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Published: 2016/01/07

Joe Russo’s Almost Dead Highlight Opening Day on Jam Cruise

The fourteenth Jam Cruise got off to a rocky start yesterday, as the ship departed from Port of Miami. First, the news broke that the scheduled stop in Belize City would be canceled, replaced by a stop in Costa Maya, Mexico, and then embarkation was delayed for several hours due to an alleged pair of stowaways from Holy Ship that decided to hide on board in order to gain access to Jam Cruise.

Once all were aboard, however, things smoothed out and the music got going, first off with Ivan Neville and Dumpstaphunk serenading the guests at the Sail Away Party. Of note during the set, Neville welcomed out Amy Helm and Cris Jacobs for a cover of The Band’s “Don’t Do It.” Next up on the Pool Deck was Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue, who delivered one of the most energetic and engaging sets of the night.

Andrews and his band were joined by Weedie Braimah on percussion throughout the entire set, as Andrews welcomed out much of his New Orleans brethren throughout the 90-minute set. Among them, Ivan Neville, who sat in on keys for a couple of songs. Andrews also welcomed out Fred Wesley, who he introduced as “the Godfather of the trombone.” After Wesley was finished jamming with the band, Andrews introduced the next song with a bit of James Brown-type scatting, as an homage to Wesley’s tenure in Brown’s band.

Indoors, The Infamous Stringdusters were continuing their celebration of the Grateful Dead’s 50th anniversary with a rousing cover of “Not Fade Away.” The rendition served as a jumping off point for most, who then found their way back up to the Pool Deck for Joe Russo’s Almost Dead’s first of two sets this week.

The two-hour set featured an opening jam that led into the same tune The Dusters covered just an hour earlier. As Almost Dead showed off their mastery of the Grateful Dead songbook, the band roared through a tight set that included takes on “Rubin and Cherise,” “Estimated Prophet,” an energetic “Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad” and a pairing of “Tennessee Jed” and “Shakedown Street.”

The group then welcomed out Nicole Atkins, longtime collaborator with numerous members in the group. Atkins shared vocals with Hamilton and Metzger on “Dancin’ in the Streets” before taking the lead on a rousing “The Stranger (Two Souls in Communion).” Following the set, Russo announced that Atkins will once again join the band tonight at their set in the Pantheon Theater.

Following Almost Dead, Jam Cruisers explored their options on the ship, bouncing from Stanton Moore’s Jazz Room that featured some highly experimental jazz playing, across the way to the Black & White Lounge (also known as the Jam Room) where Twiddle followed The Werks with an energetic set while ALO held things down in the Pantheon Theater with their brand of feel-good rock and roll.

The night wound down, as it always does, in the Jam Room. This time, however, there was a somber feeling in the air as opening night was slated to be George Porter Jr.‘s time at the helm in the Jam Room. As the bassist wasn’t able to make it, The New Mastersounds’ Eddie Roberts took over, leading a jazzy, largely instrumental Jam Room into the night with various horn sections and some help from his New Mastersounds bandmates. Joe Russo showed up later on in the night to sit in on keys for a tune as well.

Things heat up today with the first day at sea, signaling the first full day of music. Among those slated to take the stage today—Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers, Snarky Puppy, Galactic, Southern Soul Assembly, Joe Russo’s Almost Dead, Tauk, Lotus and a Jazz Room led by Eric “Benny” Bloom along with a Jam Room led by Adam Smirnoff.

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