Day Three of The Weezer Cruise. I have thus far survived Day One and Day Two, but Day Two only barely. I wake up, 6am, hanging off my single bed, half-naked (Cabinmate Terri must have been blinded by boobs), contacts still in. My AAA pass is at the foot of the toilet, and I feel like I need to kill myself quickly. My hangover, in fact, is THIS BIG:
That’s the motherfunking size of our motherfunking boat. It’s enormous and so is my “I am no longer 18” hangover. Terri can do nothing to soothe this savage beast and I am a totally miserable bitch. LIKE AN ANGEL, she goes to fetch brekkie for us and I instruct/grunt something like “French toast and bacon” at her. But there is none of the delectable French Toast to be had. So she brings other bread-like substances and I inhale. FOR TODAY IS COZUMEL AND I MUST LEAVE A BOAT AND WALK ON MEXICAN LAND.
The last time I was in Cozumel, I took a ferry over from the rad resort town of Playa Del Carmen and hung out at Chankanaab National Park, a weird man-made tourist beach thing with snorkeling by some concrete slabs. THIS TIME, though, we have a different rock ‘n roll sorta plan.
For weeks, Lou Barlow’s childhood friend Mark and I have been planning a meet (he’s coming from Playa where he’s on vacay!) at Paradise Beach, a cheap but nice beach with waiter service, activities, a sandy beach and “amenities”. On the boat, I invite only the sexy people: I tell Antlers, Nervous Wreckords and Yuck where we’re gon’ be. So on docking day, Cabinmate Terri and I hightail it out of “Buy Something Now, Tourist!land” and cab it to Paradise. Where these guys also join us…
WHEEE! Andy from Wye Oak and Ashley check out the trampoline but get whistled at. ONLY FOR KEEDS! someone official yells. LOOK AT THEM! I yell back: “They’re only little!” Later, leashed, actual children will bounce on this. Then it starts to rain and we all seek cover. WTF MEXICO? But what’s a little water? Me, Lou Barlow, the Wife (Hey Kath!) and Lou’s friend Ramona go swimming. “It’s okay, it’ll be done in 20 minutes. We may as well get wet,” I say, and run down into the water. Coming outta there I run into the Nervous Wreckords who also have taken my advice and are sunning themselves on “our” beach.
Niiice. Beach sexy has improved +100.
Soon all the cool kids show up for today’s prescribed chill out on dry-ish land. Herewith A MEETING OF INDIE ROCK DRUMMERS: Sebadoh’s Bob D’Amico and Dinosaur Jr’s Murph discuss shorts, and possibly why that guy in the background looks so goddamned miserable.
Look away, kids. The conference of shirtless, pale indie rockers continues. Here’s Lou, Andy Wye Oak and Ramona (and if I had a buck for every Dinosaur Jr story Ramona could tell – she helped fund the original Deep Wound demo back in the day – I’d have at least maybe $367. Additional fact: she used to hang out with Weezer’s Rivers Cuomo in Boston, knew Elliott Smith and is, fundamentally, MADE OF THE AWESOME. So she will now be known as Awesome Ramona. Lying down next to us? Dino’s Murph. Drummers need to be horizontal sometimes, apparently.
Oh yeah, did I mention we went parasailing BECAUSE WE ARE ALSO AWESOME? It all started with Awesome Ramona trying to convince Lou to go up in a tandem harness but he blanches at the thought and instead Ramona goes up (much to Lou’s nervousness) with the wife of his two children. Deciding that this year should mark the Year of Not Being a Chicken Shit, I enlist Cabinmate Terri (who’s scared of heights) to go with me and also do something stupid. Lou and Murph join us on the boat (did you know that Murph’s dad used to have a 30-footer and so Murph’s comfortable on the water? No? Now you do.) It’s awesome except that I want to puke into the turquoise Mexican sea. We get up there for a few minutes but it’s a windy day. I am being strangled by my lifejacket but Cabinmate Terri is throwing the rockhands LIKE A BOSS. \m/ \m/
“You were just begining your ascent at this point,” said Lou, taking the pictures. “I can tell because the line is fairly slack…you went way higher. When they pulled you back the line was taut.” Ah yes, when they pulled us back. They pulled us back because an up-draft (it was quite windy out) sent us a bit wonky sideways and Terri decided that she was still afraid of heights, and I was not going to argue. Let’s be honest: was kinda nerve-wracking. Down we came, mission accomplished, into the boat filled with 2/3rds of Dinosaur Jr, two enormously cool women, and our sense of achievement.
