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Life of the Party

By Ian Nagoski | Posted 8/21/2002

Andrew W.K.

Recher Theatre, Towson, Aug. 12


Ten minutes before Andrew W.K. hit the stage, half of the 500-plus kids who packed Towson's Recher Theatre surged toward the stage in anticipation of the flailing, hurling rush that would drench them in sweat and sound. Through all 12 songs from W.K.'s debut record, I Get Wet, and one new tune, "We Want Fun," they slammed, pumped their fists, crowd-surfed--with as many as five bodies raised at a time--and rushed the stage to party and sing along with W.K.

Clad in his trademark everydude duds (white T-shirt; dirty, bleached jeans; white sneaks), W.K. greeted his crowd with an exhortation to dance and "get naked." The former was followed to the letter by the hormone-frenzied high-school and college-aged majority of the crowd; the latter was followed only in spirit, to the chagrin of the older, if no less horny, minority. Promising a state of unbridled fun, W.K. played supercool older brother to the spellbound kids. His songs spoke of euphoria ("Ev'rybody get wasted" in "We Want Fun"), fury ("When your time is at an end/ Then it's time to kill again" in "Ready to Die"), unchecked passion ("We get off 'cause we do what we want" in "Fun Night"), raw ambition ("We were nothing but kids on top/ Never gonna stop" in "Got to Do It"), or all of the above ("Open your mouth/ We're all gonna cum/ In! Your! Face!" in "It's Time to Party"). W.K. embodied the best parts of adolescence--its rhapsodizing, raving, and raging.

W.K.'s more ambiguous statements were received with some befuddlement. The sing-along chorus to "I Love NYC" got arms waving, but the verses ("Run it over/ Run them out/ Knock your block and terror your town") got nothing but blank stares and mechanistic butt-shaking to the '80s-metalish thump. W.K.'s leaping, dreamlike lyrics ("We are your mother-father/ We are a final friend/ It never started and it won't end") and more out-there philosophies are seemingly lost in the accessible, retrogressive sound of his music.

The fans and enemies of his music are strongly polarized about its surface qualities, its blatant ties to past pop and to the current crop of major-label, metal-derived show-offs like Korn and Limp Bizkit, but no one seems to notice that what seems like mindless hedonism camouflages a subversive attempt to alter the cultural climate and expand the psychological boundaries of his audience. Like the space-myth party music of Parliament-Funkadelic and the euphoric anti-system rage of the MC5--both '60s/'70s acts that emanated from W.K.'s home state of Michigan--W.K.'s blast of good times grows from a post-industrial wasteland, a bad economy, a need for change. And fun. Lots of fun.

So after pushing all of the life he had into the same songs that he has played every night for months, punching, flailing, and high-kicking, he earnestly expressed his gratitude to the audience for their energizing enthusiasm. At the show's climax, W.K. invited the entire audience onto the club's tiny stage for "Party Hard," where, in every stagehand's nightmare, he and his band of death-metal-heads were swarmed by dozens of freaking-out kids. And after the show, W.K. held court behind the venue, ripping through the police tape that cordoned off the band-only area to welcome his fans and patiently pose for photos, sign autographs, answer questions, and hang out until all were satisfied and partied out. Everyone, that is, except Andrew.

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