Norwegian Pearl, Mediterranean Sea
This will either be your idea of heaven or hell. Four days on a cruise ship in the Med., with Belle and Sebastian, Mogwai, Camera Obscura, Teenage Fanclub, Buzzcocks, The Vaselines and a host of others. Spoiler alert: for me, it was the former.
This was essentially a floating festival. The ship had several different venues, with different bands playing concurrently around the ship. The major bands played more than once, giving people the chance to plan to see everyone at least once.
I’m a huge Belle & Sebastian fan and I was well catered for with 3 gigs over the 4 days, with 3 completely different setlists (including a complete performance of Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant.) Other headliners opted to repeat the same set, on the basis that people would probably see them once.
Other highlights for me were The Vaselines – I’d never seen them before and fell in love. Been singing “Monsterpuss, Monsterpuss miaow!” to myself all day. Saw them twice and would cheerfully have done so again. Moving return of Camera Obscura. French Navy on the main (pool) deck in the sunshine was glorious. Saw Buzzcocks twice. Once a straight set and once with guest vocalists. Both excellent. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Steve Diggle’s vocals, based on Harmony in my Head. However he was uncannily like Pete Shelley. I would have been made to walk the plank for saying so at the time but I was reminded of Phil Collins replacing Peter Gabriel. No doubt other things will occur to me me re the music and I’ll add them in the comments.
The main thing you might want to know is what it was actually like. It was glorious. Lovely sunny weather and fantastic facilities. imagine, if you will, a festival where, instead of mud, tents and the pervasive smell of portaloos, you had your own comfortable room with ensuite facilities, just a short walk from the main stage. With decent (sometimes very decent) available 24 hours a day, with waiter service in some of the restaurants.
There were a lot of other activities too – cinema, meditation sessions, yoga (with Frances from The Vaselines), knot-tying, wine tasting, kids’ club etc.
And the atmosphere was fantastic. Just a really happy, positive vibe. The acts wandered around and mingled with the audience. there was a spontaneous feel. for example, having heard a young lad at the open mic night, B&S invited him onstage during one of their sets to do his (astonishing) rendition of Don’t Stop Me Now. Never heard a cross word said by anyone over the whole 4 days.
The whole thing was just superbly organised. As my mobility is somewhat limited at the moment, I was particularly pleased by the accessible seating, which made life a breeze. That and the lifts.
So what were the downsides? First and foremost, the cost. In a surprise development, cruises aren’t cheap. Plus the drink was very expensive; you’re a captive audience. Carbon footprint probably not brilliant…
Very wide range. Everyone from “Afterword age” to babies. Possibly the most mixed I’ve ever seen. People had come from all over the world for this too.
It made me think..
This is what I want all gigs to be like. In the sunshine. With a good seat. A waiter bringing drinks. And then a short walk to a lie down in an air-conditioned room, before going to see the next band.