I’ve been on an emotional high ever since November when I was lucky enough to win "The Spirit of HeadCount" award and get to go on Jam Cruise 11. It was the most amazing honor because I have so much respect and admiration for HeadCount and what they do (what we do). I am so thankful just to be included in the organization in the first place. The award’s inclusion of a spot on Jam Cruise 11 kicked my life into the realm of surreality…and that definitely didn’t stop on the boat.
Everything that is great about music festivals is amplified on Jam Cruise, and everything that we put up with to go to music festivals is eliminated. The people, or Jamily as I know them now, are the kindest best concert goers there are. The staff of the MSC Poesia is amazing, and from time to time you can even catch them in the groove. While the rooms are quite “cozy” like a large tent, they all have flush toilets and showers… SHOWERS, and there is always hot water available! Oh, and then there is the 12-17 hours of nonstop music every day. Most music festivals will have a good bit of collaboration, but since everyone stays on the boat, the collaborations on Jam Cruise are endless during the sets. And then there is the Jam Room, I mean it is called the Jam Room and they mean it.
Everyone has been asking me what my favorite part of Jam Cruise was and what the highlights were. The answer is basically from the time we got there to the time we left was the best time of my life. There aren’t a handful of moments that make the trip. It is absolutely a continuous stream of endless amazement. You will be dancing at a show and look off to the side and remember that you are in the middle of the Caribbean. You sit down for some food look over to the next table to give the courtesy nod and “wa’sup” only to realize a moment later that it was Steve Kimock. It is literally bumping into Jeff Coffin with his sax in hand on the way to his next sit in. You get to see bands that you have been dying to see but just haven’t yet (Lettuce and The Motet for me). You see bands that you will NEVER miss the opportunity to see when you can again (The Soul Rebels and March Fourth Marching Band). You might even get to see one of your all-time favorite sax players (Karl Denson) walk out on stage with your favorite band (moe.).
There really are far too many of the moments to recount. Even as I talk to my fellow HeadCounters post ship, there are things I re-remember. I’m certain that years from now there will be moments that pop into my head, but here are a couple that really meant something to me.
After seeing Big Gigantic the previous night there were a bunch of us in the cabin and I shared the story of their show in Columbus. I was also telling them about how I like electronic music, but the crowds frequently annoy me. Before the Columbus show drummer Jeremy Salken was hanging out at the HeadCount table, and it seemed like everyone at the show was way underage, and unable to register to vote. We left the room to hop in the elevator after telling the story, and there was Jeremy. I started joking around about annoying electronic music, but I actually enjoyed seeing them the night before “without a bunch of 13-year-olds”. And that’s when he remembered me, yes HE remembered ME and how terribly young the crowd was. All right in front of the people I had just told the story to.
One of the things I was most excited about on board was the screening of “Basically Frightened” the documentary on Col. Bruce Hampton. I consider the Col. to be one of my primary gateway artists into to live music scene. I don’t normally get all “teen fan girl” excited when I meet artists, but I ran into him I had to contain myself. I sat down by him on the steps and told him “Col., I’m a product of the H.O.R.D.E. Tour and I absolutely fell in love with you and ARU and your stuff on the Jam Stage. You’re the reason I’ve basically given up everything of value in my life, any chance to better myself, all to chase live music.” He looked at me, laughed and in his southern accent said “Why, you’re welcome!”
For years I’ve volunteered at shows and festivals, and inevitably you end up talking to people about their favorite music and festivals and such. I’ve talked to “Cruisers” many times, and to a person they all say it is the greatest thing ever. To be honest, I really kind of thought they were all a bit elitist about it. I’ve always wanted to go, but it couldn’t possibly live up to all of that hyperbole. I now know that each and every one of them were totally understating the pure AWESOME that is Jam Cruise. I can tell you this, the first “not on Jam Cruise” thing I did when I got home was start to plan for how I’m going to pay for Jam Cruise 12. I can’t wait to meet more of you when we set sail next year!