Carnival's Bruise Cruise Lets Loose 400 Garage Rock Fans Onto a Cruise Ship | Feature | South Florida | Broward Palm Beach New Times | The Leading Independent News Source in Broward-Palm Beach, Florida


Carnival's Bruise Cruise Lets Loose 400 Garage Rock Fans Onto a Cruise Ship

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Under the Horizon Bar's turquoise neon lights, members of the Black Lips sit at a table near the beverage station. Throughout the restaurant, waiters hover with stemmed cocktail glasses that read "Look at me, I'm on vacation," and it's abundantly clear that at 1 p.m., Bahama Mama cocktail hour has arrived. A couple in their 50s sit down with their trays at the table next to the Lips, and it takes about two minutes before they realize what they've done. Sure enough, the wife, plumply filling out a black and peach tracksuit, not-so-covertly shifts over one seat so that she's not sitting directly next to guitarist Ian St. Pé, who has a silver grill covering his bottom teeth.

This woman is nowhere near the first Bruise Cruise performance in the 450-capacity Xanadu Lounge four hours later, just after the ship steams out of port. The space is a throwback cocktail emporium that might not have changed décor since the Imagination's inaugural voyage in 1995, adorned with golden-winged men, couches shaped like crescent moons, and gleaming black floor tiles.

Onstage is Ty Segall, a young San Franciscan with a flop of blond hair and an abusive relationship with his guitar. He and his backing band are comfortable with charming harmonies but also inject a fair amount of sludge-filled riffs that are miraculously muted anywhere more than 20 feet away from the Xanadu. Passengers not with the cruise peek in and walk away quickly.

For some of the bruisers, the Imagination's gentle sway is already making them reach for Bonine tablets — not meant for mixing with alcohol purchased seamlessly with the Sail and Sign card everyone now possesses. (A Maker's Mark Manhattan runs $8.95, plus a $1.34 automatic tip, plus $0.72 in tax until the boat hits international waters.)

Segall eventually cedes the microphone to lanky 25-year-old Nick Mayor, who sings somewhat inaudibly to Jen Lemasters, a beaming, dark-haired girl standing inches away. Among the Chicagoan's lyrics: "I'd cut off tons of cars and run a hundred lights/If it would get me faster home to you at night/I'd throw away my movies, give up Mountain Dew/When it comes to baby Jen, there's nothing I won't do."

After this, Mayor reaches into a fanny pack, pulls out a ring, and gets on one knee. He then sweetly proposes right there on stage to his five-and-a-half-year squeeze — certainly the first Carnival cruise featuring a garage-rock song punctuated with an engagement but far from the oddest thing about a space that feels like a VFW ballroom in the middle of the Atlantic.

Notably, the Xanadu Lounge doesn't have a backstage area, so the couches directly outside, near yet another bar, become a smoky den for artists to relax following their performances.

"This boat is weird, no?" remarks heavily tattooed John Dwyer, frontman for Thee Oh Sees, a spry California quartet of psychedelic punk vets with a reputation for powerful live performances and the closest thing to elder statespeople among the artists. He is undeniably watchable with a shaggy bowl cut flopping into his eyes, jaw dexterity enabling him to tilt his head back and chug his bottle-shaped can of Budweiser no-handed, and a guitar strap so short that the instrument edges closer and closer to his neck. The masses — many wearing captain's hats, ironic pastels, and high-waisted shorts — shake the good shake. Following the set is a noisy announcement from the back: Time to clear out for a comedy show to follow.

The Imagination's cabins prove to be little more than a place to change into dry underwear — or a suit jacket, since the 8:15 meal in the Pride Dining Room has arrived. Four cruisers can fit in an eight-by-11-foot room with the help of bunks. This is also where to stow the freshly obtained schwag bag filled with essential items like the Bruise Cruise itinerary, a clean T-shirt, beer koozie, and condoms. Although tiny, the cabin is still a miraculous space compared to sleeping in a tent at Bonnaroo or on someone's floor at South by Southwest.

The dining room is a low-ceilinged affair with assigned round tables covered with white cloth. Although on the surface this is a formal dining room, the decorum is undercut by Carnival's photographer, who captures each diner with a pirate's dagger clutched to his neck. Bruisers, nearly all buzzed, occupy designated tables in the center of the dining room. There's loud banter, but dinner passes largely uneventfully, especially considering this is where bruisers and regular cruisers are most mixed.

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Reed Fischer
Contact: Reed Fischer

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