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

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It’s Sunday afternoon, and things have slowed down. The most important thing about cruise ships may be that they are floating temples of gaudy hedonism. But the second-most important thing is they are really boring. At one point, a pair of Bruisers participates in a hairy chest contest on the Lido Deck. For the first time all weekend, I’m losing interest.

Still, the 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. “Ty Segall hugged me for five minutes” Cable says.

But, on the way back to Miami, the Bruise Cruise finally feels part of the Cruise Cruise. After three postcard-perfect days at sea, it’s impossible to remain only ironically engaged in the cruise activities. You have to choose between existential despair and just going with it. I’m trying to do the latter. I know, from that famous dead novelist, how the other way can end.

The folkways of the Imagination haven’t always made it easy. Back on the first night, the mostly Indonesian wait staff provided between-course entertainment by dancing to Flo Rida’s “Low,” singing along in chopped English while the largely white Bruisers cheered. It felt like a minstrel show.

There’s also a strange class dynamic on board. The vibe on the Carnival Imagination is lower-middle-class to middle-class. A lot of Cruisers have tattoos, the un-hip kind, and many of them paid far less than us to be here. So much for fucking up the mainstream: The Bruisers are the ship’s privileged crowd. There’s no upscale propriety to invade.

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John Norris relays an observation from another Bruiser. “If you’ve ever been to All Tomorrow’s Parties [a regular, alternatively minded festival set in resorts in the U.S. and U.K.], you understand that kitsch and indie rock go together really well.” But garage rock, in particular, seems well-suited to the Carnival Imagination.

“It’s hard to imagine Animal Collective on a cruise ship,” Norris quips.


On Sunday, the Black Lips finally live up to their destructive reputation when Swilley hurls his bass guitar into the murky depths. Saturday’s Nassau gig was a calm one for a band that’s been known to include fire, urine, and vomit in its live shows. “I didn’t want to fuck around at Señor Frog’s,” says Swilley. “They would kill you.”

For the final night’s performances, the crowd finally shakes out of the morning’s doldrums—which is easy, given that Thee Oh Sees’ early-evening set overlaps with the Bruise Cruise’s first open bar: Bud Light Lime and white wine and a deceivingly alcoholic lemon concoction.

But by the time Quintron and Miss Pussycat begins their cruise-closing set, I’m pretty spent. I’m not feeling their amphetamine organs and ghost coos.

I walk to the other end of the ship. I browse the gift shop. And then I duck into the cruise’s largest show space, the Dynasty Lounge, where a rock ’n’ roll musical revue is about to start. This is most definitely not part of the Bruiser schedule.

A dozen or so dancers emerge in biker gear. “Are y’all ready to rock ’n’ roll out there?” shouts an announcer. They cycle through the canon: “Born to Be Wild,” “Devil With a Blue Dress,” “Rock Around the Clock.” Massive vinyl records bracket the stage. There’s a soul medley, and a country medley, and a Hair medley, and a Beach Boys medley.

At several points over the last few days, I’ve been told the Bruise Cruise isn’t about indie rock, and may not even be about garage rock. It’s just about rock ’n’ roll.

So maybe Svenonius is right. We’re at year zero. Maybe there’s new truth to be found in the Bruisers—these bastard children of punk, revivalism, and consumerism. Maybe the Bruise Cruise is the start of something.

But the same ship is also where music goes to die. In the Dynasty, female performers emerge in beehives and poodle skirts. The men come out in pompadours. The assembled Cruisers are dancing, some in the aisles. And a reedy-voiced announcer screams: “Put your hands together as we continue to celebrate the golden era of rock ’n’ roll!”

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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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