DSO Jam In The Sand 1.19 - 1.23.17
Jewel Paradise Cove
Runaway Bay, Jamaica
Words By J. Picard
Photos By Carly Picard & J. Picard
*Note: In addition to musical content, a lot of non-musical content relating to the overall experience of the festival follows.
Our adventure started as it often does at 3:00 AM in Denver, Colorado on a cold winter morning. We made haste to Denver International Airport where we caught the snow storm delayed red-eye to Houston, sprinted through the Texas airport and boarded our chariot to Montego Bay! We flew over Cuba, making it my first time laying eyes on the formerly embargoed nation and a short time later landed in Montego Bay. We passed through customs, grabbed our bags and hailed a cab, who from the get go provided us with a glimpse of the friendly people of Jamaica. A short fifteen minutes later our cab arrived at our resort and we were in the honeymoon portion of our trip! Carly and I spent the next three days drinking frozen drinks, swimming, dining and partying as we got acclimated to paradise prior to the arrival of our friends!
Thursday, January 19:
One last dip in the pool and drinks at the swim up bar and we were packed and loaded into a cab headed east a mere forty five minutes to our next destination. "White or green?" the driver inquired, as was standard operating procedure for almost every working person we interacted with. We rapped with our driver about the island, his life and a bunch of items of interest along the way all while consuming a joint. As it had the previous days, Bob Marley came up a bunch in conversation. At one point he stopped at "Discovery Park" where Christopher Columbus landed in the Americas. A brief conversation followed about Columbus and how the Jamaican people thought he was a great man. I did my best to explain some of his crimes against humanity without wasting too much time on the horrible topic. Goats wandered the roadside as we passed little hut bar after jerked chicken stand left and right. School children in uniforms played games and danced in the courtyards of schools that we passed. Eventually we arrived at Jewel Runaway Bay, which turned out to be the wrong resort.
"It's where Hedonism used to be..." the bellhop said to our driver in a thick Jamaican accent.
We walked along the perimeter wall over which we could see a road that appeared to disappear into the surrounding jungle. We hopped up a flight of stairs and arrived at our room which had tile floors, a beautiful bathroom and a balcony overlooking a courtyard pool and bar! The legendary John T. could be seen yucking it up poolside in an incredible and colorful flower patterned two piece get up. The campaign appeared to be going strong. We tossed our suitcases aside threw on our bathing suits and flipflops and made our way back towards the lobby and main bar and pool to locate our friends. Once again we crossed paths with the Chets who were getting the runaround from security. We scooped up Chet to show us where Matt and Teri were, as Steph went back to dealing with the hotel staff.
We formally ran into John and Teri T. at a pool/restaurant/bar along the shore and met a bunch of folks. We excitedly headed to Matt and Teri's room, then to the main dinning buffet where we found our hosts as well as our friends, Jess and Andy! We all hugged and then I made a pass at the buffet to see what this fat guy was in for! The selection was fantastic! Matt and I hopped into the pool with Chet and began ordering drinks rapidly before making the climb past an elevated Jacuzzi to a set of rod iron spiral stairs that lead to the water slide. I watched everyone drop in at at staggered rate per the young Jamaican gentleman at the top. I saw Chet launch himself and followed suit. I flew down the slide into the darkness flying back and forth at the mercy of the turns. I plugged my nose in anticipation of hitting the water following one final big turn and splash. "That was terrifying," I said, to which everyone agreed. We climbed the stairs once again and one by one dropped into the slide, but not before I kicked an unmarked concrete step and broke my toe.
"We wouldn't be hear without you," Matt tearfully said to me, giving me a big hug and triggering tears of my own. Ironic given the circumstances, but I kissed him on the cheek and gripped him up in a return of pure gratefulness. The food was delicious and the options plentiful and diverse. There was laughter in between bites and more and more drinks followed in preparation for four hours of Dark Star Orchestra! We hit the beach with intention and drinks in hand watching the sun set on day one! The 9:00 hour came and DSO hit the stage with the crowd growing in size. Our group was turned up and parked right next to the beach side bar. As the first set progressed a number of slower songs eased folks into the weekend, however at that point, I was ready to party!
