So, what’s the best way to survive a nearly nine-hour (largely) garage-rock marathon at Grand Central? Well, common sense says you should start slow, save the craziest energy expenditure for later in the evening, get drunk elsewhere to save money, and don’t dance near, look at, or even breathe in the vicinity of some of the venue’s over-eager security guards.
Many well-meaning music fans ignored at least one or all of these suggestions last night during the on-land kickoff party for the inaugural Bruise Cruise, which departs from Miami this morning. The mega-watt line-up featured virtually every performer slated to perform aboard the Carnival Imagination during the three-day rock cruise: Jacuzzi Boys, Turbo Fruits, Ty Segall, Surfer Blood, the Strange Boys, Thee Oh Sees, Vivian Girls, Quintron and Miss Pussycat, and Black Lips. As such, there was pretty much no skip-able opening act, Miami time wasn’t going to fly, and many, many people actually showed up early … which means that by 12:30 a.m. or so, many had also started to tap out.
Those who made it through to the wee hours, though, were treated to epic musician stage-diving fails, a psychedelic puppet show, and, of course, yet another trademark Crazy Black Lips set. It was a lot to process, so we’ll break it down, yearbook-style, into superlatives.
Band Most in Need of a Smile: Surfer Blood. These South Florida natives went on surprisingly early; one would think their quasi-hometown status would give them a more peak-hour billing. It turned out be for the best, though. Though the youngest and most eager fans near the edge of the stag (bless ‘em) still appreciated the set heavy with material from Astro Coast, the band looked glum throughout it all.
Not even singer John Paul Pitts’ attempts to dance and wade into the crowd later in the set masked the fact that they seemed either drained or bored with their debut album’s material. It’s probably the latter, because they notably perked up when they played a new song, a bouncy, faster, fuzzier ditty of the kind that will help us forget how badly Weezer now sucks. There was nothing technically wrong with the set, but the performance, in conjunction with the band’s recent mystery deletion of its Twitter accounts and moody interviews, show a group deserving of some PTO. Maybe sunshine and a cruise will help.
And on a related note….
Worst Way to Get Injured At a Show as a Musician: Misguidedly stage-diving during another band’s set. The award here again goes to JP, so apparently taken by the Vivian Girls around 1 a.m. that he decided to jump off the stage … and was promptly caught by the floor, remaining distressingly motionless for a minute and busting open a lip. The Girls were slightly atonal, but catchy and chipper as always — but certainly nothing to bleed over.
Best Sleeper Hit of the Lineup: Ty Segall. The California native acid-burned the room with a loud, fast, fuzzy blend of garage rock and strains of Bleach-era Nirvana, lighting up the crowd with limited manpower — just himself, and one or two other musician hands on deck for backup. The set ended with giddy all-agers in the pit gleefully accepting Segall’s microphone stand and passing the equipment across a sea of eager, bouncing hands.
Best Music-Celeb Sightings at the Show For the Over-25 Set: 1) Ian Svenonious of the Make-Up/Nation of Ulysses/Weird War … ok, expected, as he was slated to perform on the cruise, but for the handful of us who cared, THAT WAS AWESOME. A style icon! 2) John Norris, formerly of MTV News and known Wavves fan, at least. 3) Anyone else we missed? Someone said Iggy Pop, but since the report only came from one person, that may have been wishful hallucination.
Best Use of a Saxophone: The Strange Boys, a coed act from Austin whose Texas roots shine through in their swinging take on bar-room rock. Punk energy, rockabilly licks, and classic soul swagger, oh my. Their “Keys to the Kingdom” was one of the most rousing set-closers of the night.
Best Neck Tattoo on a Musician: We love a man who can profess such love for yellow layer cake with chocolate frosting that he would display it colorfully on his neck, as did the Oh Sees’ Petey Dammit. Or maybe we were just hungry. Some wise food truck should park in front of Grand Central during this kind of thing, except that the venue doesn’t allow re-entry under any circumstance, even during such a long event. Oh well.
Anyways, the sweetness of that bit of ink belied the ferocity of the band’s performance. Frontman John Dwyer’s whooping vocals raised the ghosts of Sun Records past, while the rest of the group’s tambourine-propelled, break-neck scuzz-rock turned the crowd into a sea of beer bottles pumping rhythmically in the air.
Best Use of Puppets
Oh yeah, puppets. And maracas. And the use of a light-controlled synthesizer contraption that only the biggest gear uber-nerds would recognize. Thank the completely unmatched performance duo of Quintron and Miss Pussycat, who took a very unexpected penultimate slot but whose complete happy bizarreness turned upside down the frowns of even the crankiest concertgoers.
A rundown: Quintron is the artist born Robert Ralston, who mans a bank of synthesizers and organs on a makeshift rig mounted on a sawed-off car fender. He announced that he and his cohorts were “from Miami…. in our minds!” But they’re really from New Orleans, kind of. During his portion of the show, he leads Miss Pussycat, bedecked last night in a sequined cape/dress and pompom hat, and another maraca-shaking female friend through a brief set of stomping, keyboard-driven soul rock.
Losing his shirt and several pounds in sweat, the danceable fun of the actual songs overshadowed the novelty of his setup. “Rock and roll is for weirdos, by the way,” anyways, as he reminded the crowd.
After his songs, then, came Miss Pussycat’s starring portion of the set — a puppet show, complete with a curtained stage. These are some psychedelic, rod-controlled puppets who perform along to a canned voice and music soundtrack and follow surreal trains of thought. Last night’s show was nominally about the Bruise Cruise — we think — and then proceeded to follow the exploits of a monster/alien who thought she was a supermodel and archaeologist, only to be made to realize her true appearance by an evil witch. No matter, though, because there was a happy ending in which she was made to feel beautiful by some other kind of monster, whose head appeared to be made of lacquered styrofoam packing peanuts. There was an appearance by a musical octopus in there, too. Well, that’s what happens when puppetry goes on at 2 a.m. in a nightclub.
Best Reward For Making It All the Way Through: Black Lips! Sure, the gonzo Atlanta punk-garage rockers didn’t go on until almost 3 a.m., but that’s what calling in sick is for, right?
And now, a ton of photos:
Quintron and Miss Pussycat