ways. The passengers on the boat seemed to share their feelings. They kept staring at us with a mixture of longing and relief. Some people seemed likely to jump on to our deck, others were trying to figure out if we actually were members of the same species.
Captain Toast gave a little salute as we left, ‘Goodbye Mexico. Goodbye Carnival.’ They got to hear a bit of the Franti set before we were out of earshot. I hope they enjoyed it.
As much as I wanted to keep seeing Franti, there was an interesting event downstairs – a keyboard workshop with Neville, Walter, and Rich Vogel. This was my first time attending a workshop so I didn’t quite know what to expect. It was an interesting combination of a show and a question and answer session. Highlights included Ivan Neville claiming that he had no chops at all (but at least he could sing), a demonstration that no one plays ‘Big Chief’ the same way, and George Porter Jr. hiding in the audience only to chime in with his opinion when he thought it was needed.
The theme for this night was 80s night. I was thinking about buying a Ghostbusters costume for the night, but money fell short alas. While I don’t know enough about 1980s fashion to comment on the costumes, the music was more noticeable.
One of the cool things about Jam Cruise is that the piped in music is from our scene. When walking from your room to the venues or riding in the elevator, you’ll hear Jerry or Phish or music from an earlier boat. It’s a little surreal to hear ‘Terrapin Station’ as elevator music but it’s one of the little touches that make Jam Cruise what it is. For 80s night, they decided to change that up. It was all 80s hits over the PA. It was funny for about five minutes. Fortunately, it’s rare to ever listen to the piped in music for longer than a minute or two, so it didn’t overstay its welcome too much.
While I’m a huge Deadhead, I never really have understood the appeal of Dark Star Orchestra. Yes, their catalog is a great one, but ultimately I can’t say that I ever was that excited to see them. It’s the “ uncanny valley”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncanny_Valley idea.
You can see the uncanny valley at play in video games. When graphics are simple dots and pixels, we identify with how human they look. As they get closer and closer to looking like us, we get more and more impressed until they’re very close to being lifelike. There then reaches a point where we get repulsed, where instead of seeing what we have in common with a few dots, our minds become focused on noticing where they are dissimilar. Recent Madden games are like that for me, where I get constantly distracted by unnatural throwing movements and how dead the eyes of the players are.
That’s how Dark Star are for me. ‘Jerry’s’ guitar and ‘Bobby’s’ vocals are close enough that subconsciously I start to buy into it. Then ‘Jerry’ sings and his voice not only sounds nothing like Jerry , but it doesn’t do anything for me. John Kadlecik isn’t a bad singer by any means; very few people ever could have the effect that Jerry’s vocals did on me. That keeps taking me out of the music, making it hard to enjoy the show.
I figured if I ever were going to be able to enjoy DSO, it would be on the pool stage. They weren’t bad, but it definitely wasn’t anything I ever need to see again. The few highlights were being amused that a band that used to pride itself on historical accuracy would play ‘Alligator’ without having a Pigpen – ‘Donna’ on vocals gave it an extra sense of being wrong – and having Colonel Bruce, Sharon Jones, and Steve Kimock perform during ‘Lovelight.’
After their set ended, I had a choice. I could either go downstairs and see Perpetual Groove or stay on the pool stage and see some of my favorite musicians perform a tribute to David Bowie. Ideally, I would have been able to see both sets, but that wasn’t possible.
I have a rule on Jam Cruise. If given two options, one should always lean towards the set that will never happen again over the band that you’ve seen before. It always seems that the big Jam Cruise regrets involve missing the weird things rather than the normal bands.
Oh You Pretty Things was a lot of fun. Highlights included the extended outro out of ‘Golden Years,’ Michael Franti making an unexpected appearance in ‘Let’s Dance’ (his freestyle rap was pretty weak but man can he sing), ‘Fame,’ and the flamenco style rearrangement of ‘The Man Who Sold The World’ with Grace Porter on vocals.