That night was a great start to the weekend and I couldn't help but smile at the prospect of the next few days! Carly and I headed back to the room and upon our arrival kept getting the red light. I went up to the front desk where they re-did my key cards. I walked back to the room where Carly was no where to be seen and once again red light. I walked back over to the front desk, not super pumped about what was going on. This time they had someone meet us at our room to let us in and change the batteries in the keypad.
I headed off into the night and ended up back at the hot tub where I laid on the poolside looking up at the stars while folks came and went. I met a lot of people, had a lot of laughs, but don't remember most of it. A gentleman got out of the tub and picked up his acoustic guitar. After a couple of songs I stood up to head back to the room and said "good night," which triggered the man to play "We Bid You Good Night." I sang along with the group softly as I wandered towards a much needed bed. I located the mandala and I glanced down the dirt road over the wall dimly lit by street lights as dancehall music blasted from a club up the road. "Goodnight" a security guard said, looking up from his cell phone. I slid the key into the door and the green light signaled the end to my night. My head hit the pillow and it was over...
Set Two: Corrina > Cumberland Blues, Easy Wind, Gomorrah, Lost Sailor > Saint Of Circumstance > drums > space > Why Don't We Do It In The Road > Uncle john's Band > China Doll > Sugar Magnolia
Encore: Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)
Friday January 20:
I came to in pain from my choices and with a great chance of repeat offending. Carly had already been up for a while and tie-dyed her Jam In The Sand shirt. We headed to the buffet and I drank several glasses of ice water and filled up a plate of food. I starred at the food with my hangover refusing to subside. I did my best to have a few bites, but following Carly's meal, we headed back and I returned to bed. I re-awoke early afternoon feeling epic and returned to the buffet to conquer where I had previously failed. We picked up some Bob Marley papers and a "one love" lighter at the gift shop and a few cups of Blue Mountain coffee from the cafe before we headed to the pool by Matt and Teri's. We came around the corner and the first two wooks we saw at the swim up bar were Matt and Chet. In the distance, Brian walked up in a woman's swimsuit cover-up that turned out to be Jess'. We swam and drank for a while, with Matt telling a couple of folks the story of how he and Teri met me seventeen years ago. The ladies laid in the sun for a while and then we headed back to Matt and Teri's to smoke a kif joint.
"I got so drunk the other night that I propped Matt up against a tree and kept yelling 'La Bamba' at Los Lobos," Chet said laughing.
"I'm pretty sure that was a Ritchie Valens song," I said to his surprise.
"No Way," he returned. "Fuck."
I pulled out my phone and Googled it. To our dismay, we were both correct.
"So, do I make fun of you or do you talk shit? I'm not sure how to handle both being right..." Chet said.
"Yeah, this is weird," I said back.
I grabbed a coffee from the cafe and back to Matt and Teri's we went where our group started to get loud, laughing, telling stories and priming repeatedly. Matt and Teri's butler made frequent appearances, which featured Matt turning it up and trying to get him to party. The butler always came with beers and whatever other odd shit Matt or someone from our group requested and the butler was always taken care of. I reflected on how crazy it must have been to be in a working environment and wondering in and out of our patio party. I am not sure where it came from, but there was a glass bong on the table, which took kif smoking to the next level.
Shit started to get weird as the substances took hold. I am a big guy, but I consumed enough alcohol, cannabis and others to take down a hippo (which seemed like a cool animal as a child, but turned out to be a real cantankerous creature). The laughter, story telling and nonsense that followed had me in an extreme state of euphoria. Where better to be than on a beach, in the Caribbean, with some of my favorite folks, getting ready to hear some Grateful Dead music? The trees were up-lit with colorful lighting and the vibe was fantastic!
