House Show on a Yacht: Or the NXNE Bruise Cruise - 18 June 2011

Sean Brady

The question became less "Why have an indie rock concert?" and more, "What do we do on a yacht?"


NXNE Bruise Cruise

City: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Date: 2011-06-18

Why have an indie rock concert on a cruise ship?

That’s the one thing that comes to mind in the new phenomenon known as "rock cruises". It’s the question that came to mind when boarding a Mariposa Cruises yacht for the Bruise Cruise, an event for Toronto’s NXNE Festival sponsored by M for Montréal and the amusingly absent BrooklynVegan. Walking on the yacht, filled to capacity at fewer than 600 people, I formed an image of a bunch of college kids wandering a mansion that was not exactly theirs. The somewhat classy decor of faux wood, fancy bars, and formally uniformed staff did not match the crowd at all, and with good reason: Mariposa (and other cruises) cater to a specific clientele, as in couples, retirees, families with money to spend and an inability to improvise a memorable experience outside the bounds of a tourist group or clubbing. The pinnacle of luxury the hipsters on this cruise have is a MacBook Pro and maybe an $800 fixie; their idea of adventure involving couchsurfing, tripping, and hostels in Europe. The general moods of these people were mild bemusement and general confusion. Occasionally, a person would shout out "I’m on a Boat", but even when that song made sense about what it was mocking, here it was a pathetic attempt at sounding ironic in a post-ironic time. Eventually, the question became less "Why have an indie rock concert?" and more, "What do we do on a yacht?"

As with any gathering of uninspired hipsters with a lot of space to move around, the answer became quickly obvious: Devolve into a hipster house show. Groups of four or six would be chatting about something, drinking beers and smoking cigarettes, chillaxing at maximum potential without accomplishing much of anything. The stage area at the bottom floor of the yacht, using a set of tables as a barrier, never filled to capacity, with a bunch of people always settled on the bow, stern, and roof decks of the ship. But given it was a warm summer day on Lake Ontario, it was hard to blame them. Of course, to make matters weirder, live engineer Tim McCreedy was working with a sound system essentially designed for wedding receptions and bingo games. The PA was not meant to handle a music concert, let alone a rock concert. The sound goal was to at least attempt adequacy, so much credit goes to Mr. McCreedy for reaching that goal where others would simply have achieved a bare minimum of mediocrity.

The poor saps that opened the Bruise Cruise were francophone garage rockers Jesuslesfilles. The term "poor saps" remains particularly applicable here: any foreigner (such as this writer) unaware of the social gulf between the francophones of Quebec and New Brunswick and English-speaking Canada would witness it first-hand in this show. Jesuslesfilles were clearly able garage rockers, but they felt really uncomfortable with the crowd of only a couple dozen francophones watching, knowing fully well the entire audience, locked on the boat that had only begun sailing 30 minutes before, was chilling out elsewhere. Their communications with the audience were stereotypical of house show performances: polite yet awkward. They would probably shine at a punk gig in Lyon or a warehouse show in Ville de Québec, but in this case it was a mere sideshow for the rest of concert.

Wandering aimlessly through the boat, the people did not know what they got themselves into. They had long given up life as society dictates to the rest of the populace, and now they were thrust back into the vivacious core of middle class luxury and decadence, without an idea as to what it meant. Of course they would respond like it was just another party to chill out, maybe meet people, because they saw it as nothing more than just another place to see a show. They assumed the usual positions of being hip and apathetic, hardened slightly because this boat was not their place. Most of the rest of the show gave a distinct pretentiousness stereotypical of most house shows run by hipsters. To make matters less formal, one of the key sponsors, BrooklynVegan, was conspicuously absent due to expired passports, leaving the emcee from M for Montréal a little more than hapless and anxious. Despite having members of two of Canada’s hardest rockers playing solo sets, the crowd reaction was neutral at best. Uncle Bad Touch, the work of Priestess frontman Mikey Heppner, played some quality soul with a few claps here and there, the audience trying hard to not be impressed. Movement was detected in the solo set of Young Governor, a member of Canada’s current indie darlings Fucked Up, but it was rather slothy. The most movement witnessed was in between sets, with the music being some ‘70s disco that people could shamelessly dance to.

That it took an American to rouse the mostly Canadian crowd is an understatement of depression. But final act Ty Segall, a member of the rising San Francisco garage rock scene, pulled that off just as the boat returned to harbor. In fact, the crowd went mental just as the boat docked, with Segall playing a punchy cover of Black Sabbath’s "Paranoid". At the end, Segall crowdsurfed while the audience punched up the tiles of the low ceiling to give him room, and several members of crowd jumped over the table and danced with the man on stage, with security completely unsure how to handle such destructive movement.

Why have an indie rock concert on a cruise ship?

It remains to be seen whether rock cruises will continue to grow. But right now, if the Bruise Cruise is any indication, it seems more a desperate ploy to attract new cruise ship goers in a market that is declining and aging than anything else. The staff looked as confused as their market, looking like fox cubs attempting their first kill. Further, once things got reckless as the boat docked at the end, security looked absolutely confused as to what to do. The people that came on this boat turned the Bruise Cruise into a house show on a yacht, which comes off as a waste to these cruise companies. Perhaps, just perhaps, a better option would be to target the far larger and more party-able twenty-somethings whose main party experiences were keggers at State and clubbing in the city.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.

60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

Keep reading... Show less

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

Keep reading... Show less

Net Neutrality and the Music Ecosystem: Defending the Last Mile

Still from Whiplash (2014) (Photo by Daniel McFadden - © Courtesy of Sundance Institute) (IMDB)

"...when the history books get written about this era, they'll show that the music community recognized the potential impacts and were strong leaders." An interview with Kevin Erickson of Future of Music Coalition.

Last week, the musician Phil Elverum, a.k.a. Mount Eerie, celebrated the fact that his album A Crow Looked at Me had been ranked #3 on the New York Times' Best of 2017 list. You might expect that high praise from the prestigious newspaper would result in a significant spike in album sales. In a tweet, Elverum divulged that since making the list, he'd sold…six. Six copies.

Keep reading... Show less

Under the lens of cultural and historical context, as well as understanding the reflective nature of popular culture, it's hard not to read this film as a cautionary tale about the limitations of isolationism.

I recently spoke to a class full of students about Plato's "Allegory of the Cave". Actually, I mentioned Plato's "Allegory of the Cave" by prefacing that I understood the likelihood that no one had read it. Fortunately, two students had, which brought mild temporary relief. In an effort to close the gap of understanding (perhaps more a canyon or uncanny valley) I made the popular quick comparison between Plato's often cited work and the Wachowski siblings' cinema spectacle, The Matrix. What I didn't anticipate in that moment was complete and utter dissociation observable in collective wide-eyed stares. Example by comparison lost. Not a single student in a class of undergraduates had partaken of The Matrix in all its Dystopic future shock and CGI kung fu technobabble philosophy. My muted response in that moment: Whoa!

Keep reading... Show less

'The Art of Confession' Ties Together Threads of Performance

Allen Ginsberg and Robert Lowell at St. Mark's Church in New York City, 23 February 1977

Scholar Christopher Grobe crafts a series of individually satisfying case studies, then shows the strong threads between confessional poetry, performance art, and reality television, with stops along the way.

Tracing a thread from Robert Lowell to reality TV seems like an ominous task, and it is one that Christopher Grobe tackles by laying out several intertwining threads. The history of an idea, like confession, is only linear when we want to create a sensible structure, the "one damn thing after the next" that is the standing critique of creating historical accounts. The organization Grobe employs helps sensemaking.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.