rock the boat: the boaty weekender remembered!

Photo by @WillByington

our intrepid webstress janice headley (also of KEXP & copacetic zine fame) flew across the atlantic to brave scorching august heat, put on a life jacket and hit the high seas with the boaty weekender gang (kinda like the bowlie weekender but on a fancy cruise ship, 20 years later, and twee AF). for those of us too skint to go, here’s a peek into what went down. 

words by janice headley • 
photographs courtesy janice headley and the boaty weekender

for me, the boaty weekender began with a guitar case crashing onto my foot. we were still at the hotel in barcelona, wheeling our luggage down to the shuttle bus that was going to take us to the cruise ship. I greedily refused to let go of my kas, a delicious orange soda drink that’s only available in spain, mexico and france, and was available in portugal, brazil, and argentina during the 1990s. (thanks, wikipedia!)  at some point in the elevator, my boyfriend joe accidentally let a guitar case roll forward, right where my sandaled foot happened to be. I yelped, tried to push it off of me using my elbow (since my hand was still gripped around the tasty, tasty beverage), joe grabbed my drink to try and help, and then *DING* the elevator doors opened, and standing there was the gallant norman blake of teenage fanclub, who graciously took my beverage from joe while I stumbled out, hopping on one un-squished foot. embarrassing. what a gentleman. and that was how my boaty weekender began. (thank you, norman. no thanks to you, kas soda.) (no, I take it back, you’re too delicious to be mad at.)

we all boarded the bus that took us to the norwegian pearl cruise ship, which was huge. I’d never taken a cruise before in my life, so I was awestruck by the size of this thing. passes acquired, forms filled out, we boarded the boat, and headed to our lodging. music by the bands playing the event was piped into the hallways, and on the televisions in our rooms, concert footage of belle & sebastian played all day and night. 

the boaty weekender, for anyone who doesn’t already know, was a four-day “floating festival and luxury cruise around the mediterranean” starting in barcelona, landing in sardinia, Italy, for a day, and then returning to barcelona. the event was organized by belle & sebastian and featured special guests yo la tengo, camera obscura, teenage fanclub, mogwai, the vaselines, django django, alvvays, the buzzcocks, japanese breakfast, kelly lee owens, nilüfer yanya, and, if you can believe it, more. in fact, despite it being a four-day event, I didn’t get to see every band play, not by a longshot. there were five different stages across the ship, and the sets often overlapped. but, here are a couple of notes on just a few of the bands I did manage to see. (I tried to write about all of them and even bored myself, so here’s an abbreviated take.) 

THURSDAY

Photo by @WillByington

the vaselines
“who here has heard of the love boat?… creepy, wasn’t it?”so chirped the effervescent frances mckee during the vaselines’ first set, which just happened to be booked at the same time as an artist meet-and-greet on a different floor of the boat. (“we don’t need their party, we’re having our own party,” she insisted brightly.) she looked adorable in a hawaiian print dress while her bandmate eugene kelly wore a simple black tee.

the stage was on the floor where the check-in counters lined the back of the room, so there was a funny juxtaposition of employees helping customers while the vaselines tore through “sex with an ex” and “molly’s lips.” there was also a large jewelry retail area to the side of the room where no one was shopping. “I get really seasick, but I think gin and tonics should help,” she declared. “diamonds really help, too,” she quickly added.

the vibe reminded me a lot of matador 21 (which happened in a vegas casino in 2010), if you went to that. I had a lot of people tell me it reminded them of all tomorrow’s parties, too. waiters in yellow polo shirts walked the room, offering to get people drinks. you could actually buy drink packages ensured to keep the alcohol flowing all boaty weekend long. (hi, julie!) 

photograph by Janice Headley

belle & sebastian
seagulls swarmed as the band played on the top deck of the boat. stuart murdoch was wearing naval white pants, a striped tank top, and a captain’s hat, while guitarist bobby kildea wore a full-on sailor’s suit. 

the band played “dog on wheels,” “I’m a cuckoo,” “she’s losing it,” “another sunny day,” “stars of track and field,” the new single “sister buddha,” and the song “sweet julie” which made stuart remark, “doesn’t that sound like the love boat theme?” stevie jackson nodded, “it does, doesn’t it?” 

they continued to play as the sun descended and darkness rolled in. by the end of their set, the moon was shining vibrantly from above.

