The Boat That Rocked: the most famous gigs on water

AJ Tracey will play a gig on the UK’s first floating basketball court this evening (June 9) as it floats down the River Thames in association with the NBA and Hennessy

In partnership with Hennessy

This evening (Thursday, June 9), AJ Tracey is set to play a gig on the UK’s first floating basketball court as it floats down the River Thames to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the National Basketball Association (NBA) in association with Hennessy.

From 7.30pm BST tonight, fans will be able to tune into a live-streamed performance from Tracey as the court docks in Butler’s Wharf.


Live music and boats aren’t necessarily the most natural of bedfellows, but there have been some famous and even revolutionary gigs on water over the years. Ahead of NME’s gig with the Hennessy x NBA and AJ Tracey tonight, we’ve run down some of the most famous gigs to have ever taken place on water.

Liam Gallagher – Live On The River Thames (2021)

Back in the lockdown era of late 2020, Liam Gallagher lifted our spirits by boarding a barge down the River Thames and belting out solo songs and Oasis classics while travelling through London

In a five-star review of the gig at the time, NME wrote: “We’re missing fans, flares, hurled pints and crowd chants, but this is without doubt the next best thing,” adding: “The Thames has seen its fair share of incendiary moments, from The Sex Pistols’ turbulent 1977 trip to mark the release of ‘God Save The Queen’ to the legendary yowls of “I live by the river” in The Clash’s ‘London Calling’. Liam Gallagher has added to the story in his own indelible way.”

Pink Floyd – Crystal Palace Bowl (1971)

A few miles south of the Thames and 50 years before, Pink Floyd played one of the most special and famous gigs the capital has ever seen down at the Crystal Palace Bowl. The floating stage in the middle of a lake was built in 1961, with Pink Floyd playing the grand reopening ten years later.


At the unforgettable gig, the band brought a giant octopus with them, which fans then proceeded to wrestle with during the gig. The greatest memories of this show, which immortalised the Crystal Palace Bowl as one of the most legendary venues in London, come from the photos of fans splashing about in the lake while watching the band. In 2021, the Bowl was opened again for the South Facing gig series after over a decade out of use.

South Facing
Fans in the lake in front of the stage during a concert at the Crystal Palace Bowl, London, 31st July, 1971. Credit: Vincent McEvoy/Redferns.

The Sex Pistols – The River Thames (1977) 

Slightly less harmonious than Liam Gallagher’s trip down the River Thames for a gig was The Sex Pistols’ anti-jubilee party in 1977. The supposedly ‘secret’ gig held on the evening of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee was a symbol of the anti-monarchy sentiment the punk legends stood for, and the show ended up being suitably riotous enough to see a huge police presence await the band and their fans when the boat docked. From a band with more famous gigs to their name than most, this was one of the most memorable.

British Sea Power – Principality Of Sealand (2005)

Back in 2005, British indie heroes Sea Power (then known with their British prefix) played further from shore than most manage when attempting a gig on water. As the band explained to NME ahead of the show, they performed on a disused oil rig in the English Channel, with the gig taking place just outside British jurisdiction in an area known as the Principality Of Sealand.

“It’s a great place, this father and son live there and there’s been little battles on there before where they’ve had to fight off drug smugglers who’ve tried to take it over,” singer Scott ‘Yan’ Wilkinson told NME “We’ve always wanted to play there, but it’s quite expensive.” In order to bankroll the gig, the band teamed up with the Monster Raving Loony Party, who paid for the oil rig show in exchange for Sea Power writing them music for their political campaign.

Sea Power
Sea Power CREDIT: Hollywood/Press

Paramore – ‘Parahoy!’ cruise (2014-18)

Most house bands on cruise ships don’t come close to Paramore, but that’s because there’s rarely been a cruise like Parahoy! before. Across three editions in 2014, 2016 and 2018, Hayley Williams and co. took their most loyal and dedicated fans on a cruise setting sail from Miami for a weekend of live performances, talks, DJ sets, gigs from some of the band’s peers and favourite new bands and plenty, plenty more. Here’s hoping it returns for another post-pandemic whirl!

Bristol Thekla (1990s-present)

One boat you can see gigs on every night of the week is Bristol’s Thekla, which has been permanently moored in the city’s Mud Dock since the ‘90s and become an integral part of the city’s – and the UK’s – musical culture. From becoming an early place to catch Massive Attack, Portishead and others from the trip-hop revolution in its early days as a nightclub in the ‘90s to catching the most exciting new acts through to the present day (Arlo Parks was a recent highlight in September 2021), it’s the perfect place to jump on board.

Bristol Thekla. Credit: Adam Gasson/Alamy Stock Photo.

AJ climbs aboard

Adding to the pantheon of all-time great gigs on water, AJ Tracey will play a gig on the UK’s first floating basketball court for Hennessy x NBA this evening as it travels down London’s River Thames. The event, taking place to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the NBA and being held during the 2022 finals, kicks off a three-day celebration of basketball in the capital.

Keep it locked to the live stream below from 7.30pm BST tonight (Thursday, June 9).