It was a motley crew that assembled in the fading light at Skyport Marina for the Rocks Off Booze Cruise, a three-hour tour (three. hour. tour!). On the water, opener Polka Madre’s muscular clarinet-and-drums-driven set competed with the glittering Manhattan skyline, the scent of marijuana (and pungent whiffs of Greenpoint), that waterfall under the Brooklyn Bridge, and of course, those two beams of light in lower Manhattan, glowing like spaceships. But jubilant Appalachian-inspired headliners O’Death, who have been playing much bigger shows, focused everyone’s attention as they took their places on the linoleum dance floor of the upper deck.
Shirts were peeled off, pasty, luxurious beer bellies overflowed tattered jeans, and plush beards were idly raked with free hands as banjos and ukuleles were tuned. Unlike more manicured revivalist outfits, one gets the impression that O’Death’s disintegrating clothes and masking-taped guitars owe to diffidence and poverty rather than calculated affectation — they’re more Sterno than diesel. A few plaintive notes from the banjo and the band lurched into a set of keening, drunken shout-alongs punctuated by much hand clapping, foot stomping, and hot cymbal-on-cymbal action; the vibe was, perhaps, comparable to that of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (before they quit the amphetamines). One hundred percent pure American mongrel rock, O’Death, like a yard sale, had a little of everything: bluegrass banjo, sawing country fiddle, punk vocals, hard-core drumbeats, and a heavy-metal redneck bass player more Snuffy than stuffy — the anti–Carlos D.