Photograph by Darrow Montgomery
Chain & the Gang frontman Ian Svenonius would be a terrible pitchman for cruises. “There’s the threat of it sinking, you know,” he told me a few days before we set sail on the Carnival Imagination. “Or being overtaken by pirates, or the labor force on the ship could mutiny, because I think they’re all horribly exploited. I’m not a cruise-ship scholar but maybe there’s some questionable labor.” Good thing this wasn’t your typical middle-American oceanic excursion, but instead the Bruise Cruise, the first garage rock festival on a 70,367-ton sea vessel. Organizers tapped Svenonius to serve as “cruise director,” a job requiring between-set color commentary, impeccable vintage suits, and a lecture—actually a pair of skits accompanied by slideshows—in which the provocateur laureate of D.C. punk untangled rock ’n’ roll’s capitalist roots before Bruise Cruise attendees returned to the ship’s deck to pound Foster’s oil cans and get in a midnight swim. Sometimes, you’ve got to speak truth to scenesters.