Here is a re-post of an article I wrote for Free Press Houston about this year’s Bruise Cruise. Here’s a link to the actual article: http://www.freepresshouston.com/music/bruise-cruise-2012/. Enjoy…
I’ve just limped off the gangplank of the Carnival Imagination into the Port of Miami, and I have a rare sort of nervous elation I am scared to lose and know I will fiend to find again. I spent the weekend on the Bruise Cruise, a three-day music festival aboard a cruise ship sailing from Miami to Nassau and back. It was truly fucking exceptional.
The line-up this year included The Dirtbombs, Thee Oh Sees, Neil Hamburger, Fucked Up, King Khan & The Shrines, Kyp Malone, Mikel Cronin, The Soft Pack, Quintron, Jello Biofra, and the cruise-only, cover band supergroup The Togas (Ty Segall, The Strange Boys, & Reigning Sound) among others. The Bruise Cruise is not a festival; it’s a luxury vacation away from the culture of music.
As far as the performances go, ALL of them were outstanding. They took place primarily in Xanadu, the gilded, 90’s-era, kitsch lounge in the rear of the ship and Señor Frog’s in Nassau. Yep, Señor Frog’s.
The high points are endless. To name a few:
- A bouncing crowd being slung back and forth by the ship during Thee Oh Sees set.
- Neil Hamburger berating the non-bruisers in the crowd at Senor Frog’s.
- Mick Collins looking at The Dirtbombs’ cruise-only 7” and saying “Huh? When did we cut this?”
- Kyp Malone maxing out the PA with a vocal shriek.
- The Togas (in costume) covering “Search and Destroy”.
- Our cruise director (Fucked Up’s Damian Abraham) hurling condoms at the crowd during the cruise’s version of The Dating Game.
- Jello Biafra organizing rides to the airport at the after-party.
- Miss Pussycat’s puppet show being interrupted by our quasi-intelligible, Italian captain to discuss Valentine’s Day.
- An unsuspecting bachelorette party (in matching outfits) arriving at Frog’s during the Fucked Up show (and then staying).
- Dancing for hours at Quintron’s unmatchable set and the Swamp Stack Dance Party that followed.
- Realizing on the last day that Karen O was on the cruise, and usually in a bathrobe.
- The lust opera of a performance by bouncemaster (and Houstonian!) Vockah Redu.
The Bruise Cruise (now in its second year) is organized by the indelible Michelle Cable of Panache Booking and Jonas Stein of the band Turbo Fruits. They have created something that may seem like a charmed, DIY novelty at first, but it’s a lot more than that. At its very least, the Bruise Cruise is a necessary invention.
There were roughly 2000 passengers on board; only 500 were “Bruisers” who paid double that of the regular cruisers. The 500 consisted of: bands, press, and fans who have a reckless attitude toward their net worth. We were a strange upper-class, pressing every luxury forward. So, why did we do it?
I had hoped for sociological theater, but that didn’t happen. From all reports, last year’s inaugural cruise had a much more mischievous stripe running through it. I suppose that most thought it was an enchanted one-off and treated it as such. If last year was about reckless conquest, this year was about nesting and making sure that we could all do it all again.
The apathy of the other cruisers was welcome company to a crowd hailing mostly from the twitching hyper-informed city of Brooklyn, New York, which was recently described to me as the “Hollywood of music”. I’ve also never seen bands look more content or relaxed. The weekend was, after all, a vacation from their winter tours.
The most important thing to note is that there was virtually no phone service or Internet available for the entire trip, and I never heard anyone complain. This became what really made this festival truly special. The crowd was not watching the shows through a sea of raised iPhones, and then scrambling to post their “footage”; they were actually present, together, sharing an experience. This festival didn’t need to be validated by the Internet; it was valid on its own.
Relearning Web-less human interaction is pretty easy in a formalized setting that is built only for drinking, eating, fucking, swimming, and going broke. These are all themes that have a significant place in rock-and-roll culture. This irresponsible electricity in an exclusive environment, away from the bad noise of the world came to feel, for lack of a better term…punk.
There is a heavy irony in the idea that independent music culture has become so over-saturated, dangerously accessible, and embedded in the marketplace, that one of the last places it can still get enough room to breathe is in the staged-and-staffed, faux opulence of a “luxury” cruise liner.
The Bruise Cruise was a savage vacation that reminded me how great it is to see a show, and the human connection that makes me come back.