Andrew WK Makes Sense
October 14, 2017. Brighton Music Hall, Allston, Massachusetts.
I’m looking at Andrew WK and he is surprisingly not smiling. His eyes are somewhat crossed and he is pouting. He looks like he’s somewhere else, some sort of mental reboot before the next song. Every song Andrew WK performs needs to be performed as if Andrew has just reached the peak of his very first party; he needs to be in a state of pure positive energy. While he’s often found smiling while pounding on a piano or flinging his long luxurious hair around, he is also capable of putting on one mean face. It’s a very strange thing for someone so jubilant to be doing, but it somehow makes sense. It makes sense in the context of partying, something Andrew seems to talk about a whole lot. It makes sense in the context of this being a night where I was just thrown out of a gaggle of large rotating bodies and got hit in the nose by someone who felt really really bad and asked if I was alright. It also makes sense in the context of Andrew WK being (to me) a sort of bizarro GG Allin, or maybe Iggy Pop. He wants the best for everyone and he’s an extremely intelligent individual, but he’s also not afraid to look insane or absurd or maybe even asinine.
I want to make it very clear that Andrew WK is punk as fuck. I’ve sat here ruminating about what word to use for hours now, but it’s the only way I can put it. He is a form of escapism, much like any punk band of old that played songs for the silliness factor and maybe not the political factor. I feel like there’s some sort of shared collective idea that music is supposed to be “serious” or “real” or “sincere” and I’ve never really understood it. There’s obviously pop, but what about us weirdos that want all the fun of pop but none of the other stuff in pop music that makes us scoff when we get older? Why can’t someone go up there and yell “WE LIKE TO PLAY AND WE DO IT ALL DAY” and play a guitar shaped like a taco and get the same reaction that I would feel if I were hearing someone sing a song about how we’re really not all that different? I’ve heard the term “goof rock” thrown about a few times to describe a few of my favorite bands; Ween, Butthole Surfers, Melvins, that sort of thing. And I feel like maybe telling someone I spent the weekend “just listening to some goof rock with the boys” makes me sound old and awful but why not just lean into it at this point? This is not to say that forms escapist artistry are inherently goofy, or that they cannot be applied to a philosophy or way of living. We live in a world with Jedis, Juggalos, members of the Church Of Latter-Day Dude, and individuals that celebrate Festivus. You’d also be hard pressed to express the ideas of The Church of the SubGenius without mentioning DEVO or R. Crumb. One look at Andrew WK’s advice column is all you need to see that there is both more to him than you think and also nothing ironic or insincere about what he’s doing.
This is my third time in Brighton over the last 2 months. I’ve been here about 7 times now, I think, and I’ve never actually seen a mosh pit here until tonight. It was a bit jarring at first; I forgot what to do in those situations. But everything worked out. Nobody was throwing out windmills or roundhouse kicks. Just good old bumper car moshing. Then again, I could have missed a lot of it; I’ve been off to the side of the stage quite a bit tonight, and I also went outside for snack. I met a guy named Carl who kept telling me he was freaking out, man. He was also upset I bought a bag of salt and pepper chips from the nearby 7–11 and not salt and vinegar. He was totally right, and I admitted I was a fool. I am always blindsided by the silence of the outside world compared to what is happening in Brighton Music Hall. I’m looking at it from across the street, eating this bag of chips, talking to this man named Carl who doesn’t seem to be freaking out, man, as much anymore because he bought his pack of Kools, and it’s weird to think that there’s a party going on in there that everybody hopes continues for as long as possible. We grip onto the party and we try to stay in that place in our mind, that same place Andrew WK goes before almost every song, our favorite party ever even if we drank too much THC Tincture and ended up in a dirty, graffiti’d bathroom stall thinking nothing is real and the world was going to end but someone brought you a two dollar PBR and you were fine again. There is no need to look further into it, no need to wonder where the “wink wink nudge nudge” is or hey is he like, for serious? Just live, just be, just play and do it all day, just party.
“All those early songs about rock ’n’ roll were successive movements in a suite in progress which was actually nothing more than a gigantic party whose collective ambition was simple: to keep the party going and jive and rave and kick ’em out cross the decades and only stop for the final Bomb or some technological maelstrom of sonic bliss sucking the cities away at last. Because the Party was the one thing in our lives we had to grab onto, the one thing we could truly believe in and depend on, a loony tune fountain of youth and vitality that was keeping us alive as much as any medicine we’d ever take or all the fresh air in Big Sur, it sustained us without engulfing us and gave us a nexus of metaphor through which we could refract less infinitely extensible concerns and learn a little bit more about ourselves and what was going on without even, incredibly enough, getting pretentious about it.”
- Lester Bangs, “James Taylor Marked for Death” Who Put the Bomp Magazine,Winter-Spring 1971