Jam Cruise 11: A First Timer's Perspective

MSC Poesia

Words By J-man
Photos By Carly Marthis & J-man

When we thought 10 was the highest, Cloud 9 Adventures turned Jam Cruise up to 11. We all expected greatness with returning cruisers and "Repeat Offenders" going into it with a clearer picture, but for us first timers, we had a small idea. Much like an iceberg, we had seen the tip of its enormity through pictures, however, the truth of Jam Cruise was much larger and hidden from sight. There was a circus, zebras, rock stars and more, with best friends and family gathering to celebrate one of the greatest musical events on the planet, Jam Cruise. What follows is a first-timer's perspective from someone who has wanted to attend from the beginning, who has seen the pictures and heard the stories. This is the story of one of the best weeks of my life...

Pre-Party at The Bahia Cabana:

Arriving in Fort Lauderdale, FL a day prior to Jam Cruise called for both a party and a place to crash. Based on the wisdom of our best friend, Murray, reservations were made at The Bahia. As the sun set, more and more Jam Cruisers and familiar faces turned out for a rowdy pre-party that included tons of alcohol, hugs, some public sex and the familiar smell of our home state of Colorado. The excitement was through the roof as hippies mixed with sports fans that were in town for the weekend's bowl game. To say it was an odd crowd would be an understatement, but the party went until the sun came up.

Day One: Exploring The Ship

We arrived at Port Everglades, got in line, passed through customs, received our room key, got our picture taken and boarded the MSC Poesia. Our small window-less cabin would make the perfect escape from the chaos that surrounded us for the few hours of sleep that we would get that week. We collected a few of our good friends and headed to the pool deck to kick off the non-sense. Following our purchase of drink tickets we immediately ran into Reed Mathis (Tea Leaf Green), Jans Ingber (The Motet), Garrett Sayers (The Motet) and a suited Eddie Roberts (New Mastersounds), as well as members of Greensky Bluegrass. After a once over of all of the concert rooms, bars and restaurants, we were asked to participate in a safety drill. From there we awaited the arrival of, Murray, who was making a last minute appearance.

Cruisers assembled on the pool deck for the Sail Away Party that offered free beer and a set of music from the Soul Rebels. Friends hugged and caught up for what was one of the more social moments of the cruise. Inside the Atrium, Kyle Hollingsworth dove into his solo piano set which was both poorly timed and nearly impossible to hear. To have a solo piano set as one of the first sets of the week was only setting it up for failure as folks caught up with friends, screamed loudly and chatted over the music. With Kyle being joined by Dan Schwindt (Kyle Hollingsworth Band, The Motet) and Kim Dawson (The Motet), it was a great set of music, just really hard to hear. At the front of the boat on deck six and seven in the Teatro Carlo Felice (known to our group as the purple room) was Steve Kimock who was joined by Bernie Worrell, Andy Hess, Wally Ingram and John Morgan Kimock. What we saw of their set was great, but Medeski, Scofield, Martin and Wood drew us to the pool deck for one of the more ripping MSMW sets that many had personally witnessed!

The excitement and energy was through the roof as the boat sailed into International waters. Following MSMW's incredible set, we headed back to the purple room to catch a bit of reggae legends, Steel Pulse! Their conscious island reggae hit the spot. From Steel Pulse we headed across the hall to the Zebra Bar which was buzzing as The Motet took the stage. It was great to see Colorado's own on such a small stage with such a massive reception. Both the room and the stage were packed, really adding to the party vibe. The Motet proceeded to kill it with an array of special guests from Nigel Hall to Dominic Lalli (Big Gigantic). Following The Motet's set, Saint Murray handed a GAP bag to our mutual friend, "Tiny Hat Matt." Matt reached into the bag and pulled out a cape that Murray had custom designed for Matt, which included the Jam Cruse logo, a disco ball and a fucking tiny hat... all in sequins. The moment was beautiful.

With Matt sporting his new cape, joined by MusicMarauders' contributor, Kevin Hahn, we wandered the decks running into the legend, Bernie Worrell. On to the Jam Room we went where Dan Lebowitz was leading the charge. To our delight he was joined by Garrett Sayers, Dave Watts (The Motet), Kyle Hollingsworth and Scott Law! As the night became blurry we danced, smiled and celebrated the beginning of our adventure...

