So far, the inaugural Bruise Cruise, featuring nine indie rock bands and a swell of adventurous hipsters, is not the most dangerous experience in the world. However, there's nothing like the feeling that the floor is coming up at you. It could be coming from steady pours of Maker's Mark manhattans, but it's actually the not-so-gentle sway of the 2500-capacity hotel on water, the Carnival Imagination.
Shortly after the boat pulled out of the Port of Miami on a sunny Friday afternoon, the ceremonial Cruise Director Ian Svenonious put the events to unfold into terms similar to the Beatles' Magical Mystery Tour in the Xanadu Lounge, a perfectly throw-back cocktail emporium adorned with golden winged men, couches shaped like crescent moons, gleaming black tiles, and a modest stage for the day's performances. He clarified that he'd be available for idealogical and philosophical questions -- but that the Vivian Girls would be the go-to for stationery requests.
Soon after, San Francisco retro rock gut-puncher Ty Segall got to work with his three cohorts. Occasionally, the results dipped into British mod, but mostly a noticeable fuzzy haze settled over the crowd as they hammered through each song. "Finger," with its falsetto stair-steps and blistering transitions from soft to sludge proved to be a highlight. That is, until a red-haired guy from Chicago named Nick got up to sing a song. With the full support of Segall's band, he sang a devoted garage rock anthem to his girlfriend Jen, and proposed!
The crowd grew larger for the streamlined set outthrust next by Thee Oh Sees, a spry California quartet of punk vets. Regardless of whether they're playing on a stage reminiscent of an Eagles Club like this one, or the marvelously lit Grand Central trappings of the night before, it's beastly intense. "This boat is weird, no?" heavily tattooed frontman John Dwyer remarked during the course of the band's merciless set.
His key traits include the ability to drink a Budweiser no-handed, and he wears the shortest guitar strap in the history of garage rock, with the instrument always edging closer and closer to his neck. The masses -- many donning captain's hats, ironic pastels, and high-waisted shorts -- were shaking the good shake as the hard-driving proceedings washed over them. Once they finished the sweetness of "all you need is summertime" was replaced by a noisy announcement from the back: time to clear out for a comedy show to follow.
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Later in the evening, the undeniably snookered, dizzy crew of "bruisers" took in a lecture/slideshow performance led by Svenonious that included portions of Metallica's Some Kind of Monster documentary. Then, the action returned to Xanadu for a sweaty set by the stylish Quintron and Miss Pussycat. A long day of drinking turned on the crowd-surfing faucet, and bodies flew as the soulful punk via vintage keyboard chugged along. After that, DJ Jonathan "New York Night Train" Toubin spread out the dancefloor with some vintage soul that pushed the party steadily later and into that magic realm where the body stops fighting back against the punishment it endures. Pro tip: dancing in flip-flops is delightful -- until a closed-toed shoe clamps down on a toe.
Tomorrow: The Bahamas, mama!