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Partying Harder Than Thou

ANDREW W.K.at House of Blues, May 31

One night before Israeli klezmer outfit Simply Tsfat hit town for what was (according to our most reliable Weekly sources) a raucous after-sunset shindig down at Hochmat HaNahal on Robertson, neo-pop-metal gold medalist Andrew W.K. threw a Sunset Strip dance party of his own at House of Blues. Don’t scoff at the comparison. Both klezmer and hardrocknroll are basically party-time music, and both have their detractors busy filing identical ”all the songs sound the same“ complaints. The rejoinder in both cases is, Shut up and dance, stoopid . . . and if you don‘t wanna shake it, then at least relax and enjoy the ridiculousness of the spectacle before you, whether it’s a mad fiddler wearing a yarmulke or a beefy 22-year-old Michigan hessian wearing all white.

At an Andrew W.K. show, that spectacle is of a homemade, scruffy variety. Yes, he has some major big-label bucks behind him -- note the sheer size of his band (three guitarists?!? none of whom takes a single solo the whole evening?!?) and their wall of amps. But that‘s not where the spectacle derives from. Rather, it’s Andrew‘s sheer grabbing-life-by-the-testicles enthusiasm for what he’s doing that makes you smile: As he alternates between singing, na-na-naing and grindcore grunting -- between performing the best hyperaerobics moves since Fonda and the best air drumming since Butthead, between crowd surfing and hoisting a crowd member onto his shoulders (while still singing) -- you get a much more entertaining spectacle than some robotic mega-budget KISS show. If Andrew isn‘t enough, there’s the muttonchopped, shaven-headed guitarist snapping his head from side to side with each chord change; there‘s the curly-hairedbearded pirouetting second guitarist who breaks out the traffic whistle halfway through one song to tweet disco-style on beat; there’s the bizarre sight of the guy from Obituary playing double bass drums on what are relentlessly simple Ramonesoi!SladeSweet stadium-chant songs.

Finally, there‘s the stage’s gigantic backdrop -- a banner photo of W.K.‘s bloodied face -- as if this concert were some kind of political rally. Which, in a way, it is. Like Dr. Funkenstein and the Beastie Boys, Andrew is campaigning unapologetically for our right to party: hardly a radical proposition, but that doesn’t make it any less necessary given the amount of uptight, negative nabobs and nincompoops -- modern-day Sir Nose D‘Voidoffunks -- around right now. Tonight, as he whips up a pretty full house into a slamming, air-punching frenzy, Andrew not once resorts to the sexism, misogyny, homophobia, petulance and other-loathing of the various party-rock genres from the last 20 years. That’s a significant accomplishment, and one that makes the sight of hundreds of people crushing themselves as close to the stage as possible throughout this sublimely silly show especially gratifying. Thank you, Andrew W.K.: Long may you party hard.


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