On Sunday, December 16, the inaugural voyage of the S.S. Coachella, the mega-fest’s first trip to the Atlantic Ocean, left Ft. Lauderdale, Florida en route to the Bahamas. Pulp, Sleigh Bells, Girl Talk, El-P, Hot Chip, Black Lips, and a host of other bands are along for the ride. Ever intrepid, SPIN is documenting the entire experiment bit by waterlogged bit. Impossible fun abounds as the threat of total annihilation looms ever present. Ahoy!
Day One: Shipsters, Seapunks, and Broaters … unite?
Today’s stowaways: Pulp, Black Lips, Grimes, !!!, Father John Misty, Cloud Nothings
6:50 p.m.: “In the unlikely event that we do have to abandon ship…” A cruise official is speaking terrible things to a room of sea-noobs at a mandatory event called a Mustard Drill. Mario With the Megaphone goes on, but the just-boarded denizens of the inaugural S.S. Coachella (those whose “assembly station” is ship’s improbably huge Silhouette Theatre) are not concerned. Not hardly. When two more Celebrity Cruises reps materialize to demonstrate how people put on life jackets, a guy in the front shouts, “Take it off.” It is quite possible that this ship is doomed. And already drunk. In hindsight we realize that the word was probably “muster.”
7:15 p.m.: The who, what, and why is impossible to suss out so far. Wandering this massive tanker of fun — full of bars, bistros, and opportunities to purchase Bulgari watches — one is lucky to see 20 people at any given moment. Over time, the gathering places are revealed to be pools and performances, and the demographics slowly sort themselves out. While the prohibitive ticket price guarantees a high saturation of Broaters (fratty stock who have no guff with pairing rhinestone shades with flip-flops), there are plenty of Shipsters as well, plus a smattering of seapunks — like, punks on a boat — thanks to Black Lips, mainly.
7:40 p.m.: If you’ve never ridden an elevator inside of a boat, you do not fully comprehend the stubborn yet marvelous moxie of the human spirit. And if you haven’t emerged from said elevator, attempting to reach your cabin on the 11th of 15 decks, to find Pulp there waiting to get on, than you weren’t on the S.S. Coachella.
8:20 p.m.: “A lot of people have to die before I’m captain of this ship,” says Father John Misty to a hundred-ish fans gathered inside of the Sky Observation Lounge on Deck 14. He has the strange distinction of kicking off the trip’s performances while the ship pulls out of Ft. Lauderdale’s Port Everglades and begins its migration to the Bahamas. Backed by an incredibly able band, he turns the unlikely venue with its white leather sofas and glowing blue cocktail tables into a mystical honky-tonk. On stage, he spins, vamps, and howls, then walks into the audience and drops to his knees to sing something brilliantly arch about Jesus Christ while the guitars scream and whorl. “You guys are probably still deliberating as to whether or not this was a good thing to have done,” he says.
8:40 p.m.: Three girls in miniskirts arrive at Misty’s show, try to dance, then promptly leave. Where will they go? We follow, and mere feet outside of the show’s center, it gets bleak. A young woman sees some friends lounging on a distant Sky Lounge couch and shouts, “Shots!” The friends cheer, but our girls keep moving, so we too head out the door and into the salt-kissed night. Soon we are overlooking the open-air pool at the ship’s center, where 50 Broaters are acting out their mating rituals in and out of the water while a DJ spins over-the-top EDM and ratchet rap. We venture into the throng and discover three massive tubs full of beer complete with an attendant who will find you the coldest in the bunch, uncap it, and hand it over free of charge, with a smile even. Our skepticism is fading fast.
9:05 p.m.: A dude outside of the Father John show belches, bids his buddies adieu with an, “Adios, bitches!” and then falls down a half-flight of carpeted stairs.
