review by Suzi Pratt
all photos by Marianne Spellman
During the dreary Seattle winter chill, two Seattleites were lucky to escape to the other side of the continent for the second annual Bruise Cruise Festival, sailing from Miami to the Bahamas. The three-day escapade is hardly your retired grandmother’s cruise, although there were plenty of those on board as well. Instead, Bruise Cruise is like summer camp for some five hundred tattooed, cigarette-smoking indie rockers and hipsters who devoured fruity drink concoctions and action-packed music sets all weekend long. Unlike other huge, multi-stage music fests, Bruise Cruise’s 13 performers stick to a schedule rotating around a single stage, ensuring no tough choices had to be made.
The party kicked off two days earlier at The Stage in Miami where local Florida band Jacuzzi Boys jazzed up the crowd and The Togas, a super band consisting of Ty Segall, Ryan Sambol of The Strange Boys, and Shannon Shaw of The Clams, played their first live set ever. Festival highlights Thee Oh Sees, King Khan and the Shrines, and Fucked Up also played explosive sets, whetting our appetites for what was to come.
Friday morning, Bruise Cruise attendees eagerly flocked aboard the Carnival Imagination cruise ship and after oogling over the flashy Vegas-like interiors, congregated in the Xanadu Lounge at the ship’s stern. The festival kicked off with an amped set by Mick Collins’ band The Dirtbombs, climaxing when drummer Ben Blackwell set up his drum kit on the dance floor, pounding away while surrounded by dancing fans.
Thee Oh Sees followed up with their usual energetic set, before the first of two group fine dining events took place. After dinner, Jello Biafra gave the first of two “sold out” talks before Vockah Redu and the Cru exploded onto the Xanadu stage with their electrifying New Orleans booty-shaking hip-hop act.
Saturday morning, the ship docked in Nassau, Bahamas, and much of the ship ventured around the island during the day. After sundown, Bruise Cruise invaded the divey Señor Frogs bar in Nassau, where Anna Seregina, The Togas, and Neil Hamburger helped us get our land legs back. The Soft Pack followed, before Fucked Up turned the place upside down with lead singer Damian Abraham swinging from rafters, throwing and spitting booze into the crowd, and eventually climbing up on the bar and mooning everyone.
The ship began its trek back to Miami early Sunday morning while Quintron and Miss Pussycat, Kyp Malone, and Mikal Cronin entertained bleary-eyed Bruisers before King Khan wrapped up the epic weekend of music.
What’s a cruise without some hot tubbing and bonding group activities? While your typical cruise might offer bingo as a “get to know your neighbor” mixer, Bruise Cruise’s main non-music entertainment took the form of The Dating Game. Hosted by Damian Abraham, the Bruisers not only got handfuls of free condoms, but loads of laughter as well.
One of many benefits of Bruise Cruise is the inevitable proximity festival-goers and performers have with each other. During Bruise Cruise, there are no VIP passes or even backstage areas. All Bruisers are treated equally, (with the exception of folks lucky enough to score ocean-view cabins) and even performers could be found wandering pool side, jamming on the dance floor, or perusing the free buffet. Not just any festival would allow you to sidle up to King Khan and ask him about his donkey teeth or watch Ty Segall play with his food in ways that would make toddlers stare.
Bruise Cruise ended early Monday morning when the ship pulled into port at the painful hour of 8am. Overall, Bruise Cruise is a one-of-a-kind festival that wouldn’t be possible without the amazing Michelle Cable of Panache Booking and her co-conspirator Jonas Stein of Turbo Fruits. A big thanks to the fest-organizers, and we look forward to next year!
Check out more of Marianne Spellman’s Bruise Cruise photos here.