You could feel the energy, even while we were still at port, with the crew still setting up the stage, and the MSC Poesia staff scraping off the stickers from Holy Ship! which still dressed the boat’s elevators. I walked around the boat, giving the grand tour to my friends who had never boarded the boat: “virgins,” as they say. We bought our drink tickets, and sat in the sun, with our drinks, on the pool deck watching people hugging other people, relaxing into the vibe that is Jam Cruise. Finally. We were here.
Back at the cabins we spent time decorating our hallway in a zebra theme, and then went up to the pool deck for the Sail Away Party. Soul Rebels, a brass band from New Orleans, were playing loud and strong,, the wind in your hair was palpable, and we were about to leave the country. This was a highly anticipated moment, for me, and about the other three thousand people on the MSC Poesia.
Day 1, All Aboard! Saturday, Jan 7 Highlights:
The monster set with Medeski, Scofield, Martin and Wood on the Pool Deck. They played experimental jazz at its finest. I love these guys and this was an absolute treat as we sailed away from Florida. I was still feeling amped, excited to become totally decompressed and relaxed, my personal anticipation at its height, and this set that made me think, “ahhh, we are here. This is happening. I’m on vacation, I’m on the boat, I’m on the boat! Ahhhh.”
Timing/lack of timing: Once we left the Port, my phone went into roaming mode, and automatically advanced 5 hours. This wasn’t helpful trying to figure out the schedule/timing/what stage, etc.
Zebra night – I went back to the cabin after MSMW and put on my zebra pants and made our way down to the Theater for Steel Pulse, and on our way, while walking through the Zebra Room to get to the Theater was The Motet with Nigel Hall playing. I took a double take. And then remembered what life is like on the boat – a feeling of total FOMS (Fear Of Missing Something) all day/every day, and you are ok with it.
Day 2, At Sea, Tuesday, Jan 8 Highlights:
It was a full day on the seas packed with fun activities and music sets, to keep us busy and dancing well into the early morning hours. I bought myself a poster and got on line for the Artist Autograph Signing. I waited in line for about an hour. In front of me was a seven-week old baby, who brought his parents along to take pictures. I asked all the artists (Lettuce, MSMW, Dumpstaphunk, funky Meters, Galactic, Soul Rebels, Pimps of Joytime, Zoogma, Skerik, Mike Dillon, I’m sure I’m missing people.) “Will you sign my poster?” in true dork form, and every one of the artists were gracious. I shook Mr. Bernie Worrell’s hand. I told Scofield he was my hero. And I promptly lost that poster by the time I had left the boat. :-(
We laid in the sun on the pool deck, drank our delicious BBC’s (I think I turned at least eight virgins onto this drink-and the trick about getting the banana from the buffet just in case,) and chilled to some wonderful guitar plucking by Greensky Bluegrass. Then JJ Grey & Mofro set up and played while we were lounging in the sun, and laughing. I took a moment then to acknowledge the warmth of the sun on my skin, and the laughter of friends around me. I felt lucky to be here, thankful for the decompression, and gratitude for this life of ours. It was a grounding moment for me in the circus called Jam Cruise.
The Beginning of Music FOMS
We watched The Motet play their Funk is Dead set on the Pool Deck – which blew everyone’s head off – and left that set early to see Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood have their artist’s discussion in the Jam Room. We were late for that talk, and on the way back, we passed through the Atrium where Nigel Hall was playing his piano set. We lingered there, met up with more of our friends and we all had our first sit down dinner of the cruise. Italian dinner first. Yum. More laughter. More crazy quotes like “I feel like I am swimming in a cranberry cocktail.” (The Italian Restaurant was overtly cranberry colored, the seats, the wallpaper, the carpet, the tables, you get the idea…)
We got dressed for the official Blue Lagoon Boogaloo Night, I dressed as a mermaid and glittered myself (and my friends) with blue glitter and went on our way. Galactic and the funky Meters on the Pool Deck, Femi Kuti and Medeski, Scofield, Martin & Wood in the purple theater (Teatro Felice). Oh, such decisions, the real question was, was I going to try to catch all four sets, or stay put on the Pool Deck or the Teatro? Tough decisions, indeed.
