Bruise Cruise: A Supposedly Punk Thing I'll Never Do Again Sailing away on Carnival's indie-rock fun ship

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“I would never be able to go [to Señor Frog’s] without getting my ass kicked,” Black Lips’ Swilley says the next day. “Last night was the first night we could’ve won over the crowd—like in a fight.”

He’s not nearly done. “I set a guy’s hair on fire last night because I hated him so much. He was a white guy with dreadlocks. He was trying to talk to us about acid and stuff. I was like, you have a giant nut sack on your head. Get away from us. And I kept setting his hair on fire…It burned fast then and it went out. He didn’t say anything. I hate dreadlocks.”

Naturally, the events at Señor Frog’s are preceded by a conga line. In this one, a procession of men groping women and women groping men passes under a Señor Frog’s waiter, who pours liquor down people’s throats.

Cruise Director Svenonius soon takes the stage in a red suit. “All right, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Mr. Frog’s,” he says, and rattles off the slate of performers. “This is a very historic occasion. They’re here on a mission of liberation. They’re here to liberate you from that frog and replace it with a Taco Bell.”

Between sets, a Señor Frog’s hypeman sings along to Usher and Lil Jon songs and liberally pours shots for revelers. “DJs, we’ve got three hot chicks on the stage!” he says, introducing Vivian Girls. They don’t look pleased. Over the course of the evening, the DJ plays the same Black Eyed Peas song twice.


Still, the sets are solid: Turbo Fruits’ four-person take on the ’60s power trio; The Strange Boys’ degraded art-glam; Vivian Girls’ playful garage pop (their set begins and ends with a cruise-appropriate cover of “My Heart Will Go On”); and Black Lips’ lumbering, sing-along acid punk. The crowd here seems much more freaked out by Bruisers than the guests on the Imagination.

The Bruisers, still having a good time, seem a bit freaked out by the Señor Frog’s crowd, too. Mike, a burley, mustachioed Bruiser from Brooklyn wearing a captain’s hat, sees me taking notes and asks if he can help me out. He writes a little poem:

douchebags, everywhere
tried the margs
—too sweet
getting people fucked up

free shots & dancin’
might get one of those
yard-size daquiris

I strike up a conversation with two Dutch seamen who work on an industrial tugboat. They’ve been at Señor Frog’s almost every evening for close to two weeks (the goal is “loose American women”). Tonight, they say, is different.

I ask them if they like the music. “It sucks,” says Folkerd, who turns out to be the tug’s captain. (He cops to enjoying “the band with the chicks.”) Folkerd mentions their boat has many Russian crew members. “The Russians are very melodramatic. They’re kind of like indie people.”

But the indie people aren’t melodramatic tonight. Amid one of Black Lips’ enthropic caveman stomps, a Bruiser crowd-surfs high enough to touch the words “DIVORCE: FUTURE TENSE OF MARRIAGE” on Señor Frog’s ceiling.

After the show, there’s a dance contest featuring soul sides from DJ Mr. Jonathan Toubin and a judging panel including Norris and Ben Blackwell of Detroit’s The Dirtbombs. Once the judging’s done, Blackwell’s night takes a turn for the worse. It seems a Connecticut bail bondsman house-hunting on the island has flagged down Nassau’s finest in order to level accusations against Blackwell. Highlights: “You punched me in the head 30 fucking times” and “you assaulted my wife.”

Blackwell has no idea what’s happening. The cops cuff him. Swilley and his Black Lips bandmate Joe Bradley charge over to tell the police they’ve got the wrong guy: Blackwell was judging the dance contest the whole time. It’s eventually resolved as a matter of mistaken identity—the culprit was another 6’2” blonde guy—but not before Blackwell is taken to a police station. He’s back on the boat around 3 a.m, shortly before the Imagination leaves port to return to Miami.

Panacea Theriac, aka the feline half of Quintron and Miss Pussycat, is wondering whether to show another of her warped puppet videos. “It’s kind of long.”

“We’ve got time,” comes the response from the cross-legged crowd in the Shangri-La lounge. “We’re on a cruise ship.”