Back on dry land, and coming down off the high with the help of a bucket of Corona, I see the leanest, whitest man alive, my boy Daniel Blumberg of Yuck. “I MISSED YOU” he says, and comes and joins our sand party. We order lunch – veggie fajitas for the underfed rock star, chicken fajitas for the overfed me – and we huddle together to feed. Look at that pretty face.
So pensive! Weight of the world on that bonce. We natter about everything. It is not lost on me that I am suddenly in Mexico with members of five of my favourite bands. In my head, I high-five myself. Outwardly, I grin like a loon:
Mariko, Max and Jonny Yuck also wander over. Once again, I present: the most effortlessly stylish woman from Hiroshima ever to be in a band that’s based in London on a cruise from Miami to Mexico. La swoon. I then witness a truly meta moment – the SPIN magazine I’d brought with me to the beach has a double-page spread of who else? Yuck! So I hangout with Yuck, while they’re looking at pictures of Yuck. In SPIN. Wish I’d taken a pic of Yuck looking at pics of Yuck, but hey ho. Yum!
And let me introduce’s Mark. Mark has known Lou Barlow since Grade 4, when, as Lou describes it, Big Mark sort of adopted/looked out for Little Lou. We’d been online buddies for a while, and I regret not spending more time talking to him. He’s good people. And good people bring water bottles filled with tequila. Which in a roundabout way, lead to this photo:
Awww, yeah, double branding for the BackstageRider! BUT SOON! We must flee teh Mexicos! The Dinosaur Jr boys (Murph and Lou) have to be back on the ship early because they’re playing the “Sail Away Show” on the Lido Deck and need to get sorted. Something to do with having to find space on stage next to this many Marshall stacks for J Mascis:
Yeah. Undeniable: Dinosaur Jr. do rock. In fact, they rock so much that only this kid had the right idea:
He’s not misguided, this small person. Dinosaur Jr’s sound is so enormous, as per usual, that the massive cruise ship docked next to us (let’s call it the Geezer Cruise), is pissed off to have to listen to the racket from our boat. Sail Away Show? More like, “Deafen the Other Boat Next To Us While We All Stay Dry-Docked Show”. But who cares? Turn your hearing aids down, grandpas! One of the best things I get on the boat is a fan-made pin that says “Dinosaur Jr made me deaf”. They have. Repeatedly.
Sometimes, even as Lou’s wife is yelling “SLUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUDGEFEAST!” and you’re rocking out next to Awesome Ramona, you gotta take time to stop and remember that you’re but a drop in the ocean. Sigh.
Okay, poignant moment over, phew. Would you look at this fucking awesome picture of J Mascis?
Yeah, I took that. And it’s J. Utterly lost in the music and his own shredding. And this is a beautiful pic for exactly that reason.
This man was also rockin’ out, hardcore. Lou’s in a great mood when he gets off stage, and we share drinks from the band’s rider. With only one show today (versus the 2-3 of all other days), it’s kinda his day off and he’s ready to party. Fact: Lou ready to party is fun Lou. But first, we need food!
Lou, Kath and I go for dinner in the private dining room (because we can!) and run into Scott and Brian Weezer, each at separate tables. Brian’s eating with his mum and girlfriend, awww. And as we’re leaving, I drunkenly ensure that Scott knows when the next Sebadoh gig is so that he won’t miss it (he asked me about it on the first night). Kath rolls off to bed (too much parasailing and an adrenaline crash) and Lou, Awesome Ramona and I decide to go and cheer on Mr. Mascis in his acoustic solo endeavours.