Dark Star Orchestra hit the stage as the remaining stragglers from our group showed up to party! Once again we parked right by the bar, though on that night I alternated between alcohol and water. To my delight the first set opened with "Help" into "Slipknot" into "Franklin's!" They slowed it down with "Masterpiece" and "Loser" before picking back up with "Mr. Charlie," a song that sent our group into a frenzy. I was snapping my fingers and spinning in circles and glanced back to see Teri with a huge smile on her face singing along! "Me And My Uncle" followed and reminded me of our friend Murray who was on Jam Cruise and would be docking in Ochos Rios on Sunday, a short twenty five minute drive from our resort. I glanced over at Jess who started to dance frantically, like the wind-driven character set up at car washes and grand openings. I cracked up before participating as the group roared. We got low, we got high, but always swayed our arms in the wind!
I was loosing my mind laughing and in the distance I could hear DSO had returned to the stage with "China Cat!" I herded cats and made haste back top the beach just in time to catch the transition into "Rider," which was clean and smooth. Reality began to fade, though through the fogginess, I recall running into Chet outside of his room smoking with who I assumed was a friend of his. We talked for a short time and said goodbye, headed up to Chet's room to grab something and turned around as the door closed behind us and there she was. Chet jumped startled and I laughed. "Are you a cop?" Chet asked with a straight face. "No, no, no..." the woman expressed. Though it wouldn't really have mattered at that juncture. We awkwardly turned towards Chet's door and to our relief the woman followed.
Set One: Help On The Way > Slipknot > Franklin's Tower, When I Paint My Masterpiece, Loser, Mister Charlie, Me And My Uncle > Big River, Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues, Russian Lullaby, Man Smart (Woman Smarter)
Set Two: China Cat Sunflower > I Know You Rider, Sunrise, Estimated Prophet > #drums > space > *Death Don't Have No Mercy > *Going Down The Road Feeling Bad > *Not Fade Away
#Tara Nevins - washboard percussion.
*David Hidalgo - guitar.
Saturday January 21:
I awoke to sunshine and thoughts of Blue Mountain coffee! I had always wondered how these all-inclusive music experiences worked and as things were unfolding, I found myself enjoying it quite extensively. I pulled back the curtains and folks were already swimming in the pool. "Two more days of this!" I exclaimed to Carly with a big smile! I felt worlds better than I had the previous day! Hell yeah, water! We walked with a hop in our step over to the cafe and then over to the buffet. I snapped my fingers, which were sore from all of the night prior's snapping. "What kind of a snapping fool am I?" I thought to myself as we wandered. Three ham, mushroom and cheese omelettes later and I was floating in the pool staring up at the blue skies above.
I hit the bowl and exhaled the sweet taste of greens as Reggae played in the background. Matt and Teri came by and we all walked over to the other pool passing an incredibly long line to have the bands autograph their posters. We indulged in frozen drinks and cheese covered fries while soaking up the sun. Once again Brian appeared in a woman's shirt and it didn't look half bad on him. I took stock of our remaining herb and kif and concluded that it was essential that we not stop smoking until we departed Monday morning. The result was eating copious amounts of food. I personally had multiple hamburgers and still hit the buffet both in the afternoon and then again for dinner. It was on!
I don't think a single person from our group made it over for Donna the Buffalo's 4:30 PM set. For dinner, the team once again met for some communal dinning and hilarity ensued with general non-sense and banter. My stomach hurt from laughing though I managed to power through my three plates and return for bread pudding! While enjoying my dessert, I had the first thought of having to pack and return home. I quickly changed focus with a handful of drinks. Back at Matt and Teri's patio bong loads of kif were being crushed and joint after joint smoked! At one point Chet told a story of how he went into Blockbuster one time in khaki shorts and a visor and the young man behind the counter, confusing Chet with a lesbian, called him "ma'am." I lost it. I absolutely melted down.
