Words: Tim Kelly | Photos: Michael Lepek
In case you missed it... our story begins on Day One.
Day two started with waking up docked at MSC’s owned island Ocean Cay. It still seems to be a work in progress. While nothing spectacular, it gives cruisers some beachfront on which to tan and jump in the ocean.
It took some searching, but I found the beachfront yoga class with Dan “Lebo” Lebowitz supplying the music. JamCruise really expanded its wellness program this year with two different yoga classes per day, stretching class, meditation, Ba Duan, Nutrition class, Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine to name a few. Yoga on the beach is special. Throw in Lebo, and it becomes sublime!
Jam Cruise is basically a week of making decisions between multiple amazing options. Yoga caused me to miss the Ryan Montbleau set and the Brock Butler set at the lighthouse (the latter garnering great reviews). You win some, you lose some.
Due to an attempt to avoid some weather by leaving the island earlier than originally planned, Keller William’s Grateful Grass was moved from the island to the Pool Deck. Keller never fails to entertain in his various bands, and this collaboration was no different. Williams was joined by some of the members of Love Canon, Lebo, and Reed Mathis. Highlights included “Wharf Rat”, a fully authentic 1973 style “Eyes Of the World”, and my favorite which was a ballad-like version of “Touch of Grey” that was exquisite.
In what will easily be one of my top five moments aboard, Ivan Neville performed his “solo” atrium set. Mr. Neville got everyone from the word go by getting intimate describing his first Jam Cruise trip, 13 years ago, where he found out about his mom’s passing while on the boat. As he got visibly choked up relaying the story, it felt as though you were in a living room with a dear friend.
He started off with some originals from an early solo album where he acknowledged the handful of claps as the 2 or 3 people who bought the album. He then invited guest after guest including Tony Hall, “Sput” Searight, Chris Jacobs (where they played a song from their side project) Karl Denson on Dave Mathews’s “Crash”, and Marcus King for Don Henley’s “Boys of Summer.”
Then, it was back to the pool deck for the Jam Cruise debut of Circles Around the Sun. When the Jam Cruise 18 line-up was announced Neal Casal was still with us. With his tragic death, no one knew what would happen to the band. Eric Krasnow stepped into Cassal’s spot which had to be extremely difficult on so many more levels than just musically. Every member of this band leads the musical journey to wonderful places at one point or another, but when they come together led by Krasno’s guitar or Adam McDougall’s Keyboards, they discover uncharted lands.
I headed to the theater for moe.’s first appearance. A solid set which included a cover of “House of the Rising Sun” as a nod to boat’s first theme night which was Vodoo Night. They closed with a killer “Buster.”
I retraced my steps to the pool deck to see Pigeons Playing Ping Pong, but first listened to a snippet to Thumpasaurus at the smaller stage also on the pool deck named the Brew’s at Sea stage. All I can think of is Phish meets Devo. They had a serious following on the boat, and I expect them on future trips.
Pigeons hit the stage with a fantastic “Porcupine.” They brought out Lebo for a monster “Julia” into Lebo’s own ALO’s “Plastic Bubble” back into “Julia.” They were joined by a saxophonist dressed as Sasquatch for "Water". They threw an epic mash-up cover of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “25 or 6 to 4” in the middle of the set.
The two hours were exactly the energetic, playful, set you’d expect from Pigeons.
I achieved my daily goal of making it to the Jam Room each night. Tonight it was Ghost Note’s drummer Robert “Sput” Searight turn to host. I only caught two tunes, and both Prince songs - "Kiss" and "Baby, I’m a Star". I later heard there was more Prince, but I made my decision to put me and Day Two to bed.
Our story continues on Day Three.