Day Two: Blue Lagoon Bugaloo

We awoke after a few hours of sleep and demanded both coffee and buffet style breakfast. The damage of a rowdy night one was clear on many of the cruisers faces. We headed up to merch, purchased our Jam Cruise 11 official poster and caught a little bit of Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers. They sounded great with ripping lead guitar and beautiful vocals. The set included a handful of guests and was the perfect way to start our day. In the disco, the autograph signing began featuring a large portion of the week's artists from Lettuce, MSMW, Steel Pulse, George Porter Jr., Col. Bruce Hampton and many more!

Following a brief nap we headed to the Pool Deck where The Motet's "Funk is Dead" took center stage featuring funky, energetic versions of Grateful Dead classics. The deck was packed with cruisers singing along loudly and dancing carelessly. After the Motet's windy set, Femi Kuti & The Positive Force began in the Purple Room. Their conscious pro Africa message was great, but ironic considering we were on a cruise. None the less, it was energetic and pure. Up to Galactic on the Pool Deck and back to the Purple Room we went for another set from MSMW. They tore into magnificent jazz and improvisation as the room leaned from side to side. It was only a short time before we made our way out to the low level decks for some fresh air before heading up to The Funky Meters at The Pool Deck. It was at about this point in the evening when things became blurry. However, I do recall a raging set from Medeski, Skerik & Deitch in the Zebra lounge. All of my friends were there and it felt like a dream...

Day Three: Turks & Caicos

I sat up to a raging headache from the previous night's decisions and laid right back down. The day would demand more coffee and possibly some over the counter pain meds. As we sat in the cafateria, we looked out on one of the smaller islands that I have ever docked at. The beach was already packed with more ambitious folks than myself. Outside on the docks we ran into Murray and Karen Dugan (Tiny Rager) who were coming back from the up all night kickball game on the island. While we were headed out to explore, they were headed back for some much needed rest. Carly, Kevin and I headed straight to the beach where we ran into Dan Schwindt (Kyle Hollingsworth Band, The Motet) who joined us for lunch and a good laugh at Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville.

After some wandering through gift shops and duty free, we made our way back to the MSC Poesia. At around 6:00 PM the ship set sail and we found ourselves in the disco at the back of the boat for the Brews at Sea Workshop featuring a handful of brewers that included Kyle Hollingsworth. To our delight there were coolers full of heady beers for all to taste as the folks on the panel discussed the ins and outs of brewing. An added bonus came in the form of a surprise set from the Kyle Hollingsworth Band! It was a great way to kick off the evening as the boat sailed into open water. Next on the agenda for us was Greensky Bluegrass in the Purple Room. Michigan's own played well as they picked for a packed theater! Their instrumentation and song-writing clearly appealed to their dedicated fanbase who turned out in full force.

Up on the Pool Deck Karl Denson's Tiny Universe put on one of the more energetic sets of the week. Karl lead the charge and was joined by several guests throughout the duration of what appeared to be a revolving door set. In the Purple Room, moe. took the stage and began with some awesome shredding before plateauing and losing the interest of many with directionless jams. As we dashed around the boat, we ran into so many friends, old and new. Folks dawned spectacular costumes and handed out entertaining toys to wide-eyed cruisers passing by. It was great to see many of the crew in glitter, boas and accessories, while the ship's captains posed for pictures, wore goofy glasses/disguises and roamed the decks enjoying the music. Following an hour or so of non-sense, we headed back to the Purple Room for an act who's set we had been anticipating for some time, March Fourth Marching Band.

Things began to get weird as the twenty or so person marching band entertained the packed theater with stilt antics, burlesque dancing and interesting worldly compositions. Simply put, they were fantastic. Following their set we made the next logical decision and headed to the Jam Room where Mike Dillon's visions unfolded with a packed stage of musicians. Sometime in the early hours of the morning, Mike D disappeared from the stage and we made our way to the back deck for the sunrise. The moon appeared crescent in the sky next to a bright planet. Along side a packed deck of folks from all over the country/world, we welcomed the new day...

