Bruise Cruise Kickoff Party
With Black Lips, Quintron and Miss Pussycat, Vivian Girls, Thee Oh Sees, Strange Boys, Surfer Blood, Ty Segall, Turbo Fruits, and Jacuzzi Boys
Thursday, February 24, 2011
Better than: Catching a case of e. coli poisoning from the cocktail shrimp at a literally shitty cruise ship buffet.
Have you ever taken one of these vacations at sea? They suck. They're full of old people. They're packed with spazzy children whose parents are "on vacation." The food is gross. The booze is cheap. The games are garbage. And if you don't get the runs, you get the pukes.
What? Fine, you fucker, I'll admit it: All this trash-talking about the sanitary conditions and general fun-ness of life aboard a fantasy-class vessel is nothing more than a lame attempt to conceal my massive disappointment about being left ashore by the Bruise Cruise.
That's right, I was too broke to secure myself a cabin and join this throng of hipsters on the high seas. But at least I got a free press pass to last night's kickoff party. And with nine totally rad rock 'n' roll bands set to freak out for a half-hour at a time, it was pretty much guaranteed to equal the artificially enhanced energy (Contraband Four Loko? Homecooked xenadrine? Cocaine?) of eight or more hours locked inside the Carnival Imagination's Shangri-La Party Room.
With out-of-town Bruisers continuing to arrive at Grand Central's gate in airport shuttles, the night got going a little late. You know, like a whole 20 minutes past the assigned 7:30 p.m. start time. (Side note: When the fuck was the last instance of a rock show in Miami starting before 8 p.m.? Seriously ... It felt weird.)
The party's jump-starters just happened to be local bros Jacuzzi Boys. And dressed in a bright red Camp Beverly Hills sweatshirt, singer Gabriel Alcala kicked shit off with a ripping version of "Zeppelin" before rolling through fuzzy faves like "Coral Girls," "Smells Dead," and "Fruits." At this point, the crowd was still a little thin and way too sober. But even so, the Boys bashed out the noise as if it wasn't dinnertime.
Next, after 15 minutes of setup and soundcheck (plus another 30 seconds to drain their beers), Turbo Fruits took control of the captain's wheel. Guitarist, singer, and Bruise Cruise co-founder Jonas Stein delivered the intro: "Hey, we're Turbo Fruits from Nashville, Tennessee, and I've really gotta pee." Then he, his longhaired guitarist, blond bass guy, and drummer tore into eight quick scuzz-rock cuts.
The sound mix was a little muddy and these Fruits seemed kinda ripe, i.e. drunk. But the band's fourth song, "Ain't the Only One Havin' Fun," forced the mob into its first display of straight craziness. And all in all, I think the members of Turbo Fruits might have a boogie rock monster hidden in the crotch of their jeans.
Following the mild mob uprising of the Fruits' set, there was another 15 minute lull for clear-out and changeover. And I thought: OK, people are gonna get a drink and slip back into a state of relative calm. It's the wave theory. But holy shit, I was wrong.
Instead, when Ty Segall's guy-girl-guy-girl combo wrapped up the prep, grabbed its axes, bass, and kit, and took off like manic thrashing machines, the Bruisers didn't just chill. They hit manic thrash mode too. Bodies got sucked into the whirlpooling pit. Crowdsurfers disappeared into the undertow. And everyone got a hot Corona shower.
Dude, it was time for a break. Time for a drink. Time for a smoke. Time for a toke. And coincidentally, we all got one 'cause summery West Palm indie stoners Surfer Blood were taking their sweet time setting up. Gear trouble or general disorganization? I don't know. (Every band was using a communal Bruise Cruise-branded drum kit, so that was a non-issue.)
In the end, it was only a half-hour delay. Under normal circumstances, the oldest and angriest show-goers would've probably started bitching, hissing, and tossing joke-y insults. This time, though, they were just grateful for the chance to re-up their buzz.
By 10:19 p.m., Surfer Blood's main man John Paul Pitts was calling the Bruisers back. And seeking a wave, he started with Astro Coast's opener, "Floating Vibes," before shifting into a new song (identified as "Fast Song" on the setlist) and another old one, "Twin Peaks."
The mob was momentarily blissed out, though. And the waters kept calm right up till Pitts performed a bit of rather regal choreography for "Take It Easy." He then roamed out into the crowd and hugged a few female fans huddling at his feet. And that's when the tide finally turned foamy. The stage got crashed. A bunch of teen girls jumped up, flanking the singer and busting into giddy beach party dance moves. Others dove back out into the mess. And Surfer Blood just said, "Swim."
After the flood of bodies that ended Surfer Blood's set, the Grand Central security staff started to freak out, flashing beams of light into the mess and throwing authoritarian looks at any officially "out-of-control" cool kids.
Of course, the Strange Boys didn't exactly bring peace to the proceedings. But negativity never really soaked the scene either. Drifting out on some twangy mid-tempo tuneage, the Boys gradually, one song to the next, fired-up the frenzy until two guitars, bass, drums, and sax sounded like the apocalypse in a honky tonk bar. And ignoring all those bouncers in black suits, both the Bruisers and the band stoked this happy riot, smoking broken cigarettes, sweating like ditch-diggers, and playing games of push-hump-push.
