From sitting through a safety demonstration hosted by Goldenvoice’s Paul Tollett to schlepping back through customs with Sleigh Bells, Girl Talk, Cloud Nothings and five days’ worth of hangovers, the inaugural S.S. Coachella offered the unique opportunity to rub shoulders and bond with the artists onboard. Like its parent festival, which was recently expanded, S.S. Coachella took place over two consecutive weekends. While the cruise was significantly more pricy, if you shelled out money to embark on the three-day trip to Nassau, Bahamas or the five-day voyage to Ocho Rios, Jamaica, there were at least plenty of free things to do on the ship.
In addition to the live music, S.S. Coachella offered an array of gratis activities that were hosted and in some cases imagined by the festival’s marquee acts. There was a pub crawl with the Black Lips, Father John Misty’s reading of his recently published novel, midnight movies with Girl Talk, Bloody Mary-making with Warpaint, bingo with Grimes, nail art with Sleigh Bells, an impromptu Powerpoint presentation from Jarvis Cocker, and, for those lucky enough to secure tickets, a wine tasting hosted by James Murphy. Unlike the live music, the activities offered a chance to interact more intimately with the artists, who seemed more at ease in their hosting roles.
Jarvis Cocker’s Powerpoint Presentation
Call him Professor Cocker: Pulp’s frontman Jarvis Cocker took us on a journey through his songwriting and revealed a few stories behind others’ during a last-minute slide show in the cruise ship’s theater. He began his presentation by recapping the history of The Kingsmen’s “Louie, Louie,” which the FBI investigated out of suspicion that the song was obscene. Cocker even included a copy of their findings in his Powerpoint, where the FBI stated it was impossible to determine what was being said in the song. His own research, however, concluded that there’s one obscene word in it: “fuck,” which drummer Lynn Easton let slip when he dropped a drumstick during their recording. Then Jarvis moved onto his own writing, showing us a picture of the city school in Sheffield where he formed Pulp in an economics class. “We were too inept to play other peoples’ songs so I had to write my own,” he said.
Poking fun at himself, he read an early song he wrote about William Shakespeare where the hook was “to be or not to be” and another overreaching philosophical meditation where he concluded that life was “a circle until you die.” “You often discount the things that are underneath your nose,” he said after, revealing how good songwriting is often concrete and personal. Cocker then read aloud the lyrics of “David’s Last Summer,” the closing track on His ‘n’ Hers, which he paired with found imagery of leaves, a park bench, and a sunset. After the lecture, Cocker even leads a pop quiz, but instead of handing out grades the prizes were Italian suits from his extensive and notable wardrobe-- including one he wore on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.
Once in a lifetime: Seeing a picture of young Jarvis as a raver with spiked hair, and another early shot of his band where he was clutching a ceramic turtle. “I thought I was going to leave Sheffield and do things for awhile,” he said, “then I got into raving.”
Nails by Ria
The scene in the card room, where Ria Lopez -- Sleigh Bells singer Alexis Krauss’ personal nail stylist-- was doling out free gel manicures, was lively: It was 10:30 a.m. and there were already a line a dozen deep to get their nails did like Krauss. The room was bustling with salon talk and recaps of the cruise so far. Jarvis Cocker’s performance and presentation was a big talking point; another was a woman in line showing off an engagement ring that she got on the ship. Boats’n’crafts, a complimentary daily activity where passengers could DIY rave gear with LED light pins, faux flowers, felt, and glue guns galore, was happening at the next table. Killer Mike was sidelined in a nearby chair, as his wife and her best friend got their nails done. And Alexis was around to give out nail advice. Her favorites, among the mostly geometric designs offered, were a dripping pentagram and a pyramid ornamented with a rhinestone. A starstruck older man approached her for a picture and gushed, “You’re so pretty. You’re the reason I came on this cruise.” A generous host, she obliged with a smile and an earnest “thank you.”
Wine Tasting with James Murphy
Even the rubberneckers onboard would concede that James Murphy’s wine tasting wasn’t just an opportunity to clink glasses with the former LCD Soundsystem frontman. There was some learning taking place at the small gathering of about 50 in the ship’s wine cellar. Murphy, along with his oenophile bestie/previous collaborator Justin Chearno, traced the history of natural winemaking and offered insight into its science. “The winemakers’ work is done mostly by how they take care of their plants,” Murphy said, and dove into detail. Then, as if making sense of his advanced knowledge, he and Chearno explained that there’s little divide between the worlds of music and wine: “Music is a good analog for wine. Think of the winemaker as an artist, a bottle’s name as its album title, and the distributor as the label.”
Murphy still had his droll moments. “Apparently there's a lot of personality and character overlap between winemakers and punk rockers,” he quipped, divulging on some of the cartoonish characters he’s encountered in the wine industry. “I went from drinking no wine because I thought it was fancy to being like, ‘Oh, this is awesome.’ Years later, we went to Paris because I was DJing a fashion week party -- it was pretty punk-- and we went to a place called Bouillon Racine. We were drinking all of this wine and chatting with this guy who gave us an orangey brown wine. It was gross and had specks in it. In retrospect, it turned out to be an actual wine...It was exciting,” he shared, on his first encounter with naturally made wine.
At the end of the tasting, Murphy and Chearno opened their seminar to questions. "Is there any wine that influenced your music?,” one attendee inevitably asked. Murphy replied honestly, “That was me just getting drunk."
Extra points for boat style: Rare sightings of Murphy throughout the cruise showed that he still has a penchant for all-white dress. Donning a pristine linen ensemble for his wine tasting (and a fair amount of white scruff), Murphy might have beat the-always-suit-clad-even-at-sea Jarvis for best-dressed onboard.
Bingo with Grimes
Even after spending most nights awake until dawn, passengers set alarms in order to see Claire Boucher, a.k.a Grimes, leading a 1 p.m. bingo game on the last full day of the cruise. In a black hoodie and a tie-dye maxi skirt, Boucher called out letters and numbers while her street-chic crew spun the bingo cage wheel. A few attendees lost their cards to the wind, and, over the sound of house DJ Alf Alpha, Boucher’s voice hardly carried. For such a large personality, she was uncharacteristically reserved and mostly stuck to her bingo script. The event peaked during the final blackout round, where the first person whose entire board is called wins. After two female contestants finished in a tie, Boucher asked them to settle the match with a dance off. In typical cruise-ship fashion -- even a Coachella cruise -- the woman who flashed the judge was declared the winner.
Check out photos from the festival below, and enjoy some GIF portraits here.