Live review: The power of Andrew WK
Photo by Rae Threat
Last night I ventured into the abysmal depths of The Echoplex, The Echo’s sluttier sister basement venue, to see Andrew WK play the two year anniversary of Check Yo Ponytail 2. If you’re unfamiliar with CYP2, you can read their mission statement and history here. Basically, it’s a monthly $20 concert that showcases electronic buzz-bands and attracts an appetite to have your photo taken in the company of, well, other people who want to have their photo taken. It’s kind of gross.
Given the environment, I was dubious as to how an Andrew WK set would be received. I entered into what I thought was an MGMT deep cut from a lost Anthropologie mixtape, but it turned out to be Swedish house duo Icona Pop. The projectionist splattered images of cats behind them (how novel!), until it faded into videos of black students dancing in the ‘60s. Someone should have alerted the “this feels slightly racist” police, but most people seemed to be digging it (these people probably, intelligently, did more drugs than I beforehand).
To me, house and electro-pop are vague genres that I’ve never taken the time to actively explore. The chugging, plastic joy of Icona Pop quickly began to annoy and The Echoplex’s eternal boner for fog machines irked me onto the patio to catch my breath. Unfortunately, two hundred other nicotine-addicts and creative haircuts had the same idea. A party photographer, possibly from everyoneisfamous.com, tried to take a picture of a young eastside ingenue listlessly texting. When she attempted three rapid-fire and practiced poses he urged her, “no, no, just keep texting!” She obliged. I pulled my hat over my face.
At these kinds of events someone is always taking their coat off to show a rib-cage to the rib-watchers, as Frank O’Hara would say. That’s just the way it goes. But it was confusing because Andrew WK was headlining and to me, AWK has always embodied a true punk philosophy. That philosophy is this: I want to have fun, I want to do what I want, and I don’t care what you think of that. You don’t have to join me, but it’d be cool if you did.
So where were the positive punks? Where were the white-shirted chubby dudes who had work in the morning? Where were the ratty, skinny, teenage boys waiting for a pit to form?
And then the magic started. Andrew WK came on stage to uproarious applause, and from what I can glean, the first instance of a supernatural phenomenon called “complete crowd transformation” occurred. Party-Aliens sent mechanical arms into the crowd and removed every over-sized hat and $800 leather jacket, and swiftly replaced them with grinning middle-aged men and riotgrrrrl Punky Brewsters. It was beautiful. Fists were being pumped, bodies were pogoing, crowds were curling gnarley waves. WK’s “just have a good time” attitude is contagious as fuck and it seemed to wash over every person in the venue and take hold of them. On paper, there is almost something silly about a grown man singing multiple songs about partying and searching for ultimate fun. But in the church of WK it made complete sense. I had my hands up in the air like a Protestant trying to touch the heavens.
“This is not a concert. This is a party!” he screamed over the crowd. And it felt right. All of the posturing and hey-look-at-me-ing going on dissolved for thirty minutes and everyone cut loose. Which is a hard thing to do in a city like Los Angeles; to not care. An even harder thing to do in L.A. is to get an entire crowd to go wild for a song called “I Love New York City.” Maybe it was post-Sandy empathy. Maybe it was good ol’ fashioned fun. One of my favorite aspects of the Andrew WK character is his fascination with mortality. But unlike other death-obsessed bands like the Unicorns, however, Andrew looks death in the face with defiance. During a breakdown he rallied the venue to be thankful that they were partying, but “most importantly, that you’re not dead!” Everyone seemed to be very, very thankful for that.
As he led us into a New Years style countdown (that started at 100) he celebrated Obama’s win and informed us that a special guest would play after his set. The rumor mill from earlier in the night claimed it would be Skrillex, and they were correct. He finished his set with a bang (“Party Hard” was involved) and the crowd immediately thinned. A separate DJ was brought out to ostensibly warm the tables for Skrillex so I joined the packed patio again to have one last cigarette. When the crowd began to dissipate I assumed he was about to drop some heavy shit on everyone (that’s what I assume he does— I’ve never seen the man perform), but as I re-entered the venue it was substantially more empty. People were leaving and the warm-up DJ was still going at it. Did no one care about Skrillex? Maybe they’d come back. I, on the other hand, was still riding an Andrew WK high that I didn’t want rattled out of my brain with dubstep. So I left.
I felt good—unbothered by the scenesterism of CYP2. It no longer mattered. I also felt a tiny bit of shame for putting my hat over my face when that man wanted to take my picture. Maybe he was just trying to have the most fun he could. Andrew would be fine with that.