words & photos by Gabi Porter
You are all going to hate us. I fully expect the comments section to light up like the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center with all kinds of vitriolic bile and hummus inflected hatred, but you know what, we won't care because we had fun. Four hundred garage rock fans gathered from all over the world in Miami last Friday and boarded the Carnival Imagination cruise ship bound for the Bahamas, and had a giant party on the high seas full of fruity, candy-colored drinks, unlimited belly-busting buffets, hot tubs and music. Dazed hipsters and music fans wandered the Lido Deck in their jorts and tattoos, clutching their Hermann Hesse novels looking for a little shade poolside, while family vacationers stared and asked, "What's going on?" The [sold out] Bruise Cruise is what happened, and it was like summer camp for alcoholic indie rock fans, all who became friends by the end of the weekend.
Although they only played one blistering set at Senor Frogs on Saturday night in the Bahamas - if you don't count the pre-party in Miami on Thursday night, and we're choosing not to remember that horrible horrible place with the $8 beers - The Black Lips were like all the other bands' cooler older brothers. They stirred up their signature good-time chaos, drank more than everyone, partied harder, and managed to keep the peace all at the same time. Jared Swilley said he was looking forward to a weekend with no internet, no email, no computer, "I have our new album on my laptop, if I brought it with me I'd get drunk and start burning copies for everyone." Instead he tried to go down the waterslide in his underpants, where he was thwarted by a diminutive attendant who wouldn't let him on in his skivvies, despite pleas of, "This *is* my bathing suit! I'm European!" [In Beach Fossils fashion] he later threw his bass off the back of the ship during a clandestine music video shoot. Cole Alexander looked like he won big at the casino. And Ian St Pe jumped on a table with his guitar at the final dinner and was chased out of the formal dining room, only to return disguised in a baseball cap. Joe Bradley was scheduled to play piano at 2am on Sunday at the Mirage Piano Bar - "I'm really looking forward to that! I never get to play piano for people." - he showed up with pomaded hair and a tux and played a very dapper set, Maker's Mark in hand.
If The Black Lips were like older brothers, then Thee Oh Sees were the cooler older cousins who used to be troublemakers, but have settled down with nothing to prove because they've already proven themselves. John Dwyer and company may not have brought bathing suits, lounging poolside in jeans with beers in hand, but they were "mowing them down, cutting that spring grass!" as one "Bruiser" pointed out as they melted everyone's sun-addled minds on our final day at sea. Their first set early on Friday afternoon was just a warm-up. On Sunday early-evening, fueled by an open bar, they played the second to last set of the festival to a full gilded chrome ballroom. It might have been the best set we saw all weekend (admittedly I also heard someone say that about pretty much every set this weekend, but you know what, everything was pretty damn good). Drummer Mike Shoun said he was just trying to hit really really hard, and indeed he did, nearly coming off his drum stool more than once.
Surfer Blood and their buddies (and festival co-organizers) Turbo Fruits teamed up for a Sunday brunch set in the - wait for it - Shangri La Lounge. Clutching danishes and mimosas some said Turbo Fruits, with lead singer Jonas Stein losing his voice, was the best set of the weekend (see above). I spent the cruise with Surfer Blood's janglier live version of the vaguely tropical "Take it Easy" on replay in my head, arguably the cruise's theme song. JP from Surfer Blood chatted with me after their sparsely attended first set on board on Saturday afternoon, as everyone jumped ship and rented scooters to hit the island (this may be the last time Surfer Blood play to a room of 30 people).
I asked what the band thought when they were asked to participate in the Bruise Cruise, "We thought it was a cool idea, and we thought it was either going to be really cool or a complete and total disaster. But if you think about it that's kind of like how ATP started in the UK. I mean they took over a holiday park or something. It was a little bit cheesy, a little bit family oriented and they turned it into, you know, like a total party. And they've been doing it forever." When we asked how they felt about their sparsely attended set on Saturday he said, "If I had to pick between seeing a young band we kind of like, or going out to explore the Bahamas, I'd be pretty torn. We're playing again tomorrow anyway."
More about "tomorrow" (and the rest of the cruise) coming soon. Pictures from the pre-party and the first day, continue below...
Pre-Party in Miami
Kickball Katy of the Vivian Girls
Thee Oh Sees
to be continued....