By the time we get to the Criterion Lounge, we’re a bit happy tipsy. We enjoy J’s set, and he sounds great. “Why’s he singing about his mama?” I ask Lou. “It’s AMMA,” Lou says. “That’s his guru”. And by “guru” he doesn’t mean “guitar effects pedal supplier.” He means, like, actual guru, Amma, the Hindu Hugging Saint. We kinda watch, mouth-opened as amazing acoustic guitar and looping pedals suddenly fade into what seems like 20-minute long AMAZING ACOUSTIC GUITAR SOLOS. Oh, J, only you could wail on an acoustic.
J’s joined by violinist Sophie Trudeau. Sophie’s played with Godspeed! You Black Emperor, Arcade Fire and is in Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra. Stunning sounds grace the stage. I drool a little.
But enough of this crazy highbrow! It’s time for WEEZER! Time for PINKERTON! Lou, Awesome Ramona and I sneak off to the reserved areas of the balconies at the second Weezer Pinkerton & B-Sides show in the grand Palladium Ballroom. We’re all stoked (and whiskey’d/beer’d). We sit next to Brian’s mum and girlfriend again, Murph joins us, the camera guy spills a whole pint of beer on me accidentally, so I look like I’ve peed myself, then we rock out enromously.
Pinkerton’s a fascinating album, written at a difficult time in Rivers’ life. Most critics/fans loathe it – even Rivers did at one point – but in later years came around to it. But it’s the kind of thing I really dig – it’s awkward, a bit raw, ugly in spots and undeniably well-written in others. I love the slack of “Tired of Sex” and the rest of the pop songs that pour from it. And at that moment, live, it sounded great.
Lo! Pat Wilson has gone back on drums! Much as we love Josh Freese, hey look! Pat has gone back on drums!
Then Rivers heads down into the audience, wearing his ironic KISS tee and synthetic fabric jacket. Oh Rivers, I kind of have a ton of like for you. Lou is singing along and almost air drumming to “Why Bother?”, Jonny Yuck, sitting a row or two behind us, is totally mouthing all the words to “El Scorchio” and we’re all singing “LEZZZZZZZZZZZZBEEEEEYUNNNNNN” in “Pink Triangle”. In fact, the whole place is erupting. Just like this guy:
This picture is not the best picture. This picture is not in focus. But this picture sums up why I do BackstageRider. It’s a pure and amazing moment of live music, captured. It’s Rivers, in the crowd, surrounded by ecstatic fans, with one lucky mega fan, who’s having the moment of his LIFE as Rivers sings to him. This is why I have the “rockhands” for my logo. It’s about loving a moment in music so much you want to punch the sky, throw a cheesy ’80s heavy metal sign, or whatever. And this to me makes Weezer, at the moment of this photo, the best band in the universe. Why? Because they are to THIS GUY.
Between sets, the band takes a break from all the excitement, and Karl Koch – band friend, tech, webmaster et al – takes us through a visual feast of entertaining old Weezer stories. Here’s the ad for the first Weezer tour van. MARVEL AT ITS BEAUTY.
Costume change! Rivers is back and getting everyone to sing along. We do. Look at his happy little face.
Then, the end. It’s the last of the three shows Weezer has done and they bow out, happily. We do as well. This guy throws the =W=….
Suitably refreshed (ie, on the road to lightly drunk), Lou, Awesome Ramona and I wander along to check out the ’80s-themed prom and run into Wendy The Indie Professor and her mate Brian, who have picked a PRIME people-watching spot right outside the disco. We hunker down and eyeball the amazing costumes – folks have actually really put a lot of thought into their 80s prom wear, and the parade of polyester and fluorescent is brilliant.
Dude in background was dressed as PeeWee!
And of course, the obligatory rockhands are thrown, Dio-style. Sitting just to my left is Lou Barlow with one Wendy and one Wendi. Thanks for the pic, Danielle Fontaine!
