What an incredible experience this was, much more intimate and user-friendly than Paradise Waits! Given it was 500 people compared to 2500, that's to be expected, I guess. Still, it was just so much better logistically in every way, from rooms to food to transportation to staff to reefs. I absolutely loved every single second of it! The stage was at the one end of the beach, perpendicular to the water. To accommodate everyone, they had a section with chairs on one side of the stage, standing room on the other, and the chaise lounge section on the far side, next to the water. There wasn't a bad spot anywhere, it was all close up. I went between the chaise and standing sections. It was amazing to lie back and being able to see and hear the band perfectly, while watching the moon sinking into the water just a few feet away, and hearing the waves between tunes. Heavenly!! They also had bars set up on either side of the audience (with lots of ice water too), never a line, and a post-show BBQ (jerk chicken!) and bonfire every night. The resort and the band thought of all the little details to make it work for everyone. This was their 7th event, and we met several people who had been at all seven and it seemed like the majority had been to more than one. It was a super friendly group, or "FaMuley" as it's known there. Definitely strangers stopping strangers kind of vibe, we met and hung out with some great folks. It was also very cool having the musicians (aside from Warren) hanging out around the resort. I talked briefly with both Jackie and Ron Holloway. John Scofield, one of my better half's longtime heroes and a major reason we went to this, stayed just a couple doors down from us. The highlight of the trip was Dave getting the opportunity to sit by the pool and talk music for about 20 minutes one-on-one with Sco. I got in on the end of the conversation, and even mentioned TN when Phil came up. He's a very warm, soft spoken guy, and told us about seeing his first Dead show, which was the Dead's first show in NYC, at Tompkins Square Park in 1967. Dave was sure grinning and walking on air for hours after that meeting!!
There was lots of cheap but high quality local Jamaican herb available everywhere, and smoking was completely open all over the resort. I'd wondered if we would find any, but it found us. Some folks that were there for .moe the days before Mule gave us a bunch they couldn't take back, and then someone else gave us a bunch for rolling for them. It seemed like every single staff member had a side job selling weed. Seriously, the lifeguard/attendant at the pool brought me a clean towel and then just pulled out his tin of buds to offer up for sale, it was a real hoot!!
The shows were all fantastic, not a weak one in 5 nights of music. There were some Dead tunes every night, including a fabulous Scarlet Begonias by Mule with Jackie sitting in, and then Jackie's band did Fire on the Mountain at sunset the next night with an amazing jam. There was a lot of mixing it up among the musicians. Scofield and Warren joined Madeski, Martin and Wood the first night, Jackie popped in on each of the Mule/ScoMule sets, and Warren sat in with Jackie's band. Ron Holloway played with everyone, adding that wonderful sax sound. He was particularly great on Can't You Hear Me Knocking, which Mule jammed forever, followed up by Bitch. Great covers all around!! I know we're planning on going back next year, if at all possible. Maybe get a Mule run back to back with Ratdog, now that would really be the island run of a lifetime!
Jackie at breakfast, I couldn't resist!
Jackie's late afternoon set, which only had about 75% of the full group at it. Even when all 500 people were on the beach, the back of the crowd was still within spitting distance of the stage. Can't beat it!