If you happen to peruse a list of concerts coming soon to South Florida, chances are you may have noticed an incredible preponderance of what are termed "jam bands." It's a term that's swiftly becoming as much of a misnomer as "alternative rock," a phrase that now describes, well, mainstream rock, and it covers such a wide umbrella of bands that it's just silly to try to group them all together. Similarly, jam bands now cover everything from live techno to the traditional Grateful Dead clones, from jazz fusion to some progressive bluegrass, ad infinitum. However, unlike alternative rock, these bands don't quite touch the mainstream, which would make the sudden influx of improvisation-based groups something of a shocker, unless you're aware of the Jam Cruises.
Following a recent trend in cruising, in which cruises are thematically planned around certain hobbies or interests, Jam Cruise (January 6 to 10) and Jam Cruise II (January 10 to 14) include not only a four-day cruise but also a heaping helping of jam bands. And despite the old stereotype that fans of such bands are dead-broke hippies, tickets for the cruises, which run between $600 and $1,500, have been selling out fast. The ticket price makes some sense -- concert tickets to see all of these bands would blow away the amount you're paying for the cruise (barring a festival setting, of course).
Jam Cruise features Galactic (pictured), Keller Williams, the Disco Biscuits, Mofro, and a dozen other groups, while Jam Cruise II includes Les Claypool's Frog Brigade, Yonder Mountain String Band, Michael Franti and Spearhead, the Hackensaw Boys, and a bunch of others. If you can't afford the cruise, don't sweat too hard -- check those concert listings. A lot of these bands are also playing at a venue near you, both before and after the cruise.