I spent this year’s pre-Valentine’s Day weekend on the short trip of a lifetime: aboard the Carnival Imagination cruise ship for the second annual Bruise Cruise Music Festival! It was an epic weekend of indie rock galore, adiposity beginning with pre-parties in the Miami Design District before boarding the ship at the Port of Miami and a brief disembarkation at Nassau (Bahamas) before returning to Miami. This year’s lineup featured Thee Oh Sees, Fucked Up, King Khan and the Shrines, The Togas, Mikal Cronin, Quintron and Miss Pussycat, The Dirtbombs, Vockah Redu, Neil Hamburger, The Soft Pack, and a last-minute performance by Kyp Malone of TV on the Radio fame.
I’ve attended over 10 music fests in and outside of Seattle, but this was my first ever aboard a cruise ship (and my first cruise experience in general). The experience can be most likened to that of the Doe Bay Music Festival held on Orcas Island, WA. Despite the obvious differences (camping on an island vs in cruise ship cabins, indie folk vs indie rock, etc), Bruise Cruise Fest and Doe Bay Fest were similar in that both occurred in very intimate, contained areas. Neither have photo pits or backstage areas blocked from the fans, or VIP/press wristbands letting certain people get preferential treatment over others. Rather, one of the biggest and likely most attractive factors of both fests is that bands and fans mix and bond as a part of the festival experience. At Doe Bay, it wasn’t uncommon to be oohing and ahhing over a band’s live performance one minute, and the next hanging out with them in the porta-potty line. Bruise Cruise had a similar vibe best illustrated by the assigned seating at the ship’s fine dining events. I found myself at a “star-studded table” dining right alongside Ty Segall, Mikal Cronin, and festival organizer Michelle Cable, no band manager or security dude needed.