I said it last year and I’ll say it again: there really is no place like Jam Cruise. After four full days at sea, the festival-on-a-cruise-ship’s voyage came to a blissful close on Tuesday night with a series of top notch performances from a variety of New Orleans acts.
It all started in the evening when Nikki Glaspie led a jam session on the Pool Deck, bringing out New Orleans favorites like Cyril Neville, Ivan Neville, Nigel Hall and Erica Falls to join her on stage. Glaspie may not be a New Orleanian in her own right, but her past work with Dumpstaphunk and her many, many appearances in the city have allowed her to become well-versed in its musical tradition. Dozens of other musicians—members of Lettuce, Turkuaz, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, The Suffers, The Motet and many more—all crowded on stage to close out the set, which focused on old school funk, soul and R&B.
The Revivalists were up next in the Stardust Theater with their second performance of the cruise. The New Orleans rockers returned to a few tunes that appeared in their first set, while also diving into a heartfelt rendition of the title track from their 2015 album Men Amongst Mountains that saw David Shaw singing on his knees in the middle of the crowd. Soul Rebels saxophonist Erion Williams even joined in for a solo towards the end of the show.
However, the night’s biggest New Orleans moment came when The Original Meters followed The Revivalists in the Stardust Theater. Much like their previous performance on the Pool Deck, this effort featured appearances from Cyril Neville and a horn section that included members of The Soul Rebels and The Shady Horns. Tunes like “Fire on the Bayou” and “Cissy Strut” were taken to different places than they had been during the show two days earlier, while songs like “Africa” made their first appearance of the week. Neville once again joined the fray for a cover of The Beatles’ “Come Together,” but this version featured a surprise sit in from jazz phenom Kamasi Washington, who offered a blistering solo to close it out.
When the set finally wrapped up, George Porter Jr.’s daughter took the stage for an announcement. During the Sunday night show she introduced her mother and father before they renewed their wedding vows in honor of their 50th anniversary. This time around, she introduced each member of the Meters and their wives in honor of the band’s 50th anniversary. The crowd went wild as Art, Leo, Zigaboo and George were each given crystal statues to mark the occasion.
The Stardust Theater’s impressive run of New Orleans sets came to an end with a late night gig from Galactic, who brought out frequent guest vocalist Erica Falls for a number of tunes. The Suffers’ Kam Franklin also joined the party for a rendition of Ann Peebles’ “I Can’t Stand The Rain,” but the most memorable sit in came from Nikki Glaspie, who put every bit of her being into a ferocious cover of Rage Against the Machine’s “Killing In The Name” that left the room breathless.
With the proper band sets now over, most Jam Cruisers migrated to either the Jam Room or the Bliss Lounge. New Orleans’ own DJ Soul Sister was holding things down in the latter location, and what a party that was. Over the course of about 15 minutes, the ‘70s-style discotheque went from empty to packed as Soul Sister spun a diverse array of funk and soul that was as wild as any show of the previous five days. Despite repeated declaration that she wished she could play past 4am, the New Orleans music master was forced to call of her set at the scheduled time.
With the Miami skyline now on the horizon and only three hours left on the voyage, hundreds of revelers moved to side decks where impromptu parties and acoustic jam sessions proliferated from one end of the boat to the other. It was a beautiful reminder that people on board this ship are the reason why Jam Cruise is such a great party. Sure, the music is incredible. But if you put all of these people on a boat with no official programming, they would surely find countless ways to have an absolute blast. The Meters? The Revivalists? Galactic? All of that is just lagniappe.