Andrew W.K. with Math The Band
Better than:…The sold-out 10-year anniversary show of Har Mar Superstar's Can You Feel Me?, which undoubtedly plays in Har Mar Superstar's mind every single day.
Andrew W.K. isn't the sort of artist who welcomes the projection of complexity or paradox upon him. But there's something I find incredibly hard to grasp about the mere existence of a 10-year anniversary tour for I Get Wet. How does it hold up in 2012 when I'm not sure it held up for even a half hour back when it came out in 2002?
This being an anniversary show, I can indulge in nostalgia. As fall semester turned to spring during my senior year of college, there was a grand total of three contemporary albums that my four best friends and I could agree upon as a proper soundtrack for pounding Keystone Light in our apartment before heading out to pound pitchers of MGD at a bar of marginally increased cleanliness: Is This It?, The Blueprint and a burned copy of an advanced CD of I Get Wet the radio station where I was working somehow got its hands on. Keep in mind that getting an advanced copy of a major label album was some pretty head-exploding shit for me back then and the first 20 minutes of I Get Wet are probably the best 20 minutes of any album ever because every single minute of it is dedicated to partying in the dumbest way imaginable. “It's Time To Party”! “Party Hard”! “Ready To Die”! But whether it's exhaustion, boredom or just the need to badly take a piss, you start to lose focus sometime around “I Love NYC.” I'm not sure I've ever actually listened to “Don't Stop Livin' In The Red.”
Commercially, it was one of the biggest flops of its time, but Andrew W.K. so seamlessly transitioned into cult stardom that it seemed like the plan all along, affording himself the spotlight in ways that more often are only tangentially related to music. He had an advice show on MTV, he was involved in Adult Swim, he hung out with Soulja Boy that one time. He made records, too. I Get Wet's follow-up The Wolf came out at a time when I was at my brokest, and internet piracy hadn't reached a point where any old album could be had, so I skipped it. I've been told that Close Calls With Brick Walls is amazing, and I've heard it compared to Frank Zappa, so one of those two things absolutely has to be false.
So, who goes to see a 10-year anniversary show of I Get Wet? In short, I'm really wondering if anybody was capable of pulling an opening shift at Los Angeles-area Guitar Centers this morning. Maybe it's a moot point since Andrew WK's stage setup looked like 75% of their displays were on loan, and thus no store will be fully stocked until noon anyway. It was actually a nice visual metaphor for I Get Wet itself.
At any given time, there were six or seven people on stage. Up to four musclebound bros that looked like they've been in a band or two were playing very pointy guitars. And they were all basically playing the same exact riff. The drummer had a triple kick drum, which I didn't even know was possible, but once again, highly redundant since there isn't a single drum fill on I Get Wet. There was a female backup singer wearing a leathery black one-piece. She mostly headbanged or jogged in place, and I wasn't even sure if her mic was turned on until “She Is Beautiful.” Then I sorta wish it weren't.
And then there was Andrew WK himself, the ultimate personification of his own music in that he appears to be completely immune to the cruel passage of time that's beset so many of us paunchier folks in the crowd. For someone who espouses such a party-and-puke lifestyle, he looks exactly the same as he did a decade prior.
But there's a fundamental problem with these album-recreation shows that's exacerbated in a situation like with I Get Wet. If the album is being played in its exact running order, all the good songs get played in the beginning. Even worse, last night's was without a doubt the single most punctual concert I've ever attended. If you hadn't partied till you puked by 10 p.m., you had to take that shit elsewhere or take your chances with an encore that started with “Victory Strikes Again” (the first song from The Wolf, but you already knew that?), because they were done by 9:58. I can only imagine the poor folks who opted to turn it into a date night and showed up at 9:15 after a romantic dinner only to realize they've already missed “Party Hard.”
But it's churlish to begrudge the sold-out crowd completely losing their shit during “Take It Off,” because I Get Wet pretty much is timeless. It's like a comet — no true precedent and no influence whatsoever. It would've met the same reception had it come out in 2004, 2008 or 2012. It simply is due to the old Wooderson syndrome: we get older, I Get Wet stays the same age.
Yet, I checked before the show, and I Get Wet somehow wasn't even on my iPod, akin to someone who I considered my closest friend in college gradually slipping out of my life until I realize I haven't spoke with him in years. If I Get Wet truly is timeless, then what happened? Well, with W.K. triumphantly raising his arms every five seconds, bashing on a cheap electric piano and allowing himself a completely amateur three-minute solo before “She Is Beautiful,” all this partying all seemed awfully … pushy. What good is a party or rock 'n' roll itself if there's no actual danger?
I suppose that good clean fun is I Get Wet's M.O. even if the ten years between me and my moderately crippling love affair with Steel Reserve has pretty much dulled whatever impact it used to have. After all, no less of a “party till you puke” authority than Carl from Aqua Teen Hunger Force put it best: “I don't need no instructions to know how to rock.”
Personal bias: Look, I Get Wet is probably one of the 63 most important albums I've ever come across in my life. But then I think its role in my life has been supplanted by Gucci Mane's “Wasted,” especially when I take into account all the dudes similarly playing unplugged Les Pauls in the video.
The crowd: I really hope most of the dudes in the crowd (and yes, it was probably a 94% bro-down) aren't into college basketball, because those who took dates clearly are not going to be able to watch the first round of the NCAA Tournament next weekend.
Random notebook dump: Andrew W.K. played “I Love NYC” without changing a single word and not a single person booed him. How soft is L.A.? Note to self: see Andrew W.K. pull that shit in Boston or Philly.