In the end, I stayed put for Galactic and the funky Meters. Drummer Russell Batiste driving it hard down the pool deck with Cissy Strut and George Porter, Jr. and Stoltz playing loud and long. We met more friends that we randomly see, some friends we hadn’t seen in fifteen years, and some friends that we just met within the past twenty four hours.
We all ended up in the Jam Room – the last spot on the boat that all the musicians play well into the morning hours, sunrise set. Every evening an new musician hosts (tonight was Brian J. from Pimps of Joytime) and a mesh of musicians begin to fill up the stage.
Time: One thing on Jam Cruise is that time does seem to slip away. The excitement builds to a fury by the last night. As musicians and fans alike become more settled in the routine of the cruise, and more comfortable with each other, the spirit of this cruise becomes larger, friendlier, there is more “cross pollination” between musicians, which means more incredible jams with intensely talented musicians from different types of genres. This was only day two on the boat. We’ve only just begun.
Day 3 – Turks & Caicos, Wednesday, Jan 9 Highlights
I woke up a bit later today and we ate breakfast (ok, it was lunch) at the buffet before we disembarked to Turks & Caicos. We went to the islands Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville where we ordered a burger and some island drinks, and laid by the pool. Then we walked over to the beach and dipped our toes in the water. I had just laid my head back on the recliners when I felt a few drops of rain hit. We made our way back to the boat, leisurely roaming through a few of the duty free shops and jewelry shops, and walked back to the boat. By the time we got to our rooms, the sun was back out. And it brought a beautiful rainbow with it.
Theme Night: This was Soul Train night. I got myself a disco dancing, sequined outfit with headband and disco ball earrings, my partner had the funniest disco dancer/swinger costume on and we both came out on fire-disco dancing while the sun sets over Turks & Caicos,
The massive Pool Deck Set with Dumpstaphunk into Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe into Lettuce. I chose not to have FOMS, but to stay put and relax and enjoy.
Jam Room: Mike Dillon, host
This was amazing. The writer in me has no more adjectives, one can only point to a song to make the point. Members of Lettuce, funky Meters, Pimps of Joytime, Dumpstaphunk, Jeff Coffin, too many musicians to count – Nikki Glaspie rapped a bit – I don’t know, it gets jumbled a bit for me – because by this time I had hit my musical bliss so far out to the oceanic seas, I wasn’t concerned with seeing who was playing, but just listening to the jam that was being born right here. We closed down the Jam Room that night, walked the deck past where Nathan Moore and his friends were playing on the deck and saw the sunrise. And then promptly passed out.
Day 4 – At Sea, Thursday, Jan 10 Highlights
I was not well on Thursday, spending most of the day in the cabin with a sick tummy. I heard that March Fourth blew everyone away, I saw them as I tried to motivate to the cafeteria and eat something.
I put on my circus outfit and rallied for the rest of the evening. Luckily, Karl D and Dumpstaphunk were playing in the Theater, so I was able to dance and sit and be mellow if need be. Although, it is hard to be mellow when Karl D and Dumpstaphunk are in the room.
By this time, 4th day into the cruise, the vibe is kicking into high gear, it’s more familiar, more family-esque. The costumes have become more outrageous, the mix of musicians playing with each other becomes more commonplace and the Jam Cruise vibe is in full effect. Crazy costumes don’t surprise us anymore, they are normal. Strange jams in the middle of hallways are also normal. The laughter of people all around you, the pain in your side from laughing all day are normal. And the mashups of musicians on the stage are also normal.
Fourth day on the seas with your fellow musicians, artists, fans and roommates alike is more akin to being on vacation with about 4,000 of your buddies, some of them with instruments, some of them in costume, some of them just blowing your mind with the energy and sounds. By this time, regardless of my illness, I was still in musical bliss – floating from one room to another, with a huge smile on my face.