Um, have you seen Thee Oh Sees live and in-person? Well, until last night at midnight, I had never been lucky enough to witness an immediate physical display of John Dwyer and crew's madness and mirth. It was so tight and searingly brutal, like a short, stiff 1000-pound punch to the head. It was maybe even the most extreme exhibition of aural awesomeness all night.
Sure, to a certain extent, this band feeds my particular musical fetishes -- loudness, speed, restraint, sonic pranksterism, and insane vocal outbursts. But it's kinda hard to deny the sheer skinny force of Thee Oh Sees as Dwyer fiendishly fucks with his banged-up guitar, flexes his sinewy tattoo-riddled forearms, and pries his eyes wide from behind a melted dirty blond pompadour. This shit's no joke.
Now the flipside to Dwyer's 40-minute destruction session was the Vivian Girls' slightly shortened set. Originally planning to play 12 tracks, Cassie, Kickball Katy, and Fiona were forced to sacrifice some songs and rush through others in order to hit the mandated 1 a.m. finish line.
It was a bit of a bummer that the Girls ended up absorbing this time lag. But still, they tore through a half-hour's worth of material -- "Never See Me Again" to "Lake House" to "Survival" -- and never really lost control. Well, except for that moment when bassist Katy Goodman tried to take her act to the middle of the pit and just ended up unplugging her instrument. But even then, Cassie and Fiona held things down, locking into a dirge-pop groove and repeating the theme until their third Girl made it back for the swirling, distorted conclusion.
And then there was the penultimate act: Weirdo husband-and-wife duo Quintron and Miss Pussycat. He builds his own instruments out of salvaged junk and other random materials. She sings, shakes the maracas, and puts on creepy-cute puppet shows.
It took the couple approximately 25 minutes to properly arrange their instruments and props. He claimed a corner and carefully stacked his homemade noisemakers while she dragged her puppet theater (a silver, stalagtite-laden cave made from some kind of synthetic material) to the opposite side of the stage.
At precisely 1:30 a.m., Quintron and Miss Pussycat's wild retro rock 'n' soul show started up. He pounded around behind his gear like some kind of cross between a lab geek and Little Richard, stripping off his pinkish orange shirt and then his belt. Meanwhile, Pussycat shimmied, shook, and unleashed sweet screeches into her mic before inviting friend-of-the-band and local celeb Dino Felipe to the stage for some maraca support.
The capper: A 10-minute puppet show that can only be described as an absurdist underwater sci-fi horror melodrama starring a supermodel-slash-archeologist turned seaweed monster. Confused? Just watch the video.
After a full travel day, three meals of shitty airplane food and/or mass-produced speed grub, and seven and a half hours of bruising, cruising, and boozing, all the out-of-town partiers were totally wiped. And the rest of us didn't feel much better. I sure as hell could've passed for a corpse. But a resurrection took place. And rock 'n' roll was responsible.
Between 2:36 and 3:15 a.m., the 20-something granddaddies of garage punk, Atlanta's Black Lips, got the mob to crap out the last of its energy reserves. There were random shoving matches, stage surges, and even a few group yell-a-thons for classics like "Family Tree" and "Cold Hands." But looking preppier, cleaner, and significantly less fucked-up than the last time I saw a Lips show, singer Jared, guitar guys Cole and Ian, and drummer Joe steered clear of the infamously debauched stage antics (partial nudity, obscene gestures, homoerotic pranks, etc.) that once almost earned them a trip straight into the asshole of a third-world prison. Basically, these guys are pros now. Except, um, for Cole spitting into the air and catching it in his own mouth. That's definitely non-professional behavior.
Anyway, so the show ends ... And if you can believe it, these zonked and sweaty Bruisers wanted to keep going, even after an extended version of "Bad Kids." In an exhausted rage, they chanted "One more song!" and "Navajo!"
But the Lips just smiled and said, "Sorry," while I shook my head and thought: An encore? You people are crazy. Enjoy your cruise. This was enough. I'm going to sleep.
The Crowd: An international assortment of hipster types, including the "beanie-wearing biker dude," "grandma-chic chubby chick," "longhaired Henry Rollins hardcore guy," and a hundred others.
Overheard in the Crowd: At approximately 2:15 a.m., most Bruisers had become zombies. People had passed out on couches. They were sleeping on their feet. And one poor girl with eyes like pretty, empty holes watched the Black Lips plug in their guitars and said, "It feels like they're going in slow-motion."
Jacuzzi Boys Setlist:
-"Bricks or Coconuts"
Turbo Fruits Setlist:
-"Want Some Mo'"
-"Ain't the Only One Havin' Fun!"
-"Mama's Mad Cos I Fried My Brain"
Surfer Blood Setlist:
-"Fast Song" (?)
-"I'm Not Ready"
-"Take It Easy"
Strange Boys Setlist:
-"A Walk on the Bleach"
-"Should Have Shot Paul"
-"My Life Beats Me"
-"Woe Is You and Me"
-"Walking Two by Two"
-"Friday in Paris"
-"Laugh at Sex, Not Her"
-"Dare I Say"
-"Keys to the Kingdom"
Vivian Girls Setlist:
-"Never See Me Again"
-"Can't Get Over You"
-"I Heard You Say"
-"When I'm Gone"
-"Before I Start to Cry"
-"Tell the World"
-"Dance (If You Wanna)"
Black Lips Setlist:
-"Sea of Blasphemy"
-"Hippie, Hippie, Hoorah" ("Dutronc")
-"Not a Problem"
-"Lock and Key"