The S.S. Coachella sailed from Fort Lauderdale, FL to Jamaica and back between 12/19 and 12/23, along the way featuring performances from Pulp, Hot Chip, Yeasayer, and many more. Andrew Youssef was on hand to document the cruise for Stereogum. His diary is below. Check out his photos in the gallery.
Day 1: A glass of champagne and Ned’s Atomic Dustbin’s “Grey Cell Green” greeted me moments within boarding the Celebrity Silhouette for S.S. Coachella’s maiden voyage to the Jamaica. Could Coachella harness years of magical moments and transfer them onto a boat? It only took me a few moments to firmly believe this would be a special trip as I was seated between Dylan and Joe of Cloud Nothings during the mandatory boat safety seminar. Even elevator rides were unique as members of Hot Chip and Pulp would cooly step inside with you. Sending us off in style was an unannounced DJ set by James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem on the main deck as the splashing of waves mimicked the pouring of alcohol. Our senses were bombarded as Cloud Nothings rocked with abandon, unleashing their regimented punk fury in the tiny Sky Lounge. Everyone swayed along whether they liked it or not — but it’s a lot easier to move to the music when you are on a boat. The highlight of the evening was Pulp. My head was spinning during “This Is Hardcore” as Jarvis Cocker gave everyone a strip tease, taking off his jacket and necktie. Was I really seeing Pulp in the middle of the ocean with a few hundred people? Even Cocker couldn’t help point out the absurdity of singing “Common People” on a luxury cruise liner. Closing out the night with “Mis-Shapes,” Cocker got into the holiday spirit, momentarily donning a Santa cap. The night only got foggier with the head-spinning beats of El-P and the percolating synthesizer attack of Simian Mobile Disco who emerged from a hole in the stage for one of the best entrances of the evening. How will I survive the next couple of days with a bunch of shipsters?
Day 2: Jarvis Cocker woke me in the morning via an announcement over the intercom stating he would be holding a lecture about songwriting along with appearances by Bruce Lee, Louie Louie, and a rabbit in dungarees. Shuffling down to the lecture room, Cocker was wearing a headset microphone and would explain how song lyrics can mean everything (“Sorted For E’s & Wizz”) and nothing (“Louie Louie”). The stakes became even higher as he gave away a shirt and two suits he wore as prizes to his trivia game, where you had to identify bands like Arctic Monkeys and Kasabian through pictures. Next on the agenda was a cozy wine tasting with James Murphy and about 50 people. Grimes had one of the larger crowds for her set backed by her in-your-face dancers. A DJ set by the Rapture coincided with another furious round of Cloud Nothings. Hot Chip rocked the boat with their headlining set that included a cover of Kraftwerk “Neon Lights” and a spot-on cover of Prince’s “1999.”
Day 3: Arriving in Jamaica, folks had a good portion of the day to explore the island. I opted to catch up on sleep. Making my way down to the Desert Crew lecture which featured the top brass of Goldenvoice as they discussed the inner workings of Coachella. One of the noteworthy moments was the revelation that a new tent would make its debut at the next Coachella. They also revealed how Daft Punk invested most of their money from Coachella into buying their huge LCD pyramid stage setup and still are the most requested act every year. The evening festivities were another marathon of good acts with the Gaslamp Killer warming up the poolside with his hyper-kinetic beats and free-flowing hair. !!! got everyone grooving in the Sky Lounge with their dance strewn electro-rock. Yeasayer were the headliners of the evening and performed with a Purell dispenser as a prop as they whipped through material from Fragrant World and Odd Blood. Capping the night were scintillating sets from Father John Misty and Warpaint, as well as the usual chaos of the Black Lips.
Day 4: The last day on the boat and seasickness started to grasp some unlucky folks. The cruise to the Bahamas glided along at a 6 knot pace, which is fairly benign. The speed to Jamaica was a top speed of 24 knots which meant you felt quite a bit of swaying. Tons of people showed up for bingo with Grimes doing the number-calling. Father John Misty captivated everyone with a shimmery acoustic set, debuting a few new songs to which he kindly asked the audience not to record. Warpaint intoxicated everyone again with a hypnotic set, which gave way to the metal-tinged rave of Sleigh Bells. Black Lips were surprisingly still in good shape for their second go as they rambled through a healthy set of songs. Drawing one of the larger audiences in the main theater was the mash up king Girl Talk who had the ship rocking back and forth into the early morning.
It felt like a surreal dream seeing so many great performances in such a short time on a boat in the middle of the ocean. It isn’t difficult to imagine that S.S. Coachella can be shaped into an even more special event as a number of unannounced events kept popping up throughout the trip. Don’t miss the boat next year.