NME: Bruise Cruise Festival

March 12, 2012 § Leave a comment

This review appeared in the March 3, 2012 issue of NME magazine.

Find out more about the Bruise Cruise here.

“He can’t do that in my bar!” yells a wily security guard in a white tuxedo. We’re at Senor Frogs, a waterfront bar in the Bahamas, and there’s a kid totally losing his shit to Fucked Up, stagediving into the raised arms of 30 moshers, and bouncing along the ceiling. “Get him out, get him out!” says the panicked restauranteur, his establishment’s usual clientele of middle aged couples sipping foot-long Slippery Nipples to the soundtrack of the ‘Macarena’ apparently having not prepared him for a set of shirt-free hardcore punk and the chaos it leaves in its wake. But then, just as Mr. Stagedive looks like he’s going to make an exit through the back door, three huge Americans in black security T-shirts wade through into the crowd and grab him by the collar. One of them leans in to talk to White Tux. “It’s okay, he can stay,” he says. “We deal with this all the time.”

Welcome to the Bruise Cruise, where security are more likely to save your neck than steal your drugs. Now in its second year, the festival sails from Miami to the Bahamas on a rock and roll binge in February, mixing 500 heavily tattooed ‘bruisers’ with 2000 regular passengers aboard the 70-tonne vessel.

For three days, the likes of Thee Oh Sees, Fucked Up and Ty Segall play shows in neon conference rooms with names like Xanadu and Shangri La. On Friday evening, Karen O is casually props up the bar in a dressing gown. On the Serenity spa deck on Saturday, nervous bloggers sit chatting in a jacuzzi with King Khan. At the security briefing, Thee Oh Sees’ John Dwyer hands out toothpicks while alarms rage above. It’s safe to say the rest of the Imagination’s holidaymakers don’t know what’s hit them.

One thing organisers – booking agent Michelle Cable and Jonas Stein, formally of Be Your Own Pet, now of Turbo Fruits – have down is the line up. Detroit’s The Dirtbombs kick things off as the Miami coastline shrinks over the horizon, taking phone signals with it. We’re on cruise time now. The ship pitches violently and bruisers stumble around the dance floor, half drunk, half dancing, through the crazed garage funk of ‘Underdog’.

“The great thing about being drunk all the time is you never get seasick!” says security guard Steve. This is a suspension of logic that lasts for 72 hours.

Thee Oh Sees’ set pits two drummers against each other, bassist Petey Dammit pumping his inked neck with alarming stamina, John Dwyer purring and shredding at his guitar, blue eyes bulging madly. Downstairs, there’s fine dining, Indonesian waiters bopping to Flo Rida as they serve up three courses.

By 2 a.m., as regular cruisers stumble out of onboard nightclub Illusions or chain-smoke at poker tables, everyone with a wristband makes their way to Xanadu for New Orleans bounce artist Vockah Redu, who mounts the tiny stage with two dancers dressed in skintight gold lamé and proceeds to unleash rhymes until the mic goes dead.

Next morning, all 850-feet of the Imagination docks at Nassau. Reckless cruisers stop at the waterside booth that sells weed and rents scooters – a dangerous combination – while others stumble over to the beach where King Khan is explaining why he owns a necklace made of human teeth.

Tonight’s festivities take place at the aforementioned Senor Frogs. The hot ticket is The Togas, a garage covers band made up of Ty Segall, Philip Strange Boys, Shannon from Shannon and the Clams and Lance Wille of Reigning Sound, who emerge completely wasted and wearing actual Togas to rattle through tracks by the Kinks, the Temptations and The Undertones. Half hour later, during The Soft Pack’s set, Ty Segall gets trapped between his friends in a booth and is sick all over himself. Then he stands up and does it again.

Fucked Up close Saturday, and Damien ‘Pink Eyes’ Abraham, who so far has played Bruise Cruise’s genial compere, goes into Fucked Up mode. Tearing his T-shirt to shreds, he wades into the circle pit, climbs on the bar, and hangs from the rafters like an enormous monkey. NME catches up with him afterwards. “I was really apprehensive about coming,” he reveals. “I’m not a big fan of the outdoors and I don’t like beaches. But I am having the time of my life! I have drunk the tropical punch. I have completely bought into the cruising lifestyle. I can’t wait to come on another one.”

It’s cold on Sunday and everyone feels like shit. We huddle in a conference room below deck where Pink Eyes – now suited – does his Paddy McGuinness routine as compere of The Dating Game. It’s like Take Me Out, except contestants get condoms and vibrators instead of a holiday because they’re on one of those. Afterwards, TV On The Radio’s Kyp Malone soothes some aching heads with an intimate acoustic set.

Later on there’s a dance party with Mr. Quintron, but most people are spent after King Khan’s killer set, which sees honking brass flank the semi-naked form of Khan with his necklace of human teeth, feather headdress and catalogue of garage soul that has everyone dancing like loons. By the time the Imagination pulls into Miami port on Monday morning, all anyone can talk about is coming back to do it all over again next year.

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