Going into this set, I thought it might be the highlight of the cruise, in the way that Brain Damaged Eggmen was a few years previous. It didn’t quite rise to those heights – of course, the bar this year was set much higher than on past cruises – but it was a lot of fun. It doesn’t hold up as well on tape as I’d like, but it was incredible seeing this live.
Mind you, while I was watching great musicians playing songs from one of my favorite artists, Perpetual Groove were completely on fire in the theatre. While there wasn’t a wrong choice to be made, I do suspect that I would have enjoyed the theatre show even more than the one I did see. That’s Jam Cruise for you. You see 70 hours of music in a five day span and ultimately you walk away thinking about what you missed. Not only did I blow off a great Perpetual Groove set, but even though I stayed up until 4:30 AM watching the Jam Room, all of the talk the next morning was how it got really good around 5. Even though I’m bummed to have missed some of the highlights, it’s exciting to have music good enough that missing it is a hardship. There hasn’t been too much of that for me lately.
Times Seen Standings after Day 4:
Porter largely took the day off, giving us a new leader.
Ivan Neville – 8
George Porter Jr. – 7
Stanton Moore – 6
Jeff Coffin – 6
Day 5: The Day Where an Unexpected Talent is Shown
One of the initial appeals of Jam Cruise for me was the schedule. An early January birthday makes it hard to ever see music. It’s hard to argue against spending a birthday seeing music in the tropics, especially when the alternative is the gloom of January in Seattle.
The day started with The Motet. I hadn’t seen them before, but I was enjoying lying in the sun listening to them. That pleasure would be short lived though. A massive cloud bank rolled through. As I ran downstairs to put away my camera, I saw Annabel.
I pointed up, ‘Look out, here comes the storm.’
‘No,’ she replied, ‘It’s not going to rain.’
I walked down the stairs, stopped in my room, and came right back up. By the time I got back to the pool deck, it was pouring; remind me to never trust in Julie McCoy’s Weather Prediction Service . Members of the crew rushed to cover the instruments. When it’s raining that hard, there’s only one thing you can do. Go to the front of the stage and start dancing. The Motet seemed to appreciate the effort brought forth by the rain dancers. Their set peaked during the brief squall as they played to keep us moving through the water. The tropical sun soon came back out and dried everything off by the end of the set, but that was something I’ll not soon forget.
The final day of Jam Cruise can be a bit of a blur. Highlights shine through – listening to Brock Butler and his sister sing ‘Helplessly Hoping,’ while floating in a pool of salt water, Skerik playing just his mouthpiece in the Sax it Up Workshop (and George Porter Jr. crawling in on his hands and knees to give Skerik a CD and then crawling back out), Bruce and Grant playing another great version of ‘I’m So Glad’ on the second pool stage; please invite them back next year and give them a better stage – but the day was largely spent in a pleasant haze of sun and sleep deprivation. We went to the final dinner – a surprisingly good meal; either the food got better over the course of the boat or we got used to it. Regardless of which, I do appreciate that the boat started listed ingredients of the meals. It made it much easier to find the vegetarian options – and went back to the room prior to one last night of music.
We looked at our cameras sitting on the bed. Should we bring them? Odds were pretty low that we’d see anything that we hadn’t encountered so far. On the other hand, there was a beautiful sunset. That was the inspiration to grab them, just in case.
The second Everyone Orchestra show didn’t have anywhere near the energy of the first one. That turned out to be a good thing. Only at a fun (but not mind-blowing) concert can someone feel confident enough to pick up an instrument that they’ve never played before in their life and start playing it. Mark this date on your calendars – January 8, 2008 will forever be known as the day where Jon Fishman started on the path towards conquering the saxophone.
Was he any good? What kind of question is that? Fishman’s sax chops transcended mere dualistic categories like ‘good’ and ‘bad.’ It’s not something that we should digest or label. It just is.
