Jam Cruise 17 Showcases Supergroups with Sets by Dragon Smoke, The Cleaners, Hot Tuna + Steve Kimock and More
Photos by Josh Timmermans via Jam Cruise on FB
After Jam Cruisers spent the first half of their day enjoying the Central American cham of Belize City, the festival continued on Thursday, Jan. 17, with music starting at 5:30 p.m. on the roving festival’s pool deck stage.
“May this be the start of something great,” ALO keyboardist Zach Gill toasted to the crowd, before launching into a slew of covers and originals, from an instrumental of Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child of Mine,” to the band’s own “Shapeshifter” to a very appropriate cover of The Dead’s “Ship of Fools.” Later, ALO brought up members of Fruition a.k.a. “the hardest working band in show business,” for a take on CSNY’s “Woodstock,” later closing with a pairing of ALO’s “Barbeque” and Jesus Jones’ “Right Here Right Now.”
Matador! Soul Sounds keyboardist Chris Spies channeled the sounds of New Orleans during his Atrium set, offering a version of Allen Toussaint’s “Brickyard Blues” (with special guest vocalist Jennifer Hartswick). Spies also invited his Matador! bandmate Kim Dawson up to sing “Miss Celie’s Blues” from The Color Purple and the trio of Hartswick, Dawson and Matador!’s Adryon de Lyon to sing “Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do),” a song made famous by Aretha Franklin. Spies was also sure to highlight his love for Frank Zappa by covering “Uncle Remus” with vocals by Soulive/Matador! drummer Alan Evans.
By 8 p.m., Jam Cruise was ready for some Electric Hot Tuna. “Its a real honor when we get to have living legends onboard,” Annabel Lukins’ of Cloud 9 productions said of the legendary Jefferson Airplane offshoot. To start, Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady offered the first half hour of their set without special guest Steve Kimock, playing tunes like Chuck Berry’s “I’m Talking About You” and their own “Living Just For You.” Then it was time to welcome “everyone’s favorite guitar player” Kimock, who added his tone to cuts like Delta Blues classic “Walkin Blues” and a bluesy version of “Bowlegged Woman, Knock Kneed Man.” The trio also welcomed vocalist Leslie Mendelson for the blues standards “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” and “Sun’s Gonna Shine in my Back Door Someday.”
Meanwhile, in the Stardust Theatre, Karl Denson was leading his Tiny Universe in some soulful proceedings and, in the intimate Bliss Lounge, Jennifer Hartswick and Nick Cassarino impressed the crowd with their jazzy duo work.
The main stage lit up once again for the supergroup Dragon Smoke, featuring Ivan Neville, Robert Mercurio, Eric Lindell, and Stanton Moore. As the clock struck Midnight, after sit ins by Marcus King, Skerik and Big Sam, special guest Brandon “Taz” Niederaurer joined in on “Nobody Wants You When You’re Down and Out” (made famous by Bobby Womack) and “Me and My Woman” (made famous by Shuggie Otis). Dragon Smoke closed with a medley of Steve Miller Band’s “The Joker” and Tom Petty’s ”Free Fallin’” as well as a take on the Buddy Guy favorite “Somebody’s Sleepin’ in my Bed.”
Elsewhere around the ship, Houston trio Khruangbin played their second set of the week in the Stardust Theatre (third if you count their late-night DJ set the evening prior), while Fruition’s Mimi Naja led an informal “Pickin’ Lounge” set in with special guests like Vince Herman of Leftover Salmon and Gill of ALO.
The set of the night, however, was certainly The Cleaners closing out the main stage. Continuing the supergroup trend that was forged earlier with Hot Tuna/Kimock and Dragon Smoke, the all-star lineup of guitarists Eric Krasno and Marcus King, drummer Duane Trucks, bassist Kevin Scott and keyboardist DeShawn “D’Vibes” Alexander brought the fire with epic takes on Little Feat’s “Spanish Moon” and King’s own “How Long.” (The latter tune also featured the Turkuaz horns, dubbed by King as The Hot Pink horns to fit the evening’s “Pink” theme.)
The dueling-guitar chemistry between Krasno and King was palpable on the Allman Brothers Band classic “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed,” which also contained a drum break for Trucks to show off his skills. The ABB love continued later with “Les Brers in A Minor,” and the set crescendoed on a cover of “Ohio” with Niederauer on lead guitar, Krasno joining Alexander on keys, and Mendelson on backing vocals. The Cleaners closed out the main stage with an in-your-face version of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.”
As of press time, George Porter Jr. was holding down the Jam Room, DJ Soul Sister was spinning in the Bliss Lounge and Andy Frasco was crowd surfing in the Stardust Theater as his U.N. band rocked into the early morning hours.
Jam Cruise 17 will continue through Jan. 21 with stops in Cozumel, Mexico and Progreso, Mexico.