The group as a whole seemed worn out, yet nothing could have slowed me down! We headed over upon hearing DSO fire up with "Greatest Story Ever Told." We made it just in time for "Althea," which was sweet and well-executed. Following "Lazy Lightning," "Jack-A-Row" and "Box Of Rain" I immediately divested from the set. During "It Hurts Me To" and "Weather Report Suite" I dug my feet into the sand and wandered around in the water with Brian, Mina and Carly. I recalled that I had a Cuban cigar that I had purchased in Montego Bay and pulled it out. It tasted bold and robust and I enjoyed it quite a bit!
Los Lobos closed the evening with most of our group coming and going for the duration of the set. The band sounded good and I enjoyed their output. I lost track of some of the group and swung by the Chets' room, or what I thought was the Chets' room. A random guy opened the door and I informed him that I must have the wrong room. "No problem, I'm Chris! Do you want to come in and party?" the gentleman asked. I thanked him and declined, hopping a building over and locating the Chets. We wandered around for a bit as a fire was lit on the beach and the Reggae band set up with some special guests. With a snorkeling trip scheduled for the early afternoon, Carly and I decided to head back to the room and lay our heads on the pillow. We turned on the TV for the first time in a few days to find some extremely discouraging news stories regarding our country's new president and the massive marches taking place. We turned the TV off quickly and returned to what felt like a dream inside of a dream...
Set One: Greatest Story Ever Told, Althea, Lazy Lighning Supplication, *Jack-A-Row, Box Of Rain, It Hurts Me Too, Weather Report Suite
Set Two: #Scarlet Begonias > #Playing In The Band > #Shakedown Street > Shining Star > @Think > @ Turn On Your Lovelight
*Tara Nevins - Violin
#David McCracken - Organ
@Steve Berlin - Sax
Sunday January 22:
The Jamaican gentleman laughed as well and fixed it for me, tossing it back to me in the water. I laid floating calmly in the ocean feeling blissful and fear free. Floating above the coral provided a perspective that I had never seen of a world that is super foreign to me. I returned to the boat for my last frozen drink and a joint before returning to the water. I glanced over and Matt was holding a beer as he snorkeled. The experience was special and as the group climbed out of the water one by one, you could see the excitement and space in our faces. I turned to Jess, who drank a solid amount of salt water and looked like she was going to die. We returned to shore and off everyone went in different directions.
People came and went, hitting the bong while we watched the game. The courtyard came to life, as much as it had that weekend and people were partying. A couple of older ladies hit the bong and wandered off to get drinks for the group. A short time later Matt's butler showed up with beers and Chet showed up with a woman holding a tray full of drinks! If that wasn't enough, a bartender came over and switched on the Red Stripe taps. A while later the ladies came back with their hands full of drinks to find us with a bar full! It was a humorous moment reflecting how great life was. A safety meeting took place in a ground level room and people poured back out into the pool charged!
Several of cups of coffee were needed just to sustain. Los Lobos kicked off the evening for their final set of the weekend. We fucked around in the sand while I tried to convince Chet to head up front to yell "La Bamba." He wasn't biting. We hit Matt and Teri's patio which was sparse. Those who were present were pretty beat, though there Chet and I were squawking and yapping. We headed back to our room to pack and took inventory of what remained and what would need to be consumed prior to the next morning. We set aside enough herb for the AM, grabbed the rest of our stuff and headed over to the main thoroughfare to trade and dole out fun! We met a handful of folks under wild circumstances and got situated for DSO's closing sets of the weekend.
Back at the main bar a bartender seemed less than thrilled to see Chet and I.
"What do you two want?" she asked with a straight face.
"I'll take a daiquiri with a rum floater and he'll have a shitty vodka diet," I exclaimed.
"Hmmm..." The woman said glancing at Chet and back at me.
"I want to buy a drink for my kid, please..." I said.
"She looked back at him and said "That's your kid?"
"Yup." I said without thought.
"Great job" she said with a straight face.
We cracked up as she got our drinks. Carly walked up and the bartender asked which one of us two belonged to Carly?
She pointed at me. "So that's your kid?" she said pointing to Chet, who looked retarded.
Both Carly and the woman couldn't keep a straight face!
"We're back!" I said.
