S.S. Coachella Cruise: Our Review From the High Seas
By Liz Tracy
Photo by Ian Witlen Jarvis Cocker and Pulp aboard the S.S. Coachella.
The maiden voyage of the S.S. Coachella departed Sunday from Ft. Lauderdale, bound for the Bahamas. It set out to sea rather unceremoniously. There weren't horns, not a streamer in sight, and no one smashed bottles against the body of the ship.
But we'd all been aboard the Celebrity Silhouette for about four hours at that point, and Father John Misty was launching our oceanic musical journey in the Sky Lounge. A 180-degree view of the sea spread in front of us, and a group of maybe 100 music fans with stars in their eyes didn't even notice where we were as the shore lights faded away.
They couldn't have picked a better act to start out with. After watching former Fleet Foxes member Joshua Tillman, aka Father John Misty, shake his hips, raising his mic stand to the sky (he was one of three dude singers swaying their hips sensually on Sunday night), and then Monday morning on the "lawn" playing with only his guitar, it's clear that he's the new man's main guy.
This cruise is populated with foreigners, people ready to rave, fashionistas, and all of the other types of people whom you'd expect both on a cruise and/or backstage at a music festival. But it seems many of the main acts are here to perform for a postcool world. And that is what, in some ways, Father John Misty represents.
At his first show, he made the requisite "end of the world" and hipster joke, suggesting the Coachella cruisers would be the final people on the planet. (Oh, the horror!) He lamented that there wasn't a chance to break a bottle on the side of the boat (seriously, though, that's why we came), adding that he'd still drink the bottle and pass out in his own vomit. "When God closes a door, he opens a vomit side-window," he said.
Mentioning God seems to be something Father John Misty does frequently. On the ship's grassy knoll Monday afternoon, he sang tunes with lines about Joseph Campbell and the Rolling Stones. The music was familiar Americana folk. The themes were personal and universal enough. And it seemed this guy was speaking for the heart of the S.S. Coachella cruise.
Just when I thought there were only, like, 200 people on the whole ship, a long line snaking out from the Silhouette Theater waiting for Yeasayer proved otherwise. Inside, the show started late, and Aaliyah's "Rock the Boat" played ironically or comically or perfectly. Whichever you prefer.
A terrible recording of a woman saying, over and over "Good Evening, S.S. Coachella" coaxed people to push toward the stage. Two guys in full-body, tie-dyed onesies modeled for the cameras. A few glow-stick bracelets lit up the crowd, and one person wore a Santa hat. People with glow sticks really do enjoy the live musical experience more than everyone else.
Then the groovy stuff started and the glow sticks bounced. The first two songs sounded a little funny, and after the third, Chris Keating, the singer, said, "Hello, boat! Real talk. This is totally fucking weird." He was the first of two frontmen to complain of feeling queasy.
It is surreal watching these big acts playing in an enclosed room on a boat. In your head, you're grappling with the idea of being on a huge building that's swaying in the ocean. But then I didn't care so much and hungrily wandered around wishing there was an onboard diner. In this quest for more food, I ran into James Murphy in the elevator and had to pretend to not recognize him. That's why they do these cruises, of course. So that you can tell your friends again and again that you shared an elevator with James Murphy on the high seas until they really hate you.