band name bingo
this was not as exciting as I had hoped it would be. (sorry, boaty-ers.) I liked the concept of band names instead of letter/number combos, but the execution was a little weak.  

the first round, the band names were just shouted out, but the following rounds, only trivia on the bands were revealed and it was up to you to know if the band was on your card or not. for example: “this band’s frontman was freddie mercury.” (that’s a real example, I’m sad to say.) 

the evening was co-hosted by stina of honeyblood, who was wearing an adorable two-piece with fantastic strappy platform sandals. the crowd booed whenever a bad band came up (sorry mumford & sons) and it was quick to correct the hosts when they mispronounced a scottish city.

teenage fanclub
the fellas were in fine form and their harmonies were pitch perfect all performance. I somehow missed the news that euros childs had joined the band following gerard love’s departure, so I was delighted to see him on stage adding his gorgeous vocals.

they closed with “everything flows”—a perfect song for the cruise, except I want the captain to set a course he doesknow, thank you very much. 

band t-shirts spotted
R.E.M.
new pornographers
teenage fanclub (also in tote bag form)
belle & sebastian

FRIDAY

wind down meditation
I’m embarrassed to admit I slept in this day and missed the buzzcocks, kelly lee owens, django django, and/or alvvays, as well as the collage club gathering. there was a lot of stuff scheduled for earlier in the day!

ironically, for a girl who overslept, I first headed over to the “wind down meditation” session with gen kelsang machig, a representative from the kadampa meditation centre glasgow with 15 years of experience. she led us in a quiet meditation session that was just lovely. after it was over, she told the audience, “If you have any questions, just find me on the boat, I’m the only one dressed like this,” referring to her traditional garb. (and I did find her later in an elevator!)

belle & sebastian Q&A
I made it up to the pool deck for most of the belle & sebastian Q&A, which was moderated by comedian alex edelman, who joked that scottish people keep all their emotions bottled up and communicate instead through belle & sebastian songs. the questions were all very thoughtful and serious, even leading stuart to say, “c’mon, don’t you want to ask us about your futures? we are all clairvoyants, you know.”

wine tasting with neil and ira
ira (of yo la tengo, natch)’s brother neil “has 25 years of sales and support experience in the wine and spirits industry as well as advanced wine certification.” (thank you, google!) so, the siblings teamed up for an evening of wine tasting. I don’t like red wine, so I didn’t go, but joe tells me toward the end of the tasting, they did, indeed, break out a riesling. (sigh.) 

Photo by @WillByington

camera obscura
it’s been so long since I’ve seen camera obscura in concert, I had forgotten how good they are live. they did “let’s get out of this country,” “the sweetest thing,” “desire lines,” and, of course, “lloyd, I’m ready to be heartbroken.” hearing their harmonies was absolutely awe-inspiring and made me miss my karaoke bestie, laura. (hi, laura!)

japanese breakfast
I bounced back to the atrium to see japanese breakfast next. she was looking super smart in an ’80s-inspired power suit with a crop top underneath. she smiled a lot during their set. their drummer is serious about his mullet. she would step aside when the guitarist had a gnarly solo. 

yo la tengo
they started off their pool deck performance joined by euros childs for a rendition of “sea cruise.” (you know, that vintage song that’s all “oooh-eee, oooh-eee baby.”) and then norman and raymond from teenage fanclub joined them for a few songs, including fan favorite “stockholm syndrome.” I can’t remember what else they performed; I took lousy notes. 

band t-shirts spotted:
camera obscura
belle & sebastian
paul mccartney (???) 

SATURDAY

cagliari, sardinia
not a band, but the city that we ported in for the day. joe and I took a taxi to the beach and soaked up the sun and the crystal-clear blue, blue water for most of the morning before returning to the city and having the most amazing lunch, thanks to neil kaplan’s recommendation. 

band t-shirts spotted:
japanese breakfast
the breeders
ween (ween?)
austin city limits with paul mccartney (him again?)
daniel johnston (thanks, james!) 
radiohead 

SUNDAY

yoga with frances mckee
I was scared to take this class, but knew I couldn’t let the opportunity to take yoga with the woman from the vaselines pass me by.  she’s a really good teacher.  I didn’t realize it, but apparently she runs a yoga studio, so that explains it.*  she’s kinda hardcore though; imagine her sharp scottish accent barking, “straighten yer legs! don’t look at what yer neighbor is doin’! don’t forget to breathe!” (*editor: read all about it in CF18)

belle & sebastian perform fold your hands child, you walk like a peasant
after repeat viewings of both the vaselines and japanese breakfast, I ran over to the stardust theatre to watch belle & sebastian perform their 2000 album fold your hands child, you walk like a peasant in its entirety. I feel bad, because when it first came out, I didn’t like this album very much. but I loved hearing it live. once the album was played, they began taking audience requests, which was a little clumsy with lots of awkward moments as they tried to remember how to play forgotten songs. and there was a cute moment where they got a bunch of kids from the boat, dressed up in their nautical finest, to shake percussion during “legal man.” 

