Photos By Clarissa Villondo, Words By Dan Singer
When life gives you Andrew W.K., hand him a basket of nachos. It’s the most sensible way to proceed with your evening. The man works hard out there, and he sure as hell gets hungry. He made those calories count during an hour-long set that was as entertaining as it was sweat-soaked.
A single word captures the bare essence of Andrew W.K. the musician, Andrew W.K. the motivational speaker, Andrew W.K. the best cultural ambassador the United States never had and Andrew W.K. the hairy, hyperactive nacho-lover. If you’ve ever heard his one hit song or taken a gander at his prolific Twitter timeline, you know the word, and it’s not “the bird.”
Andrew W.K. screamed this word and its grammatical variations at his fans 90 times Saturday night, and they probably screamed it back at him just as many times, if not more. The word was percussive and ferocious as it devolved into meaninglessness and meant everything at the same time. His name might as well have been Robert Paulson. You can’t fully understand this word until you see Andrew W.K. live it, complete with appropriate paper hats.
His two-syllable mantra was only met in competition by its close cousin: the word “AWESOME.” The gig served as musical accompaniment to Awesome Con, D.C.’s second annual comic and pop culture fest, and the festivities amped up the good vibes, as well as the people-watching. Outside the venue, I saw a guy get in line wielding a wooden replica of Andrew W.K.’s pizza-shaped guitar. Inside, crowdsurfers declared mutiny on the Black Cat and its policy against such debauchery. One made it onstage wearing a chicken costume. Andrew W.K. deemed him a “full breast.”
If the marriage of Andrew W.K. and Awesome Con were to hypothetically produce an offspring, I imagine it would sound something like that damn “Everything Is Awesome” earworm from The LEGO Movie. The song’s pummeling sixteenth notes are built from the same framework as just about every song Andrew W.K. banged out on his keyboard with help from a drum machine and a rugged-looking hype man who resembled Stone Cold Steve Austin. Like Andrew W.K.’s discography, “Everything is Awesome” also revels in big, dumb fun and inspires moblike guttural bursts of enthusiasm (and/or intense moshing) from those who buy into it and join the team.
That being said, “Everything is Awesome” was The LEGO Movie’s anthem for conformity and adherence to the instruction booklet of The Man, and Andrew W.K. is no longer about that life. Free from the constraints of a major label and (as far as we know) the investors and producers who held his brand in a chokehold for years, he has achieved the sort of artistic autonomy that allows him to casually spend his afternoons setting world records, giving talks about “My Little Pony” and making his forehead bleed on command. Andrew W.K. is of a rare breed in this age of snark and smarm and condescension and detachment. When he proclaims that there’s no better time to do that one thing — and do it hard — the people listen, and when all that’s left is a pile of scattered nacho crumbs, everyone involved can leave satisfied.