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On the S.S. Coachella, a Wine-Tasting With LCD Soundsystem's James Murphy

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Note: Liz Tracy, Music Editor of our sister paper Broward-Palm Beach New Times, is aboard the S.S. Coachella cruise this week while Houston continues waiting around for winter.

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Photos by Ian Witlen
Old punk guys and fancy wines: Two things that make sense together only now, mere days before the end of the world.

Nothing is more a "sign of the times" than James Murphy and Justin Chearno hosting a wine tasting in the middle of the ocean for a handful of people both able and willing to ride the S.S. Coachella. It has all the elements of things we want as a culture: Exclusivity, intimacy, rock stars, and, of course, booze.

The two-evening Real Wine talk really captured the oddity of the experience, in a more wholesome way than two people discreetly doing it in the Sky Lounge to a live soundtrack of Cloud Nothings.

As it turns out, the former LCD Soundsystem mastermind is a wine fanatic. His good friend Chearno -- formally of Pitchblende and Unrest -- worked as a buyer for Uva Wines. Together, they explained Murphy's journey into winedom and also described what the hell "natural" wine is.

Murphy joked that he hoped the second day would go more smoothly than the first, adding, different day, "same crappy jokes." But that was a load of crap. These guys were funny, though awkward, and they knew it.

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Murphy compared his education on wine to that of his early interest in music. When he was a kid growing up in New Jersey and getting into punk, he reminded us that there wasn't a "search engine to tell you like this" if you like that. He had to sift through bins and deal with cranky record-store clerks to find what he enjoyed. Wine has that same sort of experiential appeal.

They spoke of natural wine, the stuff we were slurping down, which Chearno described as more an indicator of what isn't done to the wine rather than what is. For him, each bottle tells a story of a person, time, and place. Que romántico!

The people who create these natural wines are dedicated to this arduous and often fruitless (had to, sorry) undertaking. He compared the winemakers to musicians who tour and sleep on floors for weeks to play in front of an audience of five, all because they love their songs.

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We tasted about five wines, and all but one (the controversial one that bordered on poisonous) were darned tasty. Granted, this is coming from someone who doesn't mind wine in a box. A lady asked if this was their like "top five playlist of wines." Chearno pointed out that their top five "we couldn't afford to bring here."

Sort of the moment that stuck with me was when Murphy was talking about the obnoxiousness of the organic movement, which spawned the whole wine craze. He sort of acted out driving down the road, thinking: "I hate everyone." And then looking to right, pointing: "Good records!" and then to the left: "Good coffee!"

No matter how much we pooh-pooh fads, when they result in good things like James Murphy cracking nerdy jokes about fine wine on a cruise ship in the Atlantic, then you can't hate 'em too much.

Follow Tracy's other S.S. Coachella exploits on her blog County Grind.


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