Show Review: Andrew W.K. at The Independent, 9.27.17

by Becka Robbins on October 3, 2017

This show had all of the essentials needed for a great metal show. Andrew WK, the patron saint of partying, leading his six piece backup band of very loud and technically adept musicians. Two members of his backup band were women, which made the party even better, as did the pizza guitar he played mid-set. AWK is a live wire with big, metal voice, but at the show, he seemed a little dampened. It happens – a lot of us have had the crud, and if he did I hope he feels better. This didn’t lower show’s wattage though, or cause anyone to party any less hard. A great metal show also has a fist pumping crowd in the back,  and mosh pit up by the stage. Here, at an AWK show, all of these are accounted for. AWK writes great hooks that keep you moving and joyful, and his touring band brings them to a higher level of musicianship than the original recorded version.

AWK has a deep love for death metal, including Autopsy and Cannibal Corpse. Great heavy metal is technically adept, fast, complex, and defies conventional rules of good taste by disregarding restraint and denying an easy listening experience. It jars the listener with a spiked wall of sound, unleashing the darkness in classically based theory, layered all together in a swirl of darkness, and grants permission to bask in the feral darkness that is inside of each one of us.

Like Alex Skolnick of Testament, or Randy Rhoads of Sabbath fame, AWK is a classically trained musician, but his metal style is much more in the glam category, drawing a little bit from bands like Poison’s “Talk Dirty to Me,” or Def Leppard’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me” – poppy, catchy, joyful little gems built on happiness, big hair, multiple layers, and standard rock-and-roll chord structures. His songs are all short, high energy bursts that make you bop your head or pump your fist, not so different from The Ramones (he toured with Marky Ramone in 2013). His songs all have a similar sound, and almost all of them a single message summed up in his seminal hit, “It’s Time to Party.”

I Get Wet, AWK’s much lauded first album, was released shortly after 9/11, at a time when many Americans reacted to the terrorism attack with fear, xenophobia, and a national clampdown on fun. Since his album release, AWK has doubled down on partying as a life path, and has formed a political party (aptly called the Party Party), an excellent advice column in the Village Voice, and a forthcoming book on partying. My initial reaction was one of suspicion — how can we talk about partying while America is in crisis? Putting fun at the forefront of a political agenda sounds like it could gaslight the suffering of the marginalized and carve a space for entitlement, but in his advice column, he is clear on the importance of acknowledging privilege, and of being inclusive and socially aware in practice.

The party path takes many forms, but first and foremost, the partier should be true to their own heart and care for others. The path to partying may or may not include alcohol or drugs and is distinct for each individual. For some, the party is eating pizza in bed and reading books alone. For others, it may be walking on the beach with a close friend. “Hang out with yourself and have a crazy party” may be the lyric that best distills his approach. AWK’s partying, importantly, is inclusive and does not impinge on anyone’s sense of fun or safety. This delightfully subversive message is an antidote to the grind of the news and the overwhelming sense of disempowerment that so many of us are currently experiencing. While AWK’s short, simple songs on their own are metal lite, his life philosophy is metal as fuck.

Setlist:

  • Music Is Worth Living For
  • Take It Off
  • Ready to Die
  • Totally Stupid
  • Andrew WK guitar interlude (with Pizza Guitar)
  • She Is Beautiful
  • Tear It Up
  • You Will Remember Tonight
  • The Moving Room
  • Party Till You Puke
  • Never Let Down
  • We Want Fun
  • I Love New York City (as “I Love San Francisco”)
  • Keyboard Solo
  • I Get Wet
  • Encore:
  • Violent Life
  • It’s Time To Party
  • Girls Own Love
  • Pushing Drugs
  • Don’t Stop Living in the Red
  • Party Hard (with 93 second countdown)

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