It's Thursday afternoon in Athens, Georgia, and the four members of the highly energetic jam band Perpetual Groove are loading the van and heading down to South Florida. It's 20 degrees there, 40 degrees here, and the thought of sailing off to Honduras and Mexico is the only thing that's warming up Matt McDonald, the band's affable keyboardist. In just 24 hours, he'll be sailing away from Fort Lauderdale for the sixth-annual Jam Cruise and performing in a weeklong concert at sea with many a soul, funk, and hippie-esque jam band letting loose in international waters. After the trip is over, Perpetual Groove is headed back to Delray Beach to perform this weekend, but with the rest of the Americas on his brain, McDonald was amped to talk about jamming, Jam Cruise, and little else.
Outtakes: This is your band's third time playing Jam Cruise — is that right?
McDonald: Yeah, and I'm superexcited for it. The whole thing makes for a vacation and a party atmosphere. It's kinda like a music festival at sea. Except at festivals, you don't have people walking around making you drinks and cooking incredible food for you whenever you want it.
Since this is a jam-band/hippie affair, do a lot of illegal substances usually make it onboard?
Honestly, I know that's something that's really associated with the scene, but this is a job for me, so I don't partake. I know there are people who find a way to get down on the boat one way or another. The whole thing is based more on the experience and the alcohol, honestly. I hear more about people's bar tabs and losing their money at the casino than anything else. It's more like a weekend with your friends in Las Vegas.
What's your favorite part about playing Jam Cruise?
It's like catching up with friends that you haven't seen in a long time. At the end of last year, there were so many cool bands on the cruise, it felt like summer camp was over when it was time to leave. When you're touring, it's not really a social hour. You get a few minutes backstage with different bands, and that's it. This is different. We're all snorkeling and doing zip-line tours together. Plus, the bands and the fans all mingle together. There's no division for artists and fans, so it makes it that much easier for everyone to hang out. As a musician, I can pick Tony Hall's or Jon Fishman's brain and just sit at the bar and everyone's buying each other drinks all night long. As far as this type of music is concerned, it's the ultimate.