9:30 p.m.: Yeasayer come out to Aaliyah’s “Rock the Boat” inside of the Silhouette. They’re 30 minutes late, but it doesn’t matter. We are quite fittingly watching them play border-blurring exoti-pop as we float across international waters, although it’s easy enough to forget where we are — our cell phones now turned off to avoid roaming costs, we don’t actually even know where we. After ripping through “2080,” singer Chris Keating says, “What’s up, boat! Real talk. This is totally weird.” If an indie band rocks a boat and no one is there to Tweet it, did it actually happen?
10:30 p.m.: !!! have converted the Sky Lounge into a gloriously raunchy disco. Their powerful rhythms, or maybe the choppy waters, are causing the S.S. Coachella to sway just a little as Nic Offer chants about just how many fucks he gives (zero) while pumping his crotch at our faces. He is wearing tiny shorts, boxer perhaps, printed with the cover of the Rolling Stones’ Some Girls. To close, he leads the band through an amped up, punky redo of Prince’s “Extraloveable” complete with a series of James Brown-style hits. Alternate name for this report: There Will Be Babies.
11:15 p.m.: Jarvis Cocker is flirting with us. Not the editorial “us,” but, like, everyone who came to the Silhouette Theatre to watch Pulp mightily slay Sunday’s headlining slot. He is strutting along the edge of the stage, throwing out Cruise-complementary grapes and chocolate to the crowd as if he’s Dionysus himself, teasing the front row and then jumping back anytime a hand gets close enough to touch the ridges of his corduroys. After poignantly playing “Underwear” (the one with the line about standing naked in somebody else’s room) he reminds us that, “What happens in the Bermuda Triangle stays in the Bermuda Triangle.” This might seem ominous since the huge P-U-L-P suspended above the band are now swaying a foot or so in either direction, but Cocker is on fire (in the Killers sense), swaggering his way through Different Class and much of His ‘n’ Hers. He wades into the audience before “This Is Hardcore,” gives out hugs and kisses, then climbs back up to do a striptease in which he actually turns around an touches his toes for us. He crudely dangles the mike beneath his belt and when “Common People” comes, it seems quite clear that the chorus is directed at the normals (by comparison) amassed in that very room.
12:45 a.m.: The Sky Lounge morphs once again as Grimes blasts out arty New Age bumps while her dancers with uneven haircuts — Lafayette and Sacred — pump and stomp like they were plucked directly from a C+C Music Factory video.
12:50 a.m.: Searching for something more whiskey than champagne, we head down to the pool, where the Gaslamp Killer is reigning supreme with a wonderfully fucked mix of Middle Eastern psych, Beatles edits, and West Coast beat music. He delivers a trio of highlights: an impromptu drop of Baracka Flacka Flames’ “Head of State”; TNGHT’s brutal banger “Bugg’n” mixed into Captain Murphy’s lascivious takeover “Shake Weight”; and a live remix of Dead Prez’s “Hip Hop,” which found GLK down on the floor, surrounding by bobbing hands, drum-soloing via iPad.
2:00 a.m.: Cloud Nothings DGAF if we’re on a ship. They have the soundman crank the volume to an ear-splitting 11 and do what they came to: fucking shred.
3:30 a.m.: Black Lips are the last band standing. There are only about 40 people left in the Sky Lounge and a quarter of them are Girl Talk, Grimes, Har Mar Superstar, and members of Cloud Nothings, Father John Misty, and Warpaint. Loopy bassist Jared Swilley keeps going on about “cold merlot and shrimp” — perks of the cruising life — while guitarist Ian Saint Pé offers, “Drugs are terrible, so if you have them, I will take them from you.” Before they launch into “O Katrina,” rhythm guitarist Cole Alexander explains, “A couple of years ago, a storm took out New Orleans and the same kind of storm could take this boat out at any minute.” No problem. We’ve accepted our fate and so we mosh furiously on a drink-slick dance floor while the very venue we’re in tilts from side to side. If we’re going down, we’ll do it covered in bruises and soaked in booze like the newly minted seapunks we are.