Day 6: The Festival of the Future
I hate goodbyes, but fondly remember the final night of summer camp. There is something in the air, a nervous excitement, as campers simultaneously pack their bags and prepare for one final party. It is a night to reflect on missed opportunities and ponder the future, especially, how to spin those missed opportunities into stories of success. To slightly miss quote The Slip, who I strongly urge the good folks at Cloud 9 to book on Jam Cruise 6, “it’s the day before the rest of your life,” and suddenly time is calculated in hours, not days. Since the music industry takes a few extra weeks to recover from New Year’s Eve (either that or is really bad about turning off its out of the office auto replies), Jam Cruise and fellow destination packages like Ski Jam and moe.cruise have blossomed into the ideal Indian summer for twenty/thirty somethings who like live music. And, thus, Jam Cruise’s final night felt like the final night of summer camp, only instead of exchanging pen pal addresses and phone numbers, we swapped screen names and message board handles, figuring out creative ways to download a week’s worth of shows and explain to our friends that they “really had to be there” to understand.
As passengers prepared to hastily pack their luggage, or at least to cash in their final tokens at the canteen, Railroad Earth opened Saturday’s festivities, dubbed, arrr, “Pirate Night” with an energetic pool side set. Brock Butler, perhaps Jam Cruise’s breakout performer, followed with a cover-heavy acoustic set featuring both the post-jam space-rock of the Secret Machines and the proto-jam space-rock of Pink Floyd (very inverted!) Afternoon highlights included a jazzy funk-jam led by Karl Denson, a funky-jazz set by Garage a Benevento, and a purebred jazz/funk set by Galactic (who invited Luther Dickinson, Jen Durkin and Mike Dillon onstage during its set). Yet Umphrey’s McGee earned the weekend’s true sit-in award, opting for the one-to-three knock out of Luther Dickinson, Burning Spear and a Triscuit of Disco Biscuits. The Deep Banana Blackout horns also enhanced Umphrey’s McGee’s frat-jam (did I just coin a genre?) version of the SNL skit “Dick in a Box,” which was truly poetic in that American Pie kind of way.
But, like the weekend in general, the final night of Jam Cruise wasn’t so much about the music, as it was the experience (hyperbole justified), like the cruise ending Award Ceremony. I genuinely believe that life is full of two types of people: those who win awards and those who make sarcastic comments to mask some secret insecurity while award winners pick up their trophies. With the exception of a few awards for most embarrassing typos, I’ve always fallen squarely in the latter category and Jam Cruise was no exception. My roommate, however, is a bit different and managed to score the dubious distinction as the passenger who lost the most money at the casino (perhaps the weekend’s Best Supporting Actor Oscar). He swears he won the money back in cash (the award was measured in credit), but I’m just thankful he paid for his half of the room earlier in the night.
Unfortunately, my co-worker “Adam” lost out to “Lot Dawg” in the week’s heated Presidential Race. After consulting the exit polls, I’m not really sure what happened, but I have a sneaking suspicion that either Lot Dawg’s brother had something to do with the count or that a last minute write in (who encouraged passengers to sign a portion of her body I wasn’t born with), offset the margin like Ross Perot in ’92. Either way, I’m proud of Adam’s campaign and hope he heeds these words of advice: you may have lost the battle, but at least you won an asterisk on PT Bisco (see Day 4).
As President Elect, Lot Dawg prepared for his first dance to, um, the Disco Biscuits’ “The Very Moon,” we witnessed the public engagement of Annabel Lukins and Peter Stelling. As both Jam Cruise’s head counselor and most enthusiastic camper, Annabel has come to embody Jam Cruise for most passengers and I think I speak for everyone onboard when I say it was truly special for us to watch her engagement. When/if I ever muster up enough courage to tell a girl I love her like a “Ghost from ‘97” I hope its in as cool a setting as Jam Cruise, but, knowing my luck, I’ll end up losing the ring in my luggage I’ll be forced to ask my intended “to be my +1 for eternity” on the way home from some festival.
As someone who grew up reading online jam ‘zines and combing message boards for B+Ps it is generally moving for me to watch people come of age on the festival circuit. In the future, I think I might even organize my own Post-jam cruise (patent pending), which takes post-jambands from Williamsburg, Brooklyn up the east river to Astoria, Queens with a quick day stop in Long Island City along the way. Jam Cruise really is the festival of the future, even if my bar tab made me regret a chunk of my past.
I ended the night at Garage a Benevento (who broke out a cool version of Trey Anastasio’s “Plasma” which makes me wish G.RA.B. had lasted longer). After the show, I decided to call it a night and retired to bed “early.” As I slowly entered a deep sleep, dreaming of an empty inbox and filtered spam folder, my roommate busted through the door, rapping about some special jam session with Steve Kimock and Brock Butler. He kept talking and his words slowly soaked into my scull as I entered a state of R.E.M., like Jam Cruise in general, a blurry stage where dreams became reality.