Umphrey’s McGee Close Jam Cruise with Landmark Guest-Laden Show
As weather threatened to derail the final day of Jam Cruise, musicians and fans alike closed strong on Saturday, highlighted by a historic performance from Umphrey’s McGee. With the band’s late night set on Friday night canceled due to weather, Umphrey’s made up for it with two sets that featured a grand total of 12 sit-ins, an unofficial record for this year’s Jam Cruise.
The band kicked things off with the standard lineup, offering cohesive takes on “Puppet String,” “The Linear” and “Similar Skin.” The sit-ins began when a pair of percussionists, The String Cheese Incident’s Jason Hann and Guarav Malhotra of Grant Green Jr.‘s band, joined the fold for “Ringo.” The two-part jam was obviously heavy on drums and percussion as the band maneuvered through the jam. After “No Diablo,” Jennifer Hartswick made her first appearance with Umphrey’s since sitting in at Mayan Holidaze in 2012. Hartswick took the lead vocals on the Bill Withers tune “Ain’t No Sunshine,” the first performance since 2013. Cory Henry also joined Joel Cummins on keys and would stay on for the set closing “Bad Friday.”
Set two once again started with Umphrey’s playing a newer tune, “Educated Guess,” with the core lineup before welcoming Skerik out for an entertaining sit in on “40’s Theme.” The saxophonist’s unorthodox style created one of the more interesting takes on the song in recent memory. Ivan Neville surprised Joel Cummins by jumping on keys during a “Plunger” jam that evolved from the outro of the song as opposed to the middle section, something the band has been doing as of late. Neville, decked out in a personalized New Orleans Saints jersey and “Umph Love” sticker, led a spirited jam before departing.
Andy Farag got some more company in perc world as Snarky Puppy’s Nate Werth joined him for the “Ocean Billy” jam. Joel Cummins and Kris Myers sat in with Werth and his Snarky Puppy bandmates the previous night in the Jazz Room. Werth’s bandmate, drummer Robert Searight, followed as he replaced Kris Myers on drums for the composed section of “Tribute to the Spinal Shaft,” further continuing the string of heavy hitters. If that wasn’t enough, Marc Brownstein made one of his only on-stage appearances at the festival as the bassist replaced Ryan Stasik for a fiery version of “In the Kitchen” before Stasik returned for a set-closing “Live and Let Die.”
After encoring with “Wappy Sprayberry” and “1348,” the crowd urged the band to return and they did with Mike Dillon, Jason Hann, Guarav Malhotra, Robert Walter and Carly Meyers for a finale of Miles Davis’ “It’s About That Time.”
Elsewhere on the ship, Dan Lebowitz and Tim Carbone were jamming with Fruition in the Jazz Room. The Portland, OR rockers also brought out the Shook Twins and members of Elephant Revival. As folks navigated the adjusted schedule due to the weather, The Revivalists’ David Shaw made waves in The Atrium with a solo acoustic set accompanied by bandmate Michael Girardot on keys.
The Jerry Garcia Tribute also reprised its set from earlier in the week, playing in the Black & White Lounge instead of the pool deck, as it remained closed once again. The ensemble cranked out several tributes to the late guitarist including “Hi-Heel Sneakers,” “Harder They Come” and “Scarlet Begonias” as well as sit-ins from George Porter Jr. on “Eyes of the World” and a take on “Ship of Fools” with Ryan Montbleau on vocals.
Also originally scheduled for the Pool Deck was the Eric Krasno Super Jam which also took place in the Black & White Lounge following the Jerry Garcia set. Krasno assembled a familiar cast of characters for jams and fun covers, with appearances from the likes of Karl Denson, John Scofield, The London Souls, George Porter Jr., Corey Henry, Robert Randolph, G. Love and more.
Following the Umphrey’s show, fans dispersed to various nooks and crannies of the ship to prepare for the final stretch run into the Port of Miami. Some ventured over to The Atrium for a high energy set from Sister Sparrow & the Dirty Birds which featured a sit-in from John Gros. Kung Fu also welcomed out Gros during their set in the Jam Room.
Galactic was over in the Pantheon Theater for their second and final set of the weekend. The New Orleans act reprised some of their guests including Erica Falls and Mike Dillon, who both sat in sporadically throughout. Ryan Montbleau joined the band to sing vocals on “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” and Papa Mali, Ivan Neville and The Revivalists’ Rob Ingraham also sat in for various funk jams.
Taking the MSC Divina into port was Derek Vincent Smith, aka Pretty Lights, who helmed the final Jam Room of the week. Smith surrounded himself with familiar faces as several members of his live band joined him including Eric Krasno, Adam Deitch, Benny Bloom, Borahm Lee, Brian Coogan and more. The ensemble relied on more down-tempo electronic samples to provide a funky landscape for which the ship sailed into port, bringing Jam Cruise to a close.