See more photos in Timothy Norris' gallery, “Andrew WK, Wavves @ Echoplex.” Read more in Drew Denny's interview “Andrew WK: 'I Don't Think It's Ethical to Think of Non-Humans as Equal to Humans.'”
It would be impossible to review Andrew W.K.'s show at Check Yo Ponytail 2 (held at The Echoplex) on May 10 without using the word “party.” Cliché? Maybe. But “party” is used so often in reference to Andrew W.K.'s work, by writers, fans and the artist himself, that if we didn't use the word, this write-up just wouldn't make sense.
“This is not a concert,” said W.K. while on stage inside The Echoplex. “This is not a show. This is a…”
He turned the microphone towards the audience. Can you guess how they responded?
“You got it,” he said after shouts of “party” filled the crowd.
Despite that exchange, it would be grossly unfair to write off W.K. as just “the party guy.” At last night's event, he focused on the I Get Wet-era jams that earned him his reputation. He hyped the crowd solo, jumping between keyboards and two microphones (one for him, one for the crowd) with accompaniment from a backing track. But with his deceptively simple concept– start a party, invite everyone to it– W.K. asks people to accept new challenges, to keep their eyes and ears open for new opportunities and to enjoy life. He's a voice of positivity and hope in a world that can often seem bleak. Clearly, we need Andrew W.K. Here's why.
1. He knows the importance of the pre-party.
The day before the event, W.K. unleashed The Check Yo Ponytail “Party Tips” Mixtape upon the Internet. The Soundcloud embed featured just one of his own songs, but it does more to prepare you for an Andrew W.K. show than endless listens to I Get Wet will.
The mix featured tracks from Chic, David Guetta, W.K.'s wife Cherie Lily, Judas Priest and even Miley Cyrus. Interspersed between the songs was advice like “Party Tip: Make out with the inside of your own mouth.”
With W.K., there are no boundaries with music. Metal, hip-hop, disco and pop, it all exists to push the party to the next level. W.K. gets you ready for that party by forcing you to open your mind, to embrace the music you may have thought you hated and just have fun.
2. The party itself will open your mind.
If you thought that a night with Andrew W.K. would have been all fist-pumping rock anthems, you would have been wrong. The night featured hardcore band Trash Talk, indie rockers Wavves and DJs playing bass-heavy dance music in between the live sets.
Those who follow W.K. on Twitter know that he dispenses a lot of motivational tweets known as “Party Tips.” The messages are always different, but if there's one common theme throughout his Twitter stream, it's that you have to try new things, keep an open mind (and heart) and make yourself available for whatever new experience life has to offer.
Watching W.K.'s career over the years, it's easy to see that he takes this theme to heart. He's not just the “Party Hard” guy. He's played with experimental outfits like Current 93 and toured with Calder Quartet. He's released an album of cover songs from the anime franchise Gundam. He hosts a game show. He's even appeared on Fox News.
So W.K. brings his fans to a venue where they might not know, or even care about the rest of the music, but they need to open their minds in order to make it all the way to the headliner. Maybe they'll like some of what they hear. Maybe they won't. At least they're giving it a shot.
3. He Will Make You Want to Politely Tell Your Cynical Self to Shut Up.
I saw Wavves for the first time last night and I wasn't feeling the music. It's nothing against the band, it's just an issue of personal taste. I've never been much of a fan of the '90s indie rock sound. We're going to leave this assessment simple. The more I thought about it, the better I understood that saying much more than “It's not my thing,” would be missing the point of the whole night.
It's really easy to get cynical about music. By the time we're old enough to get into any club we want, we may feel like we've heard everything before, seen everything before. It's also far too easy to get territorial about music. The bands we like “rule,” the bands we don't like “suck,” but, really, we frequently aren't thinking or talking about it objectively.
When you hear Andrew W.K. talk about “joy” enough times, it's hard to dislike any band that's clearly bringing that feeling to a lot of people in the room. Here's a band that had the courage to go on stage for a sold-out event. Though they were high up on the bill, they weren't headlining, so it's a safe assumption to say that a lot of the crowd wasn't there specifically for Wavves. Still, there were people dancing and having fun during the set. Who cares if I'm not into the music?
4. He Fills the Pit with Love.
There were signs at the entrance of The Echoplex reminding people not to stage dive or crowd surf. The signs were to be ignored. When you see Andrew W.K. play, two things are to be expected. One is stage diving. The other is crowd surfing.
I wasn't in the pit, so I can't tell you what the scene was like inside that mass of people. I was, however, able to see those who made it onto the stage pretty clearly. One thing was for certain, everyone who was able to join W.K. for a few seconds before heading back into the pit wore a smile. There were people hugging W.K., people throwing their arms around each other. And when they jumped back into the crowd, I couldn't help but feel a little bit of happiness for them, because they all looked like they had accomplished something. Maybe they had done something they never expected to do. Maybe they came into contact with someone who had, somewhere along the way, inspired them. I don't know, but, no matter what their reasons were for taking a risk, which stage diving always is, they seemed to enjoy doing it.
I've been to enough rock shows where I've seen crowds become aggressive and rowdy. That wasn't the case with W.K. last night. With his optimistic attitude and persuasive personality, he creates and maintains a positive energy and leaves people with a sense of happiness. It would have been difficult to leave this party in a bad mood.