"Yay. Girlie drink for you and cup of piss for him?" she said to which Chet and I laughed and she got our actual drinks.
A beautiful "Peggy-O" came next with the crowd singing along. DSO picked it back up with "El Paso!" Circles were spun and smiles were shared with folks from all over the world that we had met that week. I felt reflective and grateful for the experiences and memories that we made. "Tennessee Jed" sounded fantastic, "Row Jimmy" was sweet and "The Music Never Stopped" was the ironic conclusion to the first set. Towards the end of the first set, I saw Matt and lost him. We decided to head back to Matt and Teri's to give them a humble gift from the group as a thank you. We arrived to find Teri and the group gathered as Matt wandered up. We presented them with a wooden Jamaica plaque and thanked them profusely for the experience.
A few of us shuffled back over to the beach. Chet called a "Bertha" second set opener and sure enough, that's what we were treated to! "Bertha" transitioned into "Good Lovin'" and "Ship of Fools" came next followed by "Samson And Delilah." A powerful "Terrapin Station" went into "Drums" and "Space" into "The Other One!" The jam was deep and went into "Close Encounters" which was wild before going into "Saint Stephen" into "Not Fade Away" into "Around And Around." I suggested to Carly that we sneak off, as I am never one for a goodbye. I took a deep breath walking back to the room through the loud bird calls from the trees, past the pools and coffee house, nodding at the security guard along the wall and headed back to our room with a plate of cheese fries for one final sleep on the island. Unfortunately, we were at the wrong room in the wrong building. We laughed, located the mandala and headed to our actual room for the night...
Set One: New Minglewood Blues, Dire Wolf, Cassidy, Peggy-O, El Paso, Tennessee Jed, Jack Straw, Row Jimmy, The Music Never Stopped
Set Two: Bertha > Good Lovin', Ship Of Fools, Samson And Delilah, Terrapin Station > Drums > The Other One > Close Encounters Mattson Jam > Saint Stephen > Not Fade Away > Around And Around
Encore: U.S. Blues
1.22.78 McArthur Court - University of Oregon
Monday January 23:
We checked out of our room, said goodbye to a few new friends and hung out with Matt and Teri at the main pool bar until our shuttle came. A gentleman played Dead tunes on his acoustic in the lobby as our shuttle pulled up. We hugged Matt and Teri and once again tried to vocalize what the experience meant to us and how grateful we were. I popped a Xanax and our bus pulled away for the hour drive to the airport. I took comfort in the fact that the Chets were still sleeping and would enjoy another full day at the resort,and that Matt and Teri would be there for another two nights. We pulled into the Montego Bay Airport, tipped our driver, checked our bags and headed through minimal security to our gate. In the airport we ran into Brian, Mina, Jess and Andy and sat with them until their flight took off.
Our flight was scheduled to fly out of the next gate and around the time we were supposed to board, I noticed that they changed our gate to the other side of the airport. Chaos ensued, our gate was located and we boarded our flight back to the States. I awoke in Houston where we would float through US customs like zombies before getting some chicken and boarding our flight back to Denver. Back in Colorado it was dark and cold. It was a very direct welcome home from the frozen tundra. We caught the shuttle to our car and arrived home a short time later. It was hard not to smile as we unpacked our bags.
To get back to the original question "You went to Jamaica to see a Grateful Dead cover band?" I guess the answer is more simple than I had initially thought, however that provided me with a great opportunity to share my experience at an all inclusive music festival! It was great to see music and have access to unlimited food, drinks and comfortable beds, though I felt that three days of Donna The Buffalo and Los Lobos were a little much. I was surprised how little music many folks actually saw. With a different line-up, that may not have been the case. The saving grace was the amount of time that it allowed for me to spend with my friends and experience Jamaica. Matt and Teri were right, it was a wild time with wild people! We fell in love with Jamaica, an island of vibrant colors and incredible people and look forward to our return to the beautiful island nation!
"Fare thee well, fare thee well, I love you more than words can tell..."