“How many of you here have ever been on a cruise before?” asks Tegan & Sara’s Tegan Quin midway through the duo’s 9 PM set on Parahoy!’s opening night. A scant few hands pop out of the sea of young adult arms.
“How many of you are first timers?” she follows up, this time getting a resounding response as if she’s just asked how many of the attendees had ever gone to the Warped Tour.
Such is the spirit of the Paramore-led Parahoy! cruise. It’s the product of the Atlanta-based cruise company Sixthman, which has previously put on cruises based around Kid Rock, 311, and Kiss. Next season, they’ll dip further into the 20-something market with sailings devoted to Florida Georgia Line and Diplo’s Mad Decent empire. I’m told their cruises average a staggering 70% first timers, and onboard the Norwegian Pearl for Parahoy!, it seems that number could be even higher.
It’s my first cruise, too, and I’m not quite sure what to expect from the populous of teenagers, parents and 20 and 30-somethings sprinkled into the mix as we embark from the Port of Miami en route to the Bahamas’ Stirrup Cay. This crew might not be able to pound alcohol down like the ship’s tenants the previous week (the Kid Rock Cruise) but it sure did make Paramore, Tegan & Sara, New Found Glory and an assortment of other performers feel welcome on the first night out.
As a mandatory 3 PM safety briefing concludes, kids pounded up the ship steps like the bell just rang to close out school. Paramore is set to open things up with their first of two sets on the cruise, and the front-row junkies know it’s a footrace to the prized territory. But relatively speaking, there’s hardly a bad seat in the house on the ship’s poolside main stage, with the thousand-plus crowd spread fairly between the stage-level floor and overlooking upper level.
Paramore were all business. With their lone original member — commanding showwoman Halyey Williams — leading the way, the rock star poses, “Let me hear yas!” and handclap buildups are in full supply and her kinetic energy flows around the deck almost as freely as the room-charged alcohol. The lyrics of “Daydreaming” might as well be changed to “daydrinking all of the time.”
Four songs in, “That’s What You Get” gets the crowd into a leaping fervor, which ebbs and flows throughout the set, as the sextet (with an impressive or potentially unnecessary three guitarists) moves through slower patches (“When It Rains,” “The Only Exception”) and the requisite rockers (“Fast in My Car,” closer “Misery Business”).
|Through March 11, check Billboard.com for a daily Parahoy! journal of concerts, interviews and other excitement on board the Norwegian Pearl.|
There’s also some interesting wrinkles. The band played a pair of songs from its pre-stardom first album (“Emergency” and “Pressure”) and even a b-side from last year’s self-titled effort called “Escape Route.” And they’d normally never omit hits like “CrushCrushCrush” or “Still Into You,” but hey, another set is coming in the Bahamas on Sunday.
Later on in the night, sets from Tegan & Sara and New Found Glory proved perfect post-dinner compliments. At 9:30 outside on the poolside stage, Tegan & Sara braved the now-blustery Atlantic weather (with Tegan sporting a sharp brass-buttoned peacoat) and grooved through a set bookended by their fantastic 2013 album “Heartthrob.” The full-band approach of live drums, guitar and bass brought a dazzling organic touch to the synth-heavy album, and of course, folksier old favorites like “Back In Your Head” and “Walking With a Ghost” brought that warm, fuzzy feeling on the inside.
Balancing out the indie female pop was a pop-punk bro down from New Found Glory, who brought out the old MTV hits and a few well-picked covers to the indoor theater at 10:30. The band seized the opportunity to play their caffeinated cover of Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” at sea, along with their take on the Goo Goo Dolls’ “Iris” and Sixpence None the Richer’s “Kiss Me,” all conveniently featured on the band’s pair of movie song cover albums. NFG still haven’t added a second guitar (original guitarist Steve Klein left the band last year) though it was hard to notice a lull, with Chad Gilbert holding down the memorable lead riffs and pop-punk mini-solos. It’s been a few years older since I last saw them; portly bassist Ian Grushka now sports a beard and frontman Jordan Pundik, aging ever so gracefully, now looks startlingly like Morrissey, right down to the tight-on-the sides, mohawk-y pompadour.
Aside from the performances, I was sure to take in the crowd around me. At a glance, it was a mishmash of dyed-red hairdos and moms and dads, but it was really more diverse than that. A lounge gathering prior to the night’s performances proved this. Cruisers wrote their names and points of origin on name tags and placed stickers on a giant map to mark their homelands; South America, Western Europe, Scandinavia, Australia and New Zealand were all covered several times over. A pleasant lady from Windsor, Ontario offered me a grabbag of Canadian candy and I wound up with Canadian Smarties (which have chocolate inside) and Thrills, which thrillingly (intentionally) taste like soap.
The bottom line? Pop-punk and alternative rock have brought together a ship worth of misfits out of their bedrooms and shopping malls for a (rare?) trip into the sun and even if this cruise won’t rage like Kid Rock’s, it will most certainly rage with positive vibes.
Come back to Billboard.com tomorrow (March 9) and each day through Tuesday (March 11), for daily dispatches from Parahoy!