So it may just be that Kanye West’s recent tweet did for airline travel what the Lonely Island did for getting onto boats, and that one day we’ll call a merciful moratorium on referring to airline attendants as “stuartists,” the same way you’re really not supposed to talk about nautical-themed pashmina afghans on the high seas anymore.
BUT. There’s something inherently comical about the scene unfolding on this boat cruise, on the East River, filled with skinny pretty things and bloglines nerds, who put down $10 to take a three hour tour on water with food and drink and spend a night with Magic Kids. Lots of liquor, an indie rock show, not a lot of equilibrium. Sure, joke about it, this boat is real. The jokes are not lost on the Memphis-based band we came to see, who are in the city to promote their winning LP titled after their hometown. Also not lost on Magic Kids: knowing how to start things off.
On record, Memphis’s opening track “Phone Song” establishes them as fearlessly nostaglic, not at all “hommageaphobic” speaking neologistically, recalling “I’m Into Something Good” and baroque pop’s sunshiney best via Beach Boys and Zombies with such scene-setting reverence that you just admire their ability never to waver from the template. On the boat, their opening is just as on the nose bow: the first song’s called “Sailing,” with a boatman’s hat atop stretchy singer Bennett Foster’s skull, passed around between their endless members after each track, winding up back to Bennett (on his guitar headstock) by set’s end. The cruise boat tilts and rocks; balance is lost, the dance floor is giddy, Bennett’s sat on the floor but the mellow mahogony of his croon never wavers despite the waves. Sea singing isn’t for everyone, but it’s going OK here.
A friend and I realize this is the fourth time we’ve seen this band, once in Austin, three times this week: opening for Ariel Pink at Irving, again later that night at an even better “secret show” at Cameo with Frankie Rose & The Outs, and now here, on the Rocks Off Cruise Series, the same series that brought us Passion Pit at sea, and best be booking Tennis sometime soon (if you don’t understand why, learn their backstory). And the fourth times a charm, but so was the first, second, and time after that: surprisingly dynamic for baroque twee when the rock elements kick in, sugary, sunny retrofit music, made by kids into something good. (And by that I mean giving us an excuse to get drunk on a boat, and suddenly feel OK about the Andy Samberg lines that we couldn’t help slinging.) For the jaded kids, that’s magic.
Photos by Jessica Amaya.