As Coachella's first ever cruise sailed to the Bahamas and back this week, it went whole hog into the leisure zone. You might expect a lot of craziness from the folks who bring you an annual hot, dry, crowded desert clusterfuck, but this was downright civilized.
It helped that the Celebrity Silhouette was only carrying about half her capacity of 2800. I'm told the second leg of the cruise, which sails to Jamaica today, is close to if not completely full. So it may be a different story. But when Pulp took the stage Sunday night in the voyage's headlining show, half the seats were empty in the main theater. Fans literally rubbed their eyes: “Is that really Jarvis Cocker? Right there in front of my face?”
Cocker was feeling the proximity too. “Normally, it's like, where's the audience?” he said as the giant PULP sign swayed with the motion of the ship behind him. “But I can touch you!” He high-fived the front row, but really got some hands-on time with the fans when he appeared on the pool deck the next day, not exactly blending in wearing a three-piece suit. Several shirtless schlubs put down their shrimp cocktails to pose for photos with him until he shooed them away. I followed him so he could reluctantly pose for a portrait.
“I generally don't go into environments where you have to take your clothes off,” said the British superstar. “But it's been alright. I haven't been sick yet.”
While the performances weren't remarkably intense, most of the acts embraced the relaxed vibe nicely. Alf Alpha played a mellow daytime set by the pool, remixing “1979” by Smashing Pumpkins. Father John Misty, aka, Josh Tillman took off his caustic mask in an acoustic set on Monday, debuting a handful of love songs, including one about passing out on your mate.
Shortly after, I found him lounging on the lap of girlfriend and filmmaker Emma Elizabeth Garr. “I'm pretty much obsessed with taking down the white stag of song writing with love songs that aren't banal or sentimental,” said Tillman, “Because in my experience, love is anything but.”
The cruise, on the other hand? “Everything is engineered to draw your attention away from the fact that you're on a boat,” says Tillman. “There's no moment for reflection.” The lovebirds spent most of the voyage on their balcony. “That's our idea of fun,” says Tillman. “Here we are on this thing. Let's not do it.”
Around this time, it seemed I was due to find someone completely overdoing it—you know, someone horribly sunburned, falling out of their bathing suit, or puking, but that just never happened. In fact, I even heard about people cleaning up their own spilled drinks, although I never saw it. I did see actor Haley Joel Osment though, who was rocking out to Black Lips with about a hundred other people. He said he doesn't cruise often before refusing to be photographed. “I don't think most of these people would ever be on a cruise,” he surmised. Then why the hell are they so good at it?
James Murphy might have a clue. At an extremely popular wine tasting he hosted on the ship, fans kept asking how they can find and identify good wines. “I don't want to say wine is the new music,” he said, “but it is in the sense that it's a recommendation from a friend of a good store.”
If wine is the new music, then perhaps being reasonable is the new rock 'n' roll attitude. Pretty much everyone I talked to seemed calmly satisfied with what they got for the roughly $1,000 per person it cost to come on board, including old-school Coachella fans. The one guy I met who had a crummy time—and was still drunk when disembarking this morning—said the highlight of his trip was almost throwing a bottle of Crown Royal at Grimes. Almost. Apparently, the collective chill was enough to put the freeze on such music festival douchebaggery. Your healthy alternative lunch is now being served in the Aqua Lounge.