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Our Readers Say

So this cruise was like one of those nights when you get really high and think "oh shit, it'd be hilarious to go to Adams Morgan and laugh at all the douchebags and douchecunts!!" but then when you get there it's just sad and depressing and you end up leaving after five minutes ... only in this case, you were trapped in Adams Morgan for an entire week. Horrible fucking idea.
In general, you'd have to pay me to go on a cruise. You might have to pay me slightly less to go in this one, but you'd still have to pay me.
Trapped in Adams Morgan in a friday night hell - minus the racial diversity. mcdonald coin bathrooms, fights, and sexual diversity.
Ian Svenonius? Didn't he front one of those god-awful Dischord bands years ago?
After halfway reading this' I felt ill. Think I'm going to the bathroom to throw up.
Svenonius is a bore? Completely unsurprising to anyone who's ever spent more than thirty seconds around him.
As a Bruise Cruiser, a person who was on the ship, attended every show and who got what they paid for, I'd like to put this review in question. 
It appears to me immediately that this is an embittered piece by a frustrated journalist who went on the ship expecting a shit show, a general failure of the festival and ultimately the end of Bruise Cruise. At the same time you were supposedly there to help promote the festival, the bands and garage rock in general. 
Had the Bruise Cruisers been running thru the ship naked, destroying their rooms and drawing negative attention to the Bruise Cruise and thus preventing further Bruise Cruises you would have had a colorful piece about how hipsters ironically came into conflict with typical retired and underage cruisers and how entertaining and sociologically enlightening and affirming it was to see the incongruence of these demographics.
To your dismay, the cruise was a total success. 
This piece wasn't a reflection on the quality of the festival, the bands or the average Bruisers experience. 
This is a piece by a journalist who came in the interest of gossip, not in the interest of furthering (garage) rock n roll. 
Please consider that before you judge what you haven't experienced yourself. 
@Bruiser #1: "At the same time you were supposedly there to help promote the festival, the bands and garage rock in general."

So, a journalist's job is to promote? Interesting, I thought that was a marketer's job.
Bruiser #1: Aside from misunderstanding the role of the writer in this case (and perhaps journalism in general), you apparently failed to absorb any of the nuance in this account.

Which is a shame, mostly for you. And not just because you seem not to have gotten much out of it, but also because others who read the story and then your comment will probably notice that your characterization of the author as an "embittered" hack, contriving to depict the event as a "failure" in hope of sabotaging future Bruise Cruises, is pretty clearly inconsistent with passages such as this:

"[T]he consensus is the Bruise Cruise has been a success. I agree. The bands are all very good, perfectly suited to the 30-45 minute sets they’ve been limited to. Cable and Stein tell me later that they may actually break even. I’d come aboard expecting to see an embarrassing case of alt-rockers reduced to lounge acts to make money. But the bands actually accepted less than their usual fees for a weekend of notably easy relationships between fans and rockers."

Perhaps the humility, goodwill, and thoughtfulness brought to bear here and elsewhere in the writing are discernible only to those who brought the same to the reading.

No matter to you, Bruiser #1. You, unlike the author, did not care to sign your own name to your work. I guess troll is the new punk.
Sounds like a bunch of losers who think they are cool went on this. suckers!
@Steve Kolowich: It's true that the writer eventually said the cruise was a success, but if you only read the first 95% of the article, you'd have never thought that paragraph would exist in the article.
Sounds like the worst of America...hipsters sold out long ago. Real punks (like me) could never afford a cruise.
This cruise is nothing like what goes on in Adam's Morgan -- well, maybe Adam's Morgan circa 2000. Even then it's a reach.

You don't have to love this article's subjects. I'm certainly not indie or hipster in any way. But please get a clue. If you don't know what you're talking about, please don't comment. Spare us.
OK, now I want you to go on the Lynyrd Skynyrd cruise, that would be hilarious.
You all are right about my misuse of the word "promote" in referring to journalism. But if journalism is about reporting the facts then don't come with an agenda. And thank you, Mike.
I once ran into Ian Svenious walking down the street with Thurston from Sonic Youth. I naturally asked Thurston for an autograph. Ian Svenious made a face like he was gonna be sick. Looking back a few days later, I came to the realization that he was upset I didn't ask him for an autograph. Ian is a never was, and not a has been.
The impression I got was that the journalist rather enjoyed the cruise, despite the attempt to re-create the original tone of the DFW essay.
Sounds like a fun time was had by all. I, like you do not relaly like cruises. Not enough time.Tight lines
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