A girl called Mary was smiling on a chaise long. She had bruises all up and down her legs. She had gotten them during the Black Lips Concert at the Miami pre-party for the Bruise Cruise, the first-ever indie rock cruise, when she was pushed repeatedly against the stage. Dave, the bassist for the band Turbo Fruits, who was seated next to her, smiled, unbuttoned his shirt, pulled down the shoulder, and exposed a tender greenish/blue plum-sized spot. Another member of Turbo Fruits, he said, was inadvertently punched at the concert and woke up with a shiner. The frontman for Surfer Blood landed badly and bit through his lip after crowd-surfing at the Vivian Girls concert. Perhaps it was a self-fulfilling prophecy, but these stories were as ubiquitous on the Bruise Cruise as sleeve tattoos, cigarettes, and Ray Bans.
With 400 indie rock fans and 9 bands all sharing the same mirrored and carpeted quarters for three days [February 25-28], it’s no surprise that by the end, the chosen mediums of expression became broken glass, homemade tattoos, and hyperchlorinated water. The event, which was organized by Michelle Cable and Jonas Stein (whose father runs the Motley Cruise) was surprisingly intimate. Here’s a first-hand account of some of the goings on of the inaugural Bruise Cruise.
5:00 – 5:30pm – XANADU: Ty Segall I couldn’t see Ty Segall’s face when he was performing at the Xanadu because his hair was long that it fell around his face when his head hung down. He let a young man come on stage and sing one song. The man said the song he wrote was for his girlfriend. He sang about being in love. The guy got off stage and Ty Segall came back and said, “The next song is called ‘fiancé.'”
Having a drink by the bar when a man walked up. He had this black hair that was longer on one side than on the other. He was with a blonde woman. I asked where they were from. He said he was from Atlanta. He had a grill on his bottom set of teeth that glimmered when he opened his mouth. I asked who he was here to see. He said his name was Cole and he was in the band The Black Lips and pointed to a glass-enclosed conference room where interviews were taking place.
5:50 – 6:30 XANADU: Thee Oh Sees Lead singer John Dwyer almost put the microphone in his mouth several times. The night before, I had seen him put the guitar in his mouth and hold it up with his mouth alone. But it must not have looked that great from the front since he kept his back to the audience. At the Xanadu, he held the guitar high up on his chest and pulled his shoulders in. Petey Dammit, the drummer, had a solo. The boat listed. “This boat is weird. No?” John Dwyer said to the crowd. “How many Gilligans? How many Gingers?”
“We’re in your picture,” said a man with blond curly hair and a hat as I walked by. He lifted his hand and gave me a high five. A couple of the men with him had film cameras. I asked if he was shooting a documentary. “A high five documentary.” Something about high-fiving attractive women. He was not shooting a documentary. But the men next to him were shooting a video for Vice.
10:30 – 11:30pm – CONFERENCE ROOM: Ian Svenonius Lecture Ian Svenonius of the group Chain and the Gang and formerly of eighties punk band Nation of Ulysses was our Cruise Director and the cruise ship’s elder statesman of rock. He would be giving a lecture. The conference room was mobbed. Svenonius was in a blue sharkskin suit standing in front of a screen that had a projection of a star-filled sky. He has a full head of jet black hair. He said he wouldn’t be giving a lecture that night, but would present a couple of slide shows and have people act them out with a script he had written. Svenonius has also written a collection of essays called “The Psychic Soviet” and has expressed thoughts on the death of “America’s so-called freedom.” He presented as a subject the need to revive the “carcass” of rock n roll. Jenna Thornhil-DeWitt, the saxophonist from the Strange Boys played the part of “Alien A” aboard the spacecraft Ariana, on which aliens compared and contrasted the styles of imperialist cultures on planet earth. “Why are the English the best at oppressing people?” One said. “Because they use a combination of etiquette and violence.” In another film, a group of music enthusiasts play records by Queen and Led Zeppelin backward to hear embedded secret messages. But it was a record of the Choir Masters of the USSR that contained as its message a long tirade on advanced capitalism and imperialism.
Later that night, the hot-tub was so crowded with “Bruisers” there was no room to get in. A woman submerged herself in the center and took a picture of the ring of people around her. At midnight we were kicked out and went to the Lido deck to continue drinking and then back to XANADU for 1:30am performance by Quintron and Miss Pussycat.
SATURDAY MORNING 2/26, LIDO DECK: “This is my first cruise,” said John Dwyer of Thee Oh Sees. He was sitting on a tiled ledge of the pool. “I think this may be the last.” He resembled Crispin Glover. “After I saw the little old lady cleaning up vomit off the fake marble floors, that was it. [Laughs]. She just walks around with a bag of sawdust.”
“Maybe if they had a better system,” said a friend of his standing nearby with shaggy hair.
“Like if the stairs just flipped over and there was a new set underneath. Like shmmmp,” he said and made a flipping motion with his hands. The cruise ship had just arrived on the island of Nassau and he and his friends were getting off the boat to go to the beach.