Photo by @WillByington

yo la tengo
on sunday night, yo la tengo took the pool side stage for the second time for another awesome set. about midway through the set, a very handsome man took the stage and began to recite the opening prose to donovan’s 1969 surprise hit single “atlantis,” a song that went to #7 on the billboard charts upon its release. (thank you, wikipedia!) this wonderful performance was the paramount of a spectacular weekend, and I called it a night thereafter ’cause I knew everything else would pale in comparison.   

band t-shirts spotted:
eugenius
teenage fanclub
beat happening
spiritualized
british sea power

(P.S. final word from james yo la tengo, who we asked to comment on the boaty cuisine: “the food on the boat was good and readily available. the soft-serve was a nice touch. there were a few restaurants on the boat, where you could sit and someone would take your order. there was also a wildly popular buffet-style full contact scrum which was pretty fun. I didn’t locate any scottish-themed food, but maybe I just wasn’t looking hard enough.”)

a new james mcnew / dump interview!

jm-dump

most people know james mcnew from his other band, the condo fucks (and yo la tengo). as long as he has been in yo la tengo, he has been making his own recordings under the name dump. dump songs have sort have been filtered into yo la tengo these days so he is less prolific. we interviewed dump + yo la tengo for chickfactor 8 back in the mid-90s and again later, but here we are doing it again! we love dump and gilmore tamny conducts the interview this time and asks some excellent Qs. ps. dump performs at chickfactor 21 on june 13 with the pastels, lois and jim ruiz set. he also plays with the condo fucks and the pastels on june 15 at maxwell’s!

chickfactor: what chickfactor show do you remember best? missed but wished you’d attended? any particular fond/joyful/amusing chickfactor memories?

james: I think I Ioved every one I ever saw, and I definitely loved playing at them. I saw a lot of them. getting to see nice at under acme was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. same goes for the georgia hubley trio at fez. versus were just bloodthirsty at the bell house last year (“another face”!). gail was really the only person who ever asked dump to play, and that always meant a great deal to me. I will always remember the sight of magnetic fields fans in the front row with their fingers in their ears while I played my opening set.

who else will be playing with you for the chickfactor show unless that’s ruining a surprise? are you getting besieged with requests?

that shit’s top secret.

how has your relationship with the dump songs (if it does) change over time? the things that you like/that bug you tend to be the same when you revisit?

I cringed a few times while putting together the reissues, but I guess everybody does that, like when you see old photos of yourself. unless you’re really good-looking. but I still liked most of the songs, or at least the ideas. I feel like I have gotten a lot better at writing songs since then, but I can still relate to old me. depression is timeless.

many are superstoked about superpowerless and I can hear music getting reissued—tell us a bit about how that came about?

I was approached by thomas moor of the/his moor music label, of berlin. I was already a fan of their catalog & bands; he was a fan of the dump records. I am always kinda surprised when anyone says that, since they were so difficult to find. I dragged my heels on doing the project until he finally convinced me. so I spent a LOT of time turning it into a deluxe package; bonus tracks, photos, a bunch of new artwork and a ton of new notes I wrote for them. there’s no doubt at least one frustrated moor employee will punch me one day. still, I am very happy with the results. I’m glad he thought of it.

I read once that charles barkley was so keyed up after his games that afterward he’d often vacuum the house to relax. do you have to do any such similar things after shows?

I love charles, so I’ll try that. I also heard he would get his lady friends to shave his head for him. normally I like to pretend like I didn’t just play, and get on with my life, then scrutinize it later.

