Bruise Cruise Memories
Interview Edan Wilber
Photography Diana Wong
The Bruise Cruise was a social experiment. Would punk kids come on a Jamaican cruise to see garage bands like Thee Oh Sees, Vivian Girls, and the Black Lips, even if technically they weren’t allowed to bring drugs? No one knew, but the collaborators decided to try it out. What happened is recounted here by Edan Wilber, the talent buyer for DIY venue Death By Audio in Brooklyn, who also DJs a show on East Village Radio of the same name. Edan has booked or seen most of the bands that played last year’s Bruise Cruise, and so we thought it would be a good idea to ask him if it was better or worse than seeing them in the comfort of his own venue. If you are thinking about going on next year’s Bruise Cruise (line up just announced), then his memories of the occasion, along with Diana Wong’s fantastic slide show scrapbook, might help you make your decision.
I arrived in Miami the night before Bruise Cruise and checked into my hostel for the night, before heading over to the preparty at Grand Central, an over the top, palm tree laden, ovesize-couch-filled douche fest. Pabst and a shot was $8 so i made friends with the security guards and they soon let me out the back door to go to my car and grab my handle of tequila. I was soon the most popular guy backstage. Too bad I was black out drunk. Someone told me I got in a fight with one of the dudes from the Black Lips, but I don’t know because they didnt make eye contact with me the rest of the weekend. Quintron later told me he owed me some drinks. I’m still waiting on those. I woke up four hours later fresh for the day, groaning as loud as I could next to a trash can full of piss.
We arrived at the dock and after a joke of a security check and an incredibly awkward photo stop, we were aboard, ready to live it the fuck up with Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall. I threw my bags down and got ready to party. Ty played first. I think it was before we even left the dock. He played a great set, during which a dude proposed to his girlfriend and sang a song with Ty and his band as the backing. It was pretty cute. I learned later that this guy had a card that got him unlimited soda. Thee Oh Sees played a little after that and really killed it, the best set of the whole weekend as far as I’m concerned. And it was the first of about 50 chance meetings with my buddy from the West Coast, John Dwyer (Thee Oh Sees’ singer, songwriter, and guitarist). I love that dude and everything he touches. He made the cruise a lot more personal for me.
Ian Svenonius’s lecture left me wanting more – a lot more. I really thought the notoriously anti-capitalist musician would have some hilarious insights into how ridiculous it was that we were all participating in such a decadent experience. The cruise cost about $600, not including travel expenses to Miami, to hang out on a (admittedly really cool) boat with a bunch of bands you might never pay more than $20 to see in your hometown. Instead, he asked for help from the audience to perform a handful of plays he had written on the nature of the music industry. They ended up falling flat, as most of the performers were shitfaced, and there was a very intense spit ball war going on between the two sections of seats.
I awoke docked in the Bahamas and I was ready to get the fuck off that boat. Before some friends and I could get out of the “Welcoming Center” we were bombarded with locals peddling any number of handmade goods. There was an offer to get our hair braided and a chance to rent some scooters for the day. After some negotiating we were able to get two bikes, a fair amount of weed, and a map with directions to getting away from any sort of tourist nightmares. We were off! (Except for a rocky take-off that left me with less of my big toe than i care to imagine.) Soon enough we were way out. We took a tiny road out to the water and sat on one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. After a few joints and some swimming, we decided to head back to the boat to catch the Jacuzzi Boys, who were the only band on the cruise I hadn’t seen. They continue to have that honor because one of the bikes wouldn’t start for 20 minutes and we missed it. Oh well. We headed back out for some more adventures before we went to that night’s show at Se&tilden;or Frog’s.
I didnt know at the time, but Se&tilden;or Frog’s turned out to be like the frat boy TGIFridays. For the first 15 minutes, I had to cover my nose so that I didnt puke and add to the stench of stale beer and lost innocence. Dwyer said it was like someone wiped poop on your face, which included him actually smearing his fingers across my upper lip. Segall likened it to gym socks and aged cheese. The Vivian Girls won the performances of that night with their double cover of “My Heart Will Go On” (without the Incan flutes). Before the Black Lips took the stage we all had to “endure” the night’s MC pouring shots down everyone’s throat with Jock Jams playing behind him. By the time Jonathan Toubin’s Soul Clap dance party started I was ready to pass out, but later I realized that it might be because I was downing their special margaritas. I am worried they contained some sort of dopamine because as soon as I downed a Sol, I was back in the game and ready to hit the boat for some late night hot-tubbing.
The best part of the cruise had to be the Serenity Deck”, which was basically just two hot tubs on the back end of the boat where no children were allowed. This is where most of the partying went down. Drink stewards stopped coming back there, because whenever they did, they would get mobbed by 50 drink orders. On the last night, Kickball Katy (of the Vivian Girls) grabbed my arm rather hard and leaned in close to inform me that she was peeing and not to let any one else know. Sorry Katy, the cat is out of the bag.
The final day of our voyage began with an amazing puppet show put on by Miss Pussycat. It was a live performance she had made just for the occasion as well as some videos she had put together in the past few years. She is really an amazing artist, so inventive with her props and really funny. Turbo Fruits and Surfer Blood got our blood flowing in the “Xanadu Lounge”.
After that, something happened to me that has never happened before. Justiz was our personal security guard on the cruise and he had requested the chance to lead a workout on the last day. I’m usually a pretty lazy guy, and I wasn’t sure what this would include, but I was up for anything on the high seas. I went up to him before we began and told him that I would have some trouble with some excercises because of my toe incident on the motor bike. He said “It shouldn’t be a problem. Go and get some water and bring it back.” I did, and he squirted in a few droppers full of liquid THC to ingest immediately to help with the workout. The next two hours were a very intense journey for me. We went up to the highest deck, which was lined with astroturf. We began with some simple breathing excercises which proved to be too much for me. Even though I was sitting, I had to keep both of my hands firmly on the ground so as not to fall over. I contorted, I sweat, I coughed, and I hurt.
But, after it was done, I felt incredible, and Justiz took us all to the front of the boat and gave us a harrowing speech about visualizing your goals and reaching them. Land-lubber Edan would’ve laughed this off, but I felt as though I had reached a level of consciousness where this made sense. Thee Oh Sees and Quintron gave us our final performances of the weekend. At that point I was pretty spent and accidentally passed out early.
The last morning seemed like a war zone. Attendees’ rooms were opened up and everyone was forced out after a few hours sleep. Once I was through the weakest customs checkpoint on the planet and into the parking lot, I saw Bruisers splayed out all over the sidewalk. It was a sign of a weekend well spent, but a Sunday night poorly planned. It was a hurried goodbye, but I was sure I’d see every one soon enough.