Jamcruise 11

My head is swimming with funk, people. I close my eyes on the plane back to Oakland and the riffs flood in like saltwater through a submarine hatch. Saxophones and Hammond organs hover around my mind’s ear like it’s the pretty girl at the middle-school dance. Backbeats frame every thought. I have no problem with this. Who’d complain about a George Porter bassline keeping them company? Please introduce me to this person. They need help.

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Seeing as how I just spent a week on the funkiest boat in the world, the fact that my brain’s locked on constant Meters-playback just shows me that it’s working. (Considering the week I’ve put it through, that’s not a bad thing to get some confirmation on.) There’s also been room made up there for some folk songs, some pedal steel moans and mandolin hammer-ons; amidst an ocean of nasty, syncopated goodness, Jam Cruise made a home for some country tunes, some bluegrass, and some undeniable rock and roll. They made a home for what I do, and for that I am grateful. It’s a tired kind of grateful, but it’s deep as the Atlantic. The funk reigns supreme on that boat, and I love taking a little home. It’s powerful stuff. They could power the engines with it.

The Butter sets went by so fast. My body’s not used to a winter gig that isn’t bookended by a five-hour drive and a frigid loadout. My conscious mind knows that, yes, I’m on a boat, on a big, blue watery road. I’ve done this before, and that’s the deal. But my nervous system says “huh? I mean . . . okay. I guess we could, like, climb out of the hot tub here, go grab the, uh, banjo, walk downstairs and then just kind of play a show. I guess that could be the way things go this week. Hmm? Kyle’s playing organ with us today? Oh, yeah. Sure. And then we go back to eating and drinking and lollygagging? And jamming with Greensky? Ohhhkaaay. I guess. You sure there’s not supposed to be a traffic jam somewhere in here?” We played all the notes, every one we could.

Good things tend to happen on this boat. Good things like singing with your wife till sunrise on deck 7 (thanks for hosting, Nathan). Things like discovering the nutritional value of dried conch on Grand Turk, or having a long dinner with friends who, although they live five miles from your front door, you never have time to see. These things matter – they keep that boat afloat. Everyone knows cruises are weird places. You’re in a small, floating city, where everything’s close together but still surprisingly difficult to find at times. Hallways are looooong, Shining-friendly and may or may not sway as you wander them looking for your room. Not only are things eerily tidy when you get there, but, in fact, people quietly clean up after you wherever you go. So, you consume more than you should, in every conceivable way, and every tilt of your head reminds you that, no matter how old your car is or many bills are waiting back for you back home, you’re still a rich American, and that you’ve gotta own that with some grace.

I’ve never been on any other cruises, but, in my humble, hungover opinion, this boat offsets all cruise-related weirdness with such a high degree of loving badassery that, by the middle of the first night, the meter’s solidly in the black. So thanks, Jam Cruise, for making a home for some of the most soulful, brain-colonizing music in the Milky Way. I’ll be happy to hear these riffs upstairs until I’m lucky enough to find myself walking up that gangway again.

– Erik

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