I’d think touring so much would—if you were inclined—turn one into a bit of armchair sociologist/anthropologist, noting regional differences or ways fans interact, or bass player vs. guitar personalities, etc. any thoughts?

everyone, everywhere, is nuts.

who do you know or admire that might prompt you to say: “that gentlewoman or gentleman, __. _______ _______, has exquisite taste.”?

walt “clyde” frazier.

are there any human virtues you admire or weaknesses that depress you that, when manifesting themselves in music, make you admire/loathe even more? like: subtlety. or: showoffyness.  or, the opposite?

traditional “weaknesses” like not being a virtuoso, or having an unusual voice or take on reality, can be total pluses. fearlessness, whether to express yourself or challenge yourself, or just in general, is definitely something to strive for. also, personally, I don’t like when artists supply me with answers. I like mystery; I don’t want them to tell me what their songs mean. I don’t even want a lyric sheet. I prefer to use my imagination and come up with my own meanings.

what show have you played that has most felt like a hallucination? place you’d like to play you haven’t (parthenon, etc.?)

many of them feel hallucinatory, if all goes according to plan. the shows I played as a member of man forever were all that way. I have been insanely lucky to play at some pretty sweet places. that said, I would like to play at an aquarium.

what’s your perspective on musical literacy? If it isn’t too nosey, how technically literate are you or have you had to become? how would you say or observed it being a help/hindrance?

not very. I have learned to do some stuff. I am mostly self-taught, and completely self-taught on bass (I learned by watching and studying the greats, namely sue garner). I took guitar lessons from age 9 to about 12. one day my teacher refused (in disgust) to teach me a van halen song, instead trying to get me to play some fingerpicky blues thing. That was it for lessons. Technical proficiency is by no means a prerequisite for great, important music. by itself, without feeling or ideas behind it, it’s just dumb. to me, few use it for good. But just to name some who do, glenn jones, william tyler, mary halvorson, tortoise and the boredoms all make music I absolutely love.

what non-musical (piece of?) art(s) has had the biggest influence on your music?

the work of jim woodring, for sure.

do you ever feel like you glimpse, out of the corner of your mind’s eye, some instrument not yet invented that you wish was? can you describe?

no, but I would love it if I could get a car horn that is not only deafening but is also a flamethrower.

would you ever—presuming you haven’t, pardon if my internet research skills are lacking—like to do some sort of sound installation à la christo or spiral jetty (etc.)?

oh, most definitely. when do you need it by?

it’s a dump.

jm-dump
dump is a lazy band from brooklyn. they never do enough music for the kids. they go on the road with some other band, which is really annoying! get to work, dump. for chrissakes, we need a new dump box set. we tracked down the dump guy for an exclusive interview.

cf: where is my new dump album?
dump: it’s not done yet.
cf: what has dump been watching on tv? now that dump is a tv star who has starred on the gilmore girls and the simpsons, what other shows does he want to be on?
dump: I’ve been watching heroes, the wire, lucky louie, pitagora suichi and talk sex with sue johanson. I wouldn’t mind being in the audience of a judge judy.
cf: what is dump eating on the road with his other band?
dump: I’ve been eating cuban food in miami, somewhere near the corner of stab whitey and kill whitey. bbq from dreamland (the tuscaloosa branch, but delivered to us in birmingham) was stout and soulful. I couldn’t find anything to eat in orlando so instead I bought records (eddie bo, skull snaps, chubb rock, beach boys “breakway” 45, released the day I was born!). fried chicken in tallahassee. very good cheeseburger at pete’s in knoxville. jonathan marx brought me cookies from nashville’s best bakery, becker’s.
cf: what does dump download, listen to, watch, whatever, on the innernet?
dump: recipes, sports scores, directions, occasionally music, “can’t stop the bleeding,” hardcore pornography, flipper videos on youtube, and streaming wfmu.
cf: where is my dump box set? badges? promotional vinyl carrying case?
dump: I don’t know where your dump box set is. same goes for the badges. I don’t even know how to address the matter of the promotional vinyl carrying case. those would all be pretty cool, because the first two things could fit inside the third thing, and you could carry them all around like that, and then it’d be really easy to know exactly where they all were. but I haven’t made any of those things yet.
cf: why is dump ignoring the fans? when will he deliver the goods?
dump: I’m not ignoring dump fans, quite the contrary. I finally started a dump myspace spage, where I am conversing freely, practically like a normal person. I’m posting new, unreleased and hard-to-find songs there from time to time, as well as original artwork.
cf: normal, hmm? ha ha, keep trying.

dump is on myspace apparently, but we would prefer a new vinyl product