BOATY WEEKENDER Diary – Days 4 & 5. Déjà vu all over again, and sad goodbyes



11:00am: After a morning spent gazing out at the water, and building complex layers of bacon on top of some form of egg, we wander out to the Pool Deck. I’m amazed by how many professional drinkers want to do yoga, but Frances McKee is at again and we laugh through all of her admonishments and pose demonstrations. We settle on the deck to begin our fourth and last day of heatstroke, I mean, Boaty Weekender.

Japanese Breakfast, Boaty Weekender, photo by Mikala Folb

Noon: Michelle Zauner, aka Japanese Breakfast, looks like a giant iridescent floof and plays her way through uptempo pop, which we bop along to from the upper level. The sunshine takes a sombre turn. A day before the Boaty Weekender, indie rock lost a legendary poet, Silver Jews’ David Berman, to suicide, and Zauner dedicates “Till Death” (whose first line is “all our celebrities keep dying”) to him and the others we’ve lost to mental and physical illness. I think about Berman – my friend Bob Nastanovich of Pavement was also in Silver Jews. I reached out to Bob on the morning of Berman’s death and heard back: “Peace be with David,” he wrote. I find myself in an absurdly sunshiney place thinking about the dark reaches of our minds, and how it plays tricks. I try to bring myself back to mindfulness and be in the moment. There’s more joy to be had.

2pm: The Vaselines are back! Eugene hasn’t exactly looked comfortable this entire trip, but I think that’s his default, and he’s probably super chill –  but I’ve caught him watching more of the bands than most, and this time, he’s back on stage. We’re ecstatic to hear “Jesus Don’t Want Me For a Sunbeam”, “Molly’s Lips” and “Son of a Gun”, among others, again. Where else can you see repeat performances of the best bands?

Wojtek the Bear, Boaty Weekender, photo by Mikala Folb

3:30pm: FINALLY go to catch Wojtek the Bear inside at the Atrium. I nominated them for a spot during the pre-cruise contest and am so excited to see them. I fall in love. The Glaswegians – helmed by thick-accented Tam Killean – play smart indie pop, the lyrics have humour and some melancholy, the guitar tone is bright and the harmonies are blissful. Tracks like “Oil & Water” and “Made out of Maps” off their their latest album A Talent for Being Unreasonable sound lush and guitarist Paul Kirkwood marvels at the moment. “What a beautiful room,” he remarks. “Look at this ceiling, full of neon stalactites!” The audience is weirdly silent but smile. “Good chat,” Kirkwood zings, and we all laugh. Wojtek win for Best Discovered Band of the Boaty Weekender. Go get the album now.Django Django, Boaty Weekender, photo by Mikala Folb

4:30pm: It might be 4,000 degrees outside but we’re going to check out our buddies Django Django outside for the, what?, third time. It may seem overkill but my friends don’t make it out to Vancouver that often so we’re gorging. We’re all jumping around but somewhere early, around “Tic Tac Toe”, I feel the burning spectre of the sun looming overhead. After we all lose our shit to “Default”, I nearly pass out. “Yeah, it was around that time we had to go check on [drummer] Dave,” laughs Django’s Tommy Grace later. “Yunno, just to make sure he was okay.” I crave AC and want to avoid blistering in the sun, so we head back into the Stardust Room to see….

.Kids' Choir, Boaty Weekender, photo by Mikala Folb

5:15pm: …Belle and Sebastian wrap up their special performance (for the first 350 rooms booked) of Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant. The room is rammed full and we find space on the balcony that’s overhanging the stage. It’s kind of a weird album to do for this kind of event, and the room is either exultant for most, or holding its breath during the devastating song about rape, “The Chalet Lines”.”Nice Day for a Sulk”‘is a welcome respite right after, a breezy summer bop that helps everyone reset. The encore turns out to be what I’ve personally been waiting for. Some of young kids onboard have been practicing as part of a choir, and are now called up to have their moment. They stand on stage in their wee sailors’ hats, a kind Stuart asks them all if they remember him “from earlier”, and then the band launches into the very ’60s “Legal Man”. The kids are adorable and manage the “ba-ba-ba-ba-bas” with bright eyes and about 38% precision. Kudos also to the kid afterwards, who continues to jump up and yell “eep!” into the mic at least half-a-dozen-times.

After that joy, Stuart asks for the crowd to shout requests, which they gleefully do. “I Don’t Love Anyone”, a fun “Me and the Major”, “Lord Anthony”, a snip of “Your Cover’s Blown,” a repeat of “Get Me Away From Here, I’m Dying,” and finally “Le Pastie de la Bourgeouisie,” end the set. I beam down at the Belles, who have just played their last set of the cruise. I wish the set had been open to everyone, but I’m thankful I caught it.

.Campfire Social, Boaty Weekender, photo by Mikala Folb

6:30pm: Time to catch Welsh band Campfire Social, who’re on in Magnum’s, so we check them out. The beaming Buddhist nun, Gen Kelsang Machig is watching with us, too and she’s smiling ear to ear as Ben Thomas, Carrie Elizabeth Sarah Hyndman and Co. play their radio-friendly pop tunes. Like a lot of the bands on the Boaty, they’re working their harmonies. Let’s face it, this is a harmonious bunch. Very sweet songs.

