The Vivian Girls are a shining example of everything the drunken high-seas indie rock adventure the Bruise Cruise should be. They imbibed in many cocktails with the rest of the bruisers, and bassist Katy Goodman even got into the local Bahamas flair during the day in port by adding some corn-row-style braids to the side of her head. During Saturday evening's performance at Señor Frogs on Nassau's tourist-geared waterfront, the Girls took a Celine Dion classic familiar to every person who has had nautical thoughts and made it their own.
Yes, "My Heart Will Go On" will never be the same. The Vivian Girls' rendition of the ballad of Titanic proportions was as punk as it will ever be during the trio's packed set. Plus, that song provided a nice parallel to the iceberg-sized culture clash going on inside the world-renowned bar/swamp shack filled with a plethora of neon signs with slogans like "Rehab Is for Quitters," bounteous frog memorabilia in the gift shop, and free shots.
Several nonbruisers -- spike-haired college kids, grayhairs in fishing T's, and a significantly mixed cultural heritage -- got off their equally massive boats and unwittingly (and maybe a couple wittingly) mixed among the pink wristbands for what was reportedly a hefty financial premium. A semi-putrid sulfuric breeze blew in from outside, but some faces in the room puckered moreso from the musical shifts. This was undoubtedly an adjustment for those expecting to hear Katy Perry, Black Eyed Peas, and Nelly all night -- as well as for those expecting not to experience "California Gurls," "Boom Boom Pow," and "Hot in Herre" rattling the speakers whenever garage rock and vintage soul were not. Between acts, the bar's MCs led sing-alongs for free shots, dancing competitions for free shots, and a conga line for free shots -- all involved a grenadine-enhanced substance administered directly to the mouth via a forceful spray.
Turbo Fruits faked everyone out with a gregarious sound check to start the musical portion of the evening. After stopping a hot slab of Nashville-smoothed punk midway through, singer Jonas Stein declared, "We're not fucking playing -- maybe in 20 minutes when we get more drinks." Cue some AC/DC sung by the MC, an always scintillating introduction by Ian Svenonious in a hot red suit ("Welcome to Mr. Frogs"), and the Fruits stormed back onstage for a crushing barrage of ideal rock for double-fisting mojitos.
"In Los Angeles, there's a lot of punks, and in Texas, there's a lot of cowboys," Strange Boys singer Ryan Sambol offered midway through his band's set. "This song is about both of them." These big twang-inflected garage rock arrangements further loosened the crowd. Aside from guitarist Philip Sambol's ornate balloon hat, the group's demeanor remained -- in spite of the happy throngs around them.
The only noticeably awkward moment of the evening came right before the Black Lips were set to line the skinny stage. The MC was trying to keep the crowd live with another dance competition, and this offering of free shots went on too long for Lips' bassist Jared Swilley. "Can we play now?" he blurted out over a live mic. "Let it be our time now." The moment passed once the guys lit it up, a certain New Times photographer got some quality crowd-surfing in during the ensuing madness, and hopefully all was forgiven.
Postrawk, it was time to dance a lot. With a panel featuring a pair of zany pro surfers, Bruise Cruise director Ian Svenonius, Señor Frogs staff, and members of the media -- notably MTV vet John Norris, who has been a fixture for the entire weekend -- the vintage '60s soul spun by DJ Jonathan Toubin was probably the most unifying music of the entire evening.
It was quite a shift from the shows earlier in the day at the now-familiar Xanadu Lounge onboard the Carnival Imagination. Florida friends Surfer Blood continued honing a couple of new songs destined for whatever the band's next release might be. "Did anyone see me in the casino winning all the money last night?" singer J.P. Pitts, rocking his best pair of cutoffs, asked the crowd. Aside from attempting to play "I'm Not Ready" when they literally weren't ready, due to detuned guitars, it was a mighty midafternoon display.
Miami's Jacuzzi Boys are no strangers to a mind-melting garage rock attack, and the guys' Xanadu set attracted a boast-worthy Iggy Pop T-shirt, intricate bird tattoos, bruisers with towels around their waists, and yesterday's hero, Thee Oh Sees' John Dwyer. He seemed to enjoy the show as much as anyone in the group and yelled encouragement to frontman Gabriel Alcala's microphone hoots and the guys between songs "about dead animals," among other things. "They are the best thing I've seen at this thing," Dwyer said afterward. "I'm going to congratulate them right now."
Tomorrow, a very long day on a cruise ship, and bass overboard!
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