Alec, a surfer from Florida, had on a white bathrobe and was drinking a tropical drink from a coconut shell. On his chest was a gold sticker that had been taken off an ATM machine and red lipstick marks on his torso.“Give me a happy trail,” Alec said to a tall brunette in a gauzy shirt with an American flag print who came over. She was smiling. She shook her head and laughed. Then she bent her head down and kissed his chest. She got on her knees and kissed his stomach below his belly button. She got up. “America,” Alec said loudly, stuck his chest out and pointed to the fresh lip marks. “America.”
In the cafeteria, I talked to a Dutch woman living in the Cayman islands who came on the cruise for culture. She had heard about it from friends. There were no good concerts on the Cayman islands, where she had been living for four years, and she wanted to see some bands. On Nassau that day, her friends were going swimming with sharks.
3 – 6:00pm – BEACH ON NASSAU: The Black Lips We took two white vans from the hotel to a beach. Vice were shooting a video for songs from their upcoming album, which they’re producing with the help of Mark Ronson. We got off at a rocky beach. They jumped down. It was decided it was too rocky. We drove past the more distant but renowned Cable Beach on Goodman Bay and drove another five minutes. At the beach Suroosh Alvi of VICE said he had just flown in to Nassau that morning, and got on the boat there. “Every time they have a new album out, we do something. We’ve done Black Lips Syria, Black Lips Chennai, Black Lips Berlin.” He talked about the VICE Guide to Everything. The next one, he said would be in the former Yugoslavia. They were thinking maybe “Muslim Nazis in Bosnia.”
Cole took off his clothes and had on a nineteen-twenties bathing suit that his mom had bought him on eBay. He caught up with the others who were standing with their ankles in the water. The filmmaker put a shirt over his head and walked backwards filming them as they walked and sang. Andy Capper, filmmaker and VICE World Editor, jogged next to them holding up small iPod speakers playing one of their new songs as they sang it and gestured with their hands. Their shadows were five times as long as they were. “Now, in the water, in the water. Swim, swim, swim,” said the filmmaker. They all dived in. Later, they stood waist deep in water. At the filmmaker’s cue they jumped up and splashed water in the air.
The van-driver bought beers. The Black Lips opened them and sprayed them all over. Suroosh threw a beer to Ian. Ian smiled and looked up at the beer as it flew toward him. He caught the beer. They looked at the shot. Suroosh threw another beer. Ian looked at the shot and nodded. Ian took a beer and shook it rhythmically in his right hand. “It looks like you’re jacking off,” said Suroosh. “Yeah,” said Ian. “I know.” The cameraman kneeled in front of him his head in a white shirt. He drank the beer and spit it up in the air. Cole got a beer and both he and Ian shook their beers vigorously in their right hands smiling into the camera. “Don’t show the beer label,” said Suroosh. “What kind of beer is it?” someone said. “It’s Bahamian.”
On the car ride back, Ian said they would be going on the David Letterman show soon but said he heard Letterman was cold. He reminisced about performing on Late Night with Conan O’Brien and was touched when Conan O’Brien said to them, “Thank you. Thank you for still playing rock n roll.”
9:10pm – Doors Open at SENOR FROGS: Island Concert on Nassau Senor Frogs on the island of Nassau smelled like it must have had years of fermented beer and vomit worked into the floorboards, continually rehabilitated by the sea air that wafts in from the dock. People carried very tall margaritas and a man made balloon hats.During the Strange Boys set, a man not in the band jumped on stage and jammed with a balloon guitar.Vivian Girls, who are touring with the Black Lips performed as did Turbo Fruits. While Black Lips are known for their live antics –Cole once peed into his own mouth and spit it onto the crowd, they performed a Senor Frogs with little drama. IanSt. Pé’s grill flashed from his lower teeth on the stage. “I used to have it on the top and the bottom,” he said later of the grill. “But I got rid of it. I looked like Jaws [from Moonraker].”
“Me and Jay Reatard, we were friends,” said IanSt. Pé.“I lived in Memphis and he lived in Memphis. We used to work at a bar, but we sold cigarettes and took ‘To Go” orders. In 2003 and 2004. I was playing music, he was too, but we had “real” jobs. October 2, 2004 was the last time I’ve ever worked in my life…. The last time Jay Reatard and I…washed dishes. [The Black Lips] opened for one of my favorite bands of all time, The Seeds. We opened up for them and I said “Fuck school. (Laughs). Fuck the job. I’m going to do this. Because if you don’t give it 110%, someone else will. And you know who that is? Me. I will do it.”
“I don’t even know what a soul clap is,” said Alec, about the Soul Clap Dance Off, a dance contest he was selected to help judge that night at Senor Frogs. “But I’m going to judge the f**king hell out of it.”
I walked outside where two men were waiting on a drug purchase. One had given $100 to a stranger to bring back cocaine. I said he probably had to go “over the hill,” which is what I had been told at dinner.As we waited, a white car turned the corner, revved its engine and partly spun out and crashed into a parked van nearly hitting a man who was walking in the street. Someone said the police were coming. But no one showed up.