7pm: I run into Buzzcocks’ Steve Diggle again, because of course I do. He hugs me tight and we talk about the last few days. I mention that last crazy show, and he beams from ear to ear. He’s been partying for all of us. I don’t know, maybe he needed this? To get back into the light?

Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai and BSR, Boaty Weekender, photo by Mikala Folb7:15pm: You can never get enough Yo La Tengo, right? Right! So it’s back out to the Pool, where I also run into another Stuart, Stuart Braithwaite from Mogwai, perching on the small pool that was actually open (since the main pool had become the stage). We’d dipped in it earlier in the day to cool off and it was like Mad Max – feral children attacking floaties and each other.  Stuart and I chatted while his new wife, Elisabeth Elektra (a synth-pop siren who also performed on the boat), swam behind him like a mermaid. #summergoths.

Meanwhile, YLT plays another great set, most notable for the rainbow of covers they slip in, Big Star’s “Take Care”, Wire’s “Former Airline”, (“We can’t believe nobody’s done this on the boat so far” – Ira Kaplan) Donovan’s “Atlantis”, plus encores of The Beach Boys’ “Farmer’s Daughter” and Anita Bryant’s “My Little Corner of the World”. I’m feeling grateful to witness all this and the sun is setting.

Yo La Tengo, Boaty Weekender, photo by Mikala Folb

8:30pm: Okay, it’s time for HINDS, permanently sunkissed and ready to rock. “Garden” is as fun as all the rest, which blur together. C.C. and Ana throw rock poses, drummer Amber keeps rock steady and the one-of-these-kids-is-doing-her-own-thing chill bassist Ade stays taut on the side. I think it’s starting to hit me, it’s almost the end!
HINDS, Boaty Weekender, photo by Mikala Folb

10:30pm: It’s hard to know which show to end with, and I’ve been doubling and tripling up on my favourites. But I can’t imagine a better way to wrap up things with outdoor, under-the-moon explosion of Mogwai. I find Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan as he’s heading towards them, and we stop to chat.

“Have you been enjoying this?,” I ask.

“We have! We didn’t know what to expect!”

“It’s weird fun, right?”

“But it’s not even weird fun. It’s been ACTUAL fun,” he says, laughing, and we go find our spots for the sonic assault. Friends – we’ve made some in just four days – gather around and chat, wistfully, about how amazing this all was. Mogwai take off, and about mid-set hit with my faves “I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead”, “Rano Pano” and “Remurdered.” “Hunted by a Freak” and “Mogwai Fear Satan” end the shows for us, and we spend the rest of the night milling around the boat, having a few drinks and bumping into people. I just don’t want it to end, really. But I also can’t party any more. Sad face.

Mogwai under the moon, Boaty Weekender, photo by Mikala Folb

Day 5 – Nearing the Port of Barcelona and Disembarkation Day

4:30am: I’m awaken by flashing lights. We haven’t been to any of the all-night parties (sadly, my health wouldn’t allow it), but surely the lights aren’t from anything other than what a boat needs to navigate across a sea in the pitch black? Right? WRONG! I stand incredulously as lightning and thunder falls all around me. My brain, unhelpfully, literally starts playing me the theme song from Gilligan’s Island and I reassure myself that we’re close enough to Barcelona, so that in case there’s a problem, we’ll be rescued easily. And hell, Stuart from Mogwai will be in my lifeboat. I don’t sleep, visions of sinking ships hit by lightning float in my head.

8:30am: We survive. Breakfast. Everyone looks tired, hungover and super sad. I run into Euros from Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci/Teenage Fanclub and wish him well. We all HAVE to be off the boat by 9:30am. IT’S SO MEAN.

9:30am: We hobble off the boat, trudging down the gangway like depressed indie rock soldiers. What’s that? We look up. THE BUZZCOCKS ARE STILL ON THE BOAT, waving us off from their balcony. Steve Diggle is, once again, smiling wide, waving at everyone, and making every single one of us laugh. Fucking perfect.

.Buzzcocks wave goodbye, Boaty Weekender, photo by Mikala Folb

EPILOGUE: I message Steve a couple of weeks after Boaty to check that the Buzzcocks have, in fact, gotten off the boat, and ask him how he’s doing. He’s in Greece relaxing. “I guess the next gigs will be on dry land,” he says, “Having a great time here. There are boats, but I have not been on one yet, ha!” And what did he make of the whole Boaty Weekender malarkey?

“We took that boat for what it was…inspiration! Metaphorically, we were all in the same boat. And we all made it great.”

He’s right. We really did. The next day, everyone’s having a hard time coming down from the adventure. Folks are whimpering on the Facebook community board, and heading back to their homes. We still have two days in BCN, so we meet up with new Boaty friends Vlad and Mallory from Boston for breakfast, and then bump into Vicky and Scott from Dundee, carrying their Boaty tote bag, outside Barcelona’s Boqueria Market. On our final night in town, we have dinner and drinks with Ana and Reed from New York, also from Boaty. We relive our best moments and try to hang on to that special summer feeling.

Thanks, everyone, it was an utter delight. And thank you so much Belle and Sebastian, for getting the ship out of dock. \m/


[Important note: Acknowledging the profound impact that cruises can have on the environment, we have offset the carbon emissions from this cruise via, a leading organization that supports climate projects. Visit this page to offset your holidays.]

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