Live: Andrew W.K. Pulls The Party On Stage At Webster Hall
Monday, April 2
Better than: Moping.
Andrew W.K.'s 2001 album I Get Wet is one of those records that tends to polarize people; it combines monster riffs, giddy lyrics about partying and beautiful girls, and living-in-the-red maximalism in a way that either electrifies or makes people reach for the ANYTHING ELSE FOR THE LOVE OF GOD button.
Last night at Webster Hall, though, the room was 100% in favor of the keyboard-wielding signer/motiviational speaker/club owner's debut, singing along from word one of "It's Time To Party" and taking that song's plainly stated message to heart throughout the evening. There was pogoing; there was yelling; there was headbanging; there were, at one point, about 40 people on stage who weren't contracted members of the band. A lot of the interlopers got off the stage in the most party-like way: They dove.
Andrew W.K., as is probably fitting for someone whose ethos is about having a good time while making anyone else who might be nearby not feel excluded, is a great host. He led the crowd with aplomb, instructing them to yell out slogans (or just greetings to various audience members who happened to land on the stage) and telling them to "feel free to remove any article of clothing." He didn't even get mad when someone took the wet track "Party Till You Puke" to heart and vomited all over his pants; instead he detailed the ingredients that made up the crusting vomit. It could have passed for a religious revival, albeit one where devotees wear white t-shirts stained with blood all the way down the front.
This is part of the genius of I Get Wet and Andrew W.K.'s other career high points: As polarizing as they might seem or actually be, they make room for all comers. (For example, the energy last night was decidedly male, but it wasn't the sort of male energy that pushes out women or puts them in a corner to be leered at; instead it was goofy and loose.) I Get Wet's musical brutalism adapted to the live setting well, too, with Andrew leading the way on keyboards and the four (!) guitarists, drummer, and backup singer filling in the gaps. The crowd took over on vocals; at least 66% of the people in attendance had apparently used the 10ish-year gap between I Get Wet's release and last night's show to bone up on every exhortation to party, love New York, and not stop living in the red.
After I Get Wet's 12-song tracklist was spent, Andrew and band ran through a few other oldiesthe sweeping "Never Let Down" and "You Will Remember Tonight," the, uh, totally stupid (but in a good way!) "Totally Stupid." He then asked the crowd if they wanted to hear a new song, and the affirmative repsonse led to him leading the way into "Head Bang." It started off a bit punkier and less florid than the set's other tracks, but then he warned the crowd about "that part I was telling you about"the part where we were all supposed to act out the title. The band went into something extremely heavy and the assembled double-time headbanged, shaking off the cobwebs of the outside world for good. ("My brain is rattled," I wrote when it was done, I think. Or maybe "scrambled"?) A brief respite occurred, and then it was time for "We Want Fun," a feisty ode to inebriated happines from the earliest part of Andrew's career. The only bummer about that particular selection ending the set? The room had to clear out for the late show. But Andrew had a plan: An afterpartywith him as DJ!at Santos Party House, the club he owns downtown. Because a good host always knows how to keep the party going, even despite external factors that might cause it to shape-shift a little.
Critical bias: I Get Wet sums up my musical and life aesthetics like no other album.
Overheard: "Greatest songwriter of this or any other generation." "That's accurate."
Random notebook dump: Before "She Is Beautiful," which opens with an lovely arpeggio on record, someone handed Andrew a guitar shaped like a big old New York slice. This started chants of "PIZZA," and in response he he melded the towering riff for Pantera's "Walk" with something that sounded an awful lot like "O Come All Ye Faithful." It worked, and the fact that his guitar playing looked from afar like someone meticulously mopping up the grease off a particularly viscous offering from Ray's probably didn't hurt. During "We Want Fun," a guy dressed like a slice popped on stage, but I don't think the two were related. Or were they?
It's Time to Party
Girls Own Love
Ready to Die
Take It Off
Mexican Hat Dance/I Love NYC
She Is Beautiful
Party Till You Puke
Got to Do It
I Get Wet
Don't Stop Living in the Red
Victory Strikes Again
Long Live the Party
Never Let Down
You Will Remember Tonight
We Want Fun