Day Four: Cirque Du Funk

Another day at sea greeted us after only a few hours of sleep. At that point in the week I seemed to have built up a tolerance to hangovers. Out on the Pool Deck, Steve Kimock feat. Bernie Worrell played under the tropical sun. We returned to the disco for the second wave of the autograph signings then headed to the cafeteria for some "food" before returning to the Pool Deck for Femi Kuti. His second set of the week was as consistent as the first. We enjoyed a bit of Moog Explorations however, the couple of strong drinks that we ordered weighed on us and we returned to our cabin for a couple more hours of sleep before the evening. We awoke just in time to throw on our circus themed costumes and hit the Pool Deck for March Fourth's second and final set of the week. The set was as much a spectacle as the set in the Purple Room and it was clear that on March Fourth's first Jam Cruise, they gained a ton of new fans!

In the Zebra Bar Robert Walter, Eddie Roberts and Adam Deitch kicked off the late night action with ripping jazz. The bar was packed with huge smiles, cartoon characters and a mess of professionals at the top of their game. The vibe resembled that of a Three Stooges movie with people playfully interacting at an overwhelming rate. Following the relatively short set, we returned to the Pool Deck to give moe. another shot. It seemed that moe. had pulled a band swap with Galactic so we headed back into the interior of the ship and pressed the down button on the elevator. What happened next was one of the highlights of our week. The elevator door opened and inside the tiny box was Greensky Bluegrass. We stared at them with a shocked looked as Anders smiled and motioned for us to hop in. As the elevator descended, Kevin must have hit every button as we stopped at just about every floor and no one got on. During the duration of our ride, Greensky performed a killer version of "Second That Emotion," to which we sang along.

An attempt at explaining the experience to our friends did it no justice and we continued with Walter, Roberts & Deitch before hoping across the hall for The Funky Meters who were joined by Bernie Worrell and Roosevelt Collier. The band was so damn funky it was almost too much! A cool moment came when the band, as many do, took on Jimi Hendrix's "Purple Haze." However, instead of the band being some young group of hippies, they were seasoned vets, doing more justice to the song than I had ever heard. Following the set the elevators where packed and we opted for a mean stair climb up seven flights for moe. Though we only caught the last few songs, moe. did not disappoint and during their set I found a moment of complete bliss. At one point moe. was joined by Kyle Hollingsworth in a pink wig.

A quick stop and refuel in the comfort of our cabin was much needed prior to the early morning's Magic Gravy set. Lebo, Watts and Sayers absolutely destroyed in one of my clear favorite sets of the week. They were joined by a handful of guests, most notably, Steve Kimock, for some spacey compositions. My favorite rhythm section dug deep into the pocket and had me dancing like a complete asshole. We laughed, posed for pictures, drank fruity drinks and danced the night away. When the music ended in the Zebra Bar, there was a mass exodus to the Jam Room, where Jam Cruise favorite, Karl Denson, thrilled the peaking crowd. At some point as the sun came up, we returned to our cabin for a couple of hours of sleep...

Day Five: Coco Cay, Bahamas/Turning It Up to 11

We may or may not have slept, but we felt rested and hit the cafeteria for yet another sub-par breakfast. We could see Coco Cay in the distance as boats tendered back and forth between the ship and land. We finished our meal and headed below deck to water level to hop onto a significantly smaller vessel. As we rode toward Coco Cay, the salty wind blew through our hair. The smell of the sea accompanied by wiffs of sunblock filled the air as we docked at the tiny private piece of land. We headed towards the far beach on a walk that would take us around the entire Cay. White sand wound in between small rock outcroppings filled with shells, hermit crabs and snails. On the far side of the cay we enjoyed about an hour of peace and quite before heading back towards the mind-blowing chaos of Jam Cruise. On our walk back we stumbled on a fantastic overlook that for a few brief moments, was my happy place. Also, on the short walk back we crossed paths with a beautiful peacock before arriving back at the beach.

Scott Law played solo acoustic as Brock Butler stood by. We made our way to the buffet that was set up by MSC and ate before passing through the straw market. We spent our last moments on land on the beach before boarding the tender to return to the Poesia. As we made our way towards the ship I reflected on our experiences up to that point and smiled at the potential for that evening to be turned up to 11. I had some inkling that the evening would be one of the craziest of my life, but what unfolded was nothing short of epic.

