All words: Colin Wilhelm
All photos: Katherine Gaines
‘And Andrew W.K. did come to the 9:30 Club on April 1, 2012. And when he had played most of a set Andrew W.K. spake, saying, “Life is worth living. And it’s okay to be totally, totally, totally stupid.” And so the crowd got totally, totally, totally stupid, and seeing that they had been stricken with stupid, Andrew W.K. saw fit to play them his post-I Get Wet song “Totally Stupid.” And lo, they moshed, and crowd-surfed, and partied hard.’
Andrew W.K.’s set on Sunday invoked a religious leader whipping his followers into mass hysteria. The hymns were repetitious, pop metal that wormed into your ear and the gospel was just ‘having fun, man,’ instead of a promise of salvation. Of course W.K. did strain for depth at times, saying, “Music is God. Music is love,” just moments before extolling the virtues of stupidity as described above. Later he added, after the crowd had chanted “WE WANT FUN” and “U-S-A” to bring on his second encore, “Hold onto this feeling…this is joy. This is what makes life worth living. And you did it.” Now pass the Kool-Aid please.
Others have observed before that W.K.’s sincerity throws people off: we are used to at least the perception of sneering, cynical, moody musicians (or perhaps those who write about them possess the cynicism). His boundless enthusiasm for seemingly everything seems to bewilder some folks, though it shouldn’t: when the themes of his music delve no deeper than partying, having fun, and pretty girls, what else would you expect? You can legitimately criticize his music for lacking depth or artistic worth, but there’s an infectious enthusiasm to it, whether Andrew W.K. was cloned from the remains of Steev Mike and raised from test tube to adulthood by a major record label or not.
W.K. parallels Tim Tebow in ways: his affably goofy genuineness matched with the gaping holes in his repertoire (the aforementioned lack of artistic merit or diversity to his music) infuriate some, even discounting those who practically demand to see his long-form birth certificate. Yet a show as fun as Sunday’s gives cause to forget about the corporate creation conspiracy theories, or how those may be an elaborate ploy to keep him at least in the periphery of the spotlight, or how his lyrics focus on nothing of substance and many of his songs blend together. The richly ecstatic atmosphere he created at the 9:30 Club should have hypnotized anyone into forgetting all that and, as the song says, just wanting fun.
Andrew W.K. [if that is his real name…] believably confessed during his band’s second encore that this was “the best fucking show we’ve ever had”—this despite being almost squarely hit in the face by what looked to be an airborne Chuck Taylor only moments before. Truthfully, and a little unexpectedly, it was the best crowd I have ever seen at the 9:30 Club. Though not in and of itself a sign of a great crowd, an exceedingly large circular mosh pit in which everyone seemed to enjoy themselves formed organically early and replenished itself throughout the W.K. set, at one point enveloping most of the ground floor like a giant thrashing human amoeba. From start to finish legs and the bodies attached to them enthusiastically flailed into the air as people swam over the front rows.
True to advertising W.K. and his band of four guitarists, one bassist, a drummer and his wife, singer Cherie Lily, leapt into “It’s Time to Party” and then, climax of both the show and his recording career, “Party Hard” and the rest of I Get Wet, I believe in sequence. Occasionally an unrelated keyboard interlude separated songs: W.K. showcased his classical piano skills on both “Rhapsody in Blue” and the weirdly yet somehow appropriate reoccurring melody of “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” (that religious theme did not come from nowhere). The crowd seemed mostly to consist of those in the right age range (13-16) to appreciate I Get Wet when it was first released ten years ago. As such they were primed to relive their late middle school or early high school, geekily spastic, gloriously stupid, years.
There may be some credence in treating him as a gateway drug to corporate soullessness in music, but really Andrew W.K.’s music is more like sugar: unhealthy if you eat a steady diet accompanied by little else, but fine to occasionally binge on even if you subsequently run around in circles like an five year old on his first PixieStix bender.
“Second band” Math the Band were like Sleigh Bells if they decided to ditch noise pop and start listening to a lot of Warped Tour bands. The guy plus gal duo usually straddled the right side of the line between annoying and fun and had an endearing cheeriness and enthusiasm. They warmed the crowd up to prepare it for the levels of frenzy it would reach during W.K.’s set, only to reappear and join the many fans onstage for his final song.
Opener Aleister X earns the title of most entertainingly awful performer this writer has ever seen. Another (onstage) two-person ensemble, Aleister’s guitarist began with and then dwelled far too long on a loose guitar variation of the Rocky theme, only then to be joined by the man himself on stage where he appeared wearing a boxing robe and juggalo clown makeup. Then they broke into the rest of their thirty minute-long set with songs reminiscent of late-90s Limp Bizkit, albeit with less energy and creativity.
On one song a single guitar riff was all that separated Aleister X and his sidekick from yelling “what” repeatedly for three minutes. In the midst of a song where he told us early and often that he was “fuckin’ with PCHs” the tall, pale juggalo rambled off a semi-coherent series of shout-outs including one to Ian Mackaye. I think it’s safe to assume the godfather of straightedge has never unknowingly wished to be disassociated with anything more than this. As music it was offensively awful [sample refrain: “Titties in my face”]. As performance art it was highly engrossing.
Adding some visual representation to the atmosphere of light misogyny, Aleister was joined for most of his time on stage by two scantily clad, extremely extraneous female dancers. One was African-American and armed with a feather wand, the other a shorter white woman who wore a curly blonde wig that made her eerily resemble the woman dancing in this scene from David Lynch’s Blue Velvet where Dennis Hopper beats the shit out of Kyle MacLachlan while Roy
Orbison plays in the background [NSFW audio]. Aleister could reach truly transcendent levels if he would incorporate a (fake) nitrous machine into his act.
I passionately hated his music but thoroughly enjoyed myself during his set, and therefore cannot help but recommend Aleister X live. With bated breath I eagerly anticipate his inevitable headlining of the Gathering of the Juggalos.
Leftovers: Here’s a [NSFW—nudity] link, used as a citation on his Wikipedia page, which sums up how nuts some of the Andrew W.K. conspiracy theorists are. The NSFW stems from the random female nudity about midway down that the author tries to tie into W.K.’s ‘false identity’. And in the hopes of influencing Svetlana into a Blue Velvet-themed “Best Weekend Bets” here’s a link to a .gif of that dancing woman on top of Dennis Hopper’s car.