Something else endearing happened as we sat getting drunk by the disco. A LOT of fans approached Lou. But rather than just sorta drunkenly “yo dude”ing him (the guys) or shyly asking for photos (the girls), the myriad fans who approached did so with WONDERFUL things to say to him. Things about how many times they’d seen him play live, where and when, about which songs they loved, WHY they loved his music, and so on. Spurred on by Dutch courage, they asked questions, engaged and then BEAMED when he’d oblige the countless requests. These connections were remarkable to watch, even if our own coversations were constantly being cut short or interrupted.
And these guys above? How can you not like ADORABLE SPANIARDS? By this time, even Lou – often self-deprecating – was (rightly) feeling pretty awesome about his place in the universe. Didn’t hurt that these countless fans were a) generally cute girls and/or b) buying him drinks.
Meanwhile, Weezer was coming to the prom!
Dashing Brian came out for a wander and posed with fans. And then this guy came along, Captain Cuomo or summat…
En route to check out the prom and disco, Rivers walked by our peanut gallery – which included a few people he knew, like Lou, Wendy the Indie Professor and Awesome Ramona – and because we were tipsy, we all yelled at him. RIVVVVVVVEEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRS! we bleated. He looked over, I snapped this. Then he disappeared into the disco. A few minutes later, I trotted in and found him overlooking the dancefloor. “Hey Rivers!” I yelled from behind him…”THANKS FOR BRINGING SEBADOH ON THIS THING”. “OH! MY PLEASURE,” he yelled back over the loud music, smiling.
And since everyone was having a good time…
…and we were drunk, annnnnd it was about 2am, a few of us dragged Lou Barlow barefoot, onto the dance floor. I mean, why not? This was already the most surreal experience of many people’s lives, so why not dance with the your best friend the rock guy, the guy you’d least expect to be on a cruise with? AND WHY NOT DANCE TO….”Pump Up the Jam”? “Baby Got Back?” “IT TAKES TWO”???
WHAT THE FUCK????
This seems to be a good time to talk about the music. It was supposed to be an 80s prom, right? Soooo….John Hughes film soundtracks, Duran Duran, New Order’s “Blue Monday”, Cyndi Lauper, “Axel F”, “Rock Me Amadeus”, or maybe even some Gary Numan “Cars”, right? That kind of stuff? WRONG. DJ was likely born in 1990 and had a predilection for late mostly late-80/early 90s hiphop, so the choons mostly reflected his limited knowledge of “retro.” Still, Lou was 1,346 double whiskeys in, I was drinking Corona from some weird moulded plastic bottle, and our gang were gleefully letting loose.
AND THEN BACKSTREET BOYS CAME ON.
Historical sidebar: back in November, 1999 – the same month I was going to gigs with Fatboy Slim, Luna, Death in Vegas and Luke Vibert – I also went to see the Backstreet Boys live. “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” is a brilliant pop song and even as a snobby indie/electro kid, I was totally out about my love for this song. So of course, at 3am, in a purple disco on a big boat, with Lou Barlow, I lost my shit. We all kind of did, really. Dancing like loons, we sang along…
Now, this isn’t our circle’s group – this is Minta Daniel from Lawrenceburg and her friends – but somewhere around 0:08 or so, behind them, you can see a guy with a checkered shirt dancing. That’s Brian. And to his right, with her hand in the air briefly, is me…oh yes.
Sadly, there are no pictures of Lou Barlow dancing barefoot to the Backstreet Boys. No PROOF, as it were. Just this sneaky pic of Minta’s (with Wendi’s shimmering blue back), of him on the dancefloor, having a tremendous time. As were we all.
But all good things must come to an over-tox’d, pre-dawn end. Around 4am, a few of us bid goodbye to the last remaining disco hardcore, I found Lou his flip-flops in a corner – “ahhhhhrrrghfucklezjustforgetaboutem,” he slurred – and put him in an elevator home to his wife.
Then I found my room, collapsed on the bed, buzzing, and content in the knowledge that I had just had one of the best and most epic days of my life.\m/