Steel Pulse would play the first set of the early evening following a short rain delay. Their set reeked of authenticity and entertained the visibly appreciative crowd. Their projections were stimulating and fit the theme of the material. For the duration of one of the songs the screen showed footage of Burning Man and as I looked over at Carly, she grinned from ear to ear. In the Purple Room Matt Butler's Everyone Orchestra set began with a crowded stage that included Anders Beck (Greensky Bluegrass), Paul Hoffman (Greensky Bluegrass), Jeff Coffin (Dave Matthews Band), Daniel Lamb (M4 Marching Band), Al Schnier (moe.), Adam "Shmeeans" Smirnoff (Lettuce), Reed Mathis (Tea Leaf Green), Andy Hess (SKB), Jans Ingber (Motet), Jen Hartswick (Trey Anastasio Band), Paul Creighton (Motet), Zach Gill (ALO, Jack Johnson), Aaron Redner (Hot Buttered Rum), Eric Bolivar (Anders Osborne), Jeremy Salken (Big Gigantic), Jim Loughlin (moe.), Kyle Hollingsworth (String Cheese Incident) and Mike D! It was interesting to see so much talent on one stage participating in a conceptual project like EO. You could see the focus in the eyes of the musicians as Butler conducted and facilitated freeform musical communication.

The evening's theme began to unfold with what turned into an 80s rock theme. There were spandex pants, mullets, cut off t-shirts and blow up guitars everywhere as the party made its way towards 11. We made a quick lap from Hot Buttered Rum on the Pool Deck, to our room and returned to the Purple Room for Karl Denson's closing set of the weekend. I remember very few details about the set, though I remember smiling and dancing with so many great folks. From the Purple Room we made our way across the hall to the Zebra Bar for Zoogma who was ripping it up. Their energetic approach to Jamtronica captivated me for a time before we hit the lower deck. I remember flashes of the evening's nonsense. We headed to Galactic's set in the Purple Room, as the evening approached the last hoorah with a party vibe unlike anything that I have ever personally experienced.

To the Jam Room we went for the final set of Jam Cruise. Joey Porter and members of The Motet took the stage as raging Jam Cruisers poured through the doors into the lounge. It was at this precise moment when I came to the realization that this was the best party that I had ever been to. I looked around and saw so many of my friends who I only get to see every couple of years. As well, there were so many people from Colorado that it felt like home. I was surrounded by many of the new friends that I had made throughout the week, sharing one last smile before heading our separate ways. Lastly, I saw more sharing than I had ever seen, with full handles and several hundred dollar bottles of aged-whiskey being passed around.

The funk was thick that night and the musical guests too many in number to count, for it was their last shot at the action as well. Eventually, through all of the euphoria, the lights were raised in the lounge but the music continued. When the music ended, folks made their way to a location on the lower deck that had taken on the name "The Spot." What followed was a frantic attempt to pack as much party into as short of time as possible. I headed back to our cabin for an hour of sleep before having to stare down a U.S. Customs official. I laid in bed, smacked in the face by the whirlwind that was Jam Cruise. Nothing could have prepared me for it and nothing I say will come close to doing it justice.

It is in events like Jam Cruise that I find the greatest hope for the glue of our scene. Some of the most passionate and involved members of our community take to the high seas on an annual basis for this collective mind blowing experience. Financially, it may not be the easiest festival to attend. It takes hard work and dedication on the parts of those individuals who make the choice to attend year after year. I am grateful to have been persuaded by the ever-so-wise, Murray. My gratitude for Murray is endless as time and time again he has shown me the way. Back at The Bahia Cabana we sat stone faced at a table. "Did ya'll just do Jam Cruise?" a waitress asked. I snapped out of my daze and said "Yes," with a smile. "I can tell..." she replied, laughing. That night dreams of Jam Cruise filled my head. The dreams continued into the days and subsequent weeks to follow. Presumably they will continue on through to Jam Cruise 12. Now to pre-book...

Carly & J-man's photo Gallery



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