We were eating grilled cheese sandwiches back in a cabin on the cruise ship –free room service was one of the boons of the cruise—when someone knocked on the door. “The Black Lips are in the Jacuzzi,” she said. The room emptied out.
SUNDAYMORNING 2/27/11: Lido Deck John Dwyer had on a grey tanktop and had tattoos al up and down his upper arms. Hummingbirds. In a hawaian motif, with large platnt fronds and red ray bans and cutoff corduroys and black keds. He tilted his head to the right and looked to the right and sipped his coffee. A small box of raisin bran was open on the table. He had toast and butter on his plate. He put one arm over the the back rest of his chair and then sneezed three times into a napkin and rested his hand around his neck. He sipped his coffee. He scratched his head and ran his fingers through his hair. He tilted his head to the left and watched people walk onto the deck. A guy came over in grey cutoff jean shorts and blue Ray Bans.
A woman in a one-piece Budweiser bathing suit and her hair half-done in corn-rows walked in. She tapped him lightly on the shoulder and smiled. He nodded and waved. He looked to his left in the direction she went. From the middle platform played a steel-drum version of Lionel Richie’s “Hello” next to a large chess set with pawns the size of small children. When he played Fools Rush In John Dwyer shot up his hand got up briskly and walked up to a waiter. When he sat down an older woman had pulled up a chair and was sitting next to him. He talked to her. Then he tilted his body toward the right and talked to his friend with short shaggy hair. They both looked in the distance across the pool. They turned and smiled at each other. A woman in a cowboy hat put lipstick on. A young girl in black two-piece hauled herslf out of the watler on the silver ladder. A young woman in a green bikini walked by from right to left. He watched her as she walked from right to left. She walked around the pool. A woman iwht her hair blow-dryed forward in large smokey-lensed glasses had on a fifties-ish one-piece with polka-dots. She listened to her iPod with her legs crossed and nodded her head rhythmically. Sweet Caroline came on. “Sweeeet Ca-ro-line,” John Dwyer sang to his friend. He tapped his fingers on the table “dun, dun, dun.”
Many people expressed a sense of intimacy about the bruise cruise. Petey Dammit, the drummer from Thee Oh Sees said “We’re playing a show with Quintron in New Orleans. We’re playing with some other people that are on the cruise like in SXSW. We know a lot of people on the cruise from all over the country. People that come to our shows. From other bands. Our European booker is on the cruise. There are some people from Australia. A girl from Australia who we stayed with her parents in Newcastle Australia. She actually lives in London but we stayed with her parents palatial mansion literally six weeks ago. Quite a hodge-podge of people we know from all over the world from doing shows.”
11:30 – 12:30pm – SHANGRI-LA: Puppets and Pancakes One of the most anticipated events of the Bruise Cruise was Miss Pussycat’s puppet show. Miss Pussycat had on a multicolored dress and an orange pom-pom on her head. We all crowded in to the room Sunday afternoon for her show The Legend of the Sea Monster all done with hand-made puppets. She then screened a couple of her films, one which was an ode to New Orleanscalled the Electric Swamp, which featured kitschy termites, tinsel and soul music.
8:15pm – Pride Dining Room: Fine Dining On line for the restaurant, Christa Lopez and Ryan Morjon, college students from Florida International University who run the college radio station had DJ’d at the pre-party in Miami. They had been excited to see the Jacuzzi boys. “This is the first time we can see them on a platform with bands that are really well-received,” said Christa. “We saw them at the pre-party. But then Ryan started puking in cups. There’s a lot of things that we’ve seen this weekend that we can’t repeat.” Ryan was holding an empty plastic cup, a “potential puke cup.”
MONDAY MORNING – Mirage Piano Bar: VIP Piano Performance by Joe Bradley of the Black Lips “Another Glenfidditch neat, single,” said Joe Bradley to the waiter. He was in a tuxedo.“And a Pilsner Urquel. If there’s no Pilsner Urquel, just bring me a Budweiser.” He sat at the piano and looked very seriously at the keys and played jazz songs from the ‘30s. The piano was black and mirrored. A merengue tufts of smoke floated through the air.
When the bar had emptied out, and people headed to the Illuminations Club, a man climbed on the piano breaking glasses and kicking glasses off the bar as he went up. He looked over at Joe Bradley who was still playing. Then he edged back and rolled over onto his side and took off his shirt his torso bearing a large tattoo.
Emily showed me a bruise she got on her thigh sliding down the gargantuan yellow waterslide. She wanted to do it after she saw her friend Dave the diplomat do it in a full dress suit. Even he seemed to have hit his head a little coming down, said a graphic designer who saw it. This was a going away trip for Dave whowas leaving soon for Madagascar. A young man from Montreal sat down. “Take a picture of me with two smokes,” he said and put two lit cigarettes in his mouth and tilted his head back. He and his friend were from Canada. His friend had left school, quit his job and ditched his lease to come to the Bruise Cruise. Earlier, he had been giving people home-made tattoos in his room on Level U. One girl slipped off her blue suede bootie. On her ankle was a simple outline of a little blue anchor.