Well, I’m doing it again. I’m going on a cruise ship full of indie rock bands. In 2011, I booked a cabin on “The Weezer Cruise.” This one, however, isn’t sailing out of Miami. This cruise, called “The Boaty Weekender” and headlined by Belle and Sebastian, has even more bands I admire making the fact that it sails out of Barcelona, Spain, immaterial.
I did “The Weezer Cruise” partly because it was conveniently sailing out of my hometown, and there were many bands on board I liked. This cruise has so many more bands I’d love to see live. It took some consideration, and key to my decision was just how smooth “The Weezer Cruise” — organized by the same charter company behind “Boaty” — went. You can read all about the experience in this diary about the journey/shows.
This time the cruise is on a Norwegian Cruise Line ship, The Norwegain Pearl. I may be partial, because I used to work for that cruise company, but I expect an enhanced level of comfort, as opposed to the Carnival Ship that hosted “The Weezer Cruise.” Most important, however, is the concentration of bands I’d like to watch perform. Below you will find the complete lineup, which was recently finalized with the addition of three bands announced announced only yesterday. Congrats to Campfire Social, Wet Look and Wojtek the Bear for winning the “Battle For Boaty,” a contest for indie bands to join the line-up voted on by cruisers who have already booked cabins.
- Belle & Sebastian
- Yo La Tengo
- Camera Obscura
- Teenage Fanclub
- The Vaselines (Frances McKee will lead yoga classes each morning)
- Django Django
- Japanese Breakfast
- Kelly Lee Owens
- Nilufer Yanya
- Whyte Horses
- Tracyanne & Danny
- Alex Edelman (the sole comedian on board)
- Elisabeth Elektra
- Campfire Social
- Wet Look
- Wojtek the Bear
I have to acknowledge this makes for an odd, nostalgic and maybe even suspiciously commercial notion — to throw these indie rock musicians that range from legends to upstarts as shipboard entertainment. However, this festival is hardly fueled by such a cynical ploy. “The Boaty Weekender” is ostensibly another “Bowlie Weekender,” a music festival curated by Belle & Sebastain every 10 years, which was inspired by All Tomorrow’s Parties. The truth is, having taken one of these cruises in the past, it’s truly the most comfortable way to attend a music festival. There’s staff to take care of you everywhere. The venues are spacious. The venues are never crowded. You don’t have to trek to a hotel or — heaven forbid — a tent for a rest and a wash, as your cabin is part of the venue. The access is amazing (compliment musicians on their songcraft and performances in the buffet line or in the hallway). As noted in my Weezer cruise diary, I got to know many of the musicians on the ship in a casual setting, and they loved it there too. This is the most luxurious way to attend a musical festival without it really being that expensive.
It’s a diverse lineup if you’re into indie or alternative rock. To begin with, Belle and Sebastian have long been a favorite band of this writer, a sentiment I didn’t share about Weezer. B&S have only played Miami once, and this cruise will allow for three performances by the group of stalwart twee musicians. Their brand of light alt-rock featuring observational, often self-deprecating lyrics make them an ironic headline act on a cruise ship, but the line-up certainly buoys that sensibility. Canadian retro-sounding indie-pop group Alvvays will fit right in, as will Teenage Fanclub, a band older than B&S.
The legends of the event, however have to be ‘70s post-punk pioneers The Buzzcocks. After they were announced as participants, singer Pete Shelley sadly passed away. There was valid concern among cruisers (follow our anticipation on this official Facebook group) that the rest of the band would drop out, but since they announced their upcoming tribute show, they plan on following through. The tribute show features an array of guest vocalists, and it’s fair to assume that something similar may happen on board “Boaty.” On the cruise’s schedule, their one show is described as “Buzzcocks Tribute,” and it’s the only show scheduled to start after a day on land in Cagliari, Sardinia, so this will be a highlight experience.
Camera Obscura are another band carrying on after the loss of a member. The performances on the ship will be the first as a group since keyboardist/vocalist Carey Lander died of bone cancer in October of 2015. On the cruise’s website, guitarist Kenny McKeeve says: “The invitation to play the Boaty Weekender alongside some friendly faces gave us a great reason to start talking about being a band again. We’re all really excited, grateful for the opportunity to play together again, and looking forward to having some fun as a middle-aged band playing on a cruise ship.” The project of Tracyanne & Danny, which includes Camera Obscura vocalist/guitarist Tracyanne Campbell with guitarist Danny Coughlan, will also be on board. If you are unfamiliar with Camera Obscura’s breezy pop sound, I can’t think of a more fitting song to share than “French Navy.”
Those bands alone are a diverse mix, but there’s more to consider. I’ve written about Mogwai in the past, and they probably standout most as an odd choice for cruising entertainment. They’re certainly the heaviest of the groups. I suspect they will be amazing on the final night on the pool deck after 10 p.m., the grandeur of the ocean and the night sky surrounding the vessel as it heads to port back in Spain providing a majestic backdrop to their entrancing majestic instrumental post-rock.
Like Mogwai, Camera Obscura and Belle and Sebastian, The Vaselines — and a few other bands on board — are based in Glasgow, Scotland. Their sound is more on the lo-fi, grungy side (they gained an uptick in renown after Nirvana covered them during their MTV Unplugged show in the ’90s), which again adds diversity to the line up. Let’s not forget New Jersey’s Yo La Tengo, a trio of stalwart musicians who found their greatest renown in the ‘90s but have not compromised their mix of nostalgic pop and experimental noise. Young bands like Honeyblood (also from Glasgow) and Hinds, who are from Spain, traffic in a sort of retro sound that owes a debt to ‘90s indie rock and should fit in nicely. Finally, of course, there’s music to discover. I’m not familiar with Kelly Lee Owens, Nilufer Yanya and Whyte Horses, but I’ll never forget the thrill of being one of only two couples leaning up against a railing in front of Boom Bip (spot me and my ex-partner in this brief but incredible video on the pool deck). With their post rock sound, they were by far my favorite discovery on “The Weezer Cruise.”
So, if your interested in taking this kind of cruise, here is a link to some discounted prices. If you use my Sixthman ID (hans_m ) as a referral when you book your cabin, you will get $100 on-board credit (you can learn more about the referral program by jumping through this link). “The Boaty Weekend” is less than two months away so get to booking your plans.