A supposedly punk thing I'll never do again 

On a Carnival cruise with an unlikely cast of indie rockers

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CRUISIN' FOR A BRUISIN': Jared Swilley launches his bass guitar overboard - DARROW MONTGOMERY
  • DARROW MONTGOMERY
  • CRUISIN' FOR A BRUISIN': Jared Swilley launches his bass guitar overboard

Señor Frog's is "like the date-rape capital of the world," the Black Lips' Swilley says the next day. "I would never be able to go there without getting my ass kicked. Last night was the first night we could've won over the crowd — like in a fight."

He's not nearly done. "I set a guy's hair on fire last night because I hated him so much. He was a white guy with dreadlocks. He was trying to talk to us about acid and stuff. I was like, 'You have a giant nut sack on your head. Get away from us.' And I kept setting his hair on fire. It burned fast then and it went out. He didn't say anything. I hate dreadlocks."

Naturally, the events at Señor Frog's are preceded by a conga line. In this one, a procession of men groping women and women groping men passes under a Señor Frog's waiter, who pours liquor down people's throats.

Cruise Director Svenonius soon takes the stage in a red suit. "All right, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Mr. Frog's," he says, and rattles off the slate of performers. "This is a very historic occasion. They're here on a mission of liberation. They're here to liberate you from that frog and replace it with a Taco Bell."

Between sets, a Señor Frog's hypeman sings along to Usher and Lil Jon songs and liberally pours shots for revelers. "DJs, we've got three hot chicks on the stage!" he says, introducing Vivian Girls. They aren't pleased. Over the course of the evening, the DJ plays the same Black Eyed Peas song twice.

Still, the sets are solid: Turbo Fruits' four-person take on the '60s power trio; the Strange Boys' degraded art-glam; Vivian Girls' playful garage pop (their set begins and ends with a cruise-appropriate cover of "My Heart Will Go On"); and the Black Lips' lumbering, sing-along acid punk. The crowd here seems much more freaked out by Bruisers than the guests on the Imagination.

The Bruisers, still having a good time, seem a bit freaked out by the Señor Frog's set, too. Mike, a burley, mustachioed Bruiser from Brooklyn wearing a captain's hat, sees me taking notes and asks if he can help me out. He writes a little poem:

douchebags, everywhere
tried the margs
— too sweet
awful
but
getting people fucked up

free shots & dancin'

might get one
of those
yard-size daquiris

I strike up a conversation with two Dutch seamen who work on an industrial tugboat. They've been at Señor Frog's almost every evening for close to two weeks (the goal is "loose American women"). Tonight, they say, is different.

I ask them if they like the music. "It sucks," says Folkerd, who turns out to be the tug's captain. (He cops to enjoying "the band with the chicks.") Folkerd mentions their boat has lots of Russian crew. "The Russians are very melodramatic. They're kind of like indie people."

But the indie people aren't melodramatic tonight. Amid one of the Black Lips' entropic caveman stomps, a Bruiser crowd-surfs high enough to touch the words "DIVORCE: FUTURE TENSE OF MARRIAGE" on Señor Frog's ceiling.

After the show, there's a dance contest featuring soul sides from DJ Mr. Jonathan Toubin and a judging panel including Norris and Ben Blackwell of Detroit's the Dirtbombs. Once the judging's done, Blackwell's night takes a turn for the worse. It seems a Connecticut bail bondsman house-hunting on the island has flagged down Nassau's finest in order to level accusations against Blackwell. Highlights: "You punched me in the head 30 fucking times" and "you assaulted my wife."

Blackwell has no idea what's happening. The cops cuff him. Swilley and his Black Lips bandmate Joe Bradley charge over to tell the police they've got the wrong guy: Blackwell was judging the dance contest the whole time. It's eventually resolved as a matter of mistaken identity — the culprit was another 6'2" blonde guy — but not before Blackwell is taken to a police station. He's back on the boat around 3 a.m, shortly before the Imagination leaves port to return to Miami.

Panacea Theriac, aka the feline half of Quintron and Miss Pussycat, is wondering whether to show another of her warped puppet videos. "It's kind of long."

"We've got time," comes the response from the cross-legged crowd in the Shangri La lounge. "We're on a cruise ship."

It's Sunday afternoon, and things have slowed. The most important thing about cruise ships may be that they are floating temples of gaudy hedonism. But the second most important thing is they are really boring. At one point, a pair of Bruisers participates in a hairy chest contest on the Lido Deck. For the first time all weekend, I'm losing interest.

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