Ok, fine. It sounded like someone playing an instrument for the first time in their life. However, after a week of great music, a moment like this can truly be appreciated. Our scene is about taking risks on stage, after all. They don’t always work but it’s always fascinating to see people try. Sometimes you get the religious experience, sometimes it’s just something new. As long as those keep coming, so will I.
Jeff Coffin sat in during the Funky Meters set to preserve a one appearance lead. With under an hour to go, it seemed like he was going to cruise to an easy victory, but then George Porter Jr. set up in the Jam Room. Alas, Coffin didn’t show, causing the game to end up in a tie.
Jeff Coffin – 10
George Porter Jr. – 10
Ivan Neville- 9
Stanton Moore- 7
Day 6 and Beyond: The Days Where I Reflect Back
Disembarkation wasn’t the usual problem this year. In fact, we got to the airport so early, that we were victim to Southwest’s four hour rule; they won’t let you check your bags if your flight is more than four hours away from takeoff. So we hung out by the check-in counter and waited.
Apparently we weren’t the only ones. While we were hanging out, Jeff Coffin, Jon Fishman, and Russell Batiste showed up to do the same. I got to hear Fishman’s reaction to his big sax solo, ‘I got a quick lesson from Jeff Coffin. I was actually able to make some sounds,’ and showed Jon and Jeff a few video clips of his big moment.
Eventually though, it did become time to board. Jam Cruise was over once again and it was back to reality.
Part of my job as a columnist is to try to find the flaws in an event, both in order to help out other people who are thinking about going to it and to see if I can come up with suggestions for the promoters. Jam Cruise is the rare event where I just can’t find any. All of my complaints have been addressed and improved. Other than streamlining the merchandise room somehow and increasing the volume of the speakers of the second pool stage, I literally can’t think of any suggestions .
How good is Jam Cruise? A report on Jambase says that George Porter Jr. prebooked his room just in case he wasn’t hired to play. When the artists are tempted to pay to make sure they can attend, you know you have a special event. If you like the musicians on board and can afford it, you need to find a way on board. As for me, my pre-book is in. Only 11 more months to go!
 The two previous games were one where Seattle’s game winning TD was dropped and the infamous Romo ‘Butterfingers’ play where the Cowboys flubbed away a win.
 The games can be viewed on ESPN Desportes. The problem with that network is that they have absolutely no advertisers. During commercial breaks, they show the same 5-6 promos for their other programs. That can get very frustrating by the end of the 4th quarter.
 Maytals League of America? The Fantastic Band?
 The planet where Triplicate Girl came from. People on her planet had the power to split into three versions of themselves.
 That sounds worse than it was when typed out of context. It was a reminder about how much of what we take for granted as Americans comes from 19th century massacres.
 Reading DSO’s website, I see comments that say that Kadlecik sounds just like Jerry to people. I have no explanation how he can have that effect on some people and sound nothing at all like him to me. I know I’m not the only one who thinks that way. It definitely makes me wonder just how much differences in how we listen to music change what we actually hear.
 Of course, I probably wouldn’t have to check it since it would always be sunny and perfect. Annabel really is a professional optimist. It makes me wonder how we can touch without imploding from the collision of her sunniness and my cynicism. Thanks again for keeping up that attitude. It reminds me to keep my jadedness in check.
 Ok, there are issues with the food, but I think that’s always going to be a problem as long as we’re with MSC. However, the cruise line loves us so much that it’s more than worth it. The food might not be wonderful, but it’s on par with normal festival fare. As the drawbacks go, it’s pretty minor. And there always is the occasional meal that is actually impressive. There is regular improvement; in a few years, we’ll have this issue fixed for good.
David Steinberg got his Masters Degree in mathematics from New Mexico State University in 1994. He first discovered the power of live music at the Capitol Centre in 1988 and never has been the same. His Phish stats website is at http://www.ihoz.com/PhishStats.html.
He is the stats section editor for The Phish Companion and is on the board of directors for the Netspace Foundation. You can read more of his thoughts at http://www.livejournal.com/users/thezzyzx.