Concert Review: Andrew WK at Webster Hall
I have to come out here and be honest, I did not care for Andrew WK when he first came out. I thought he was a parody of rock music, not the genuine article, and some of my former coworkers at my college radio station poisoned the well for me, because they were comparing his music to metal and hardcore, which is how he was being sold by the labels at the time. My mind changed very quickly when I listened through I Get Wet the first time. Once I released that not only was AWK more of just a rocker than some sort of metal maestro and that the comparisons were all tainted, I managed to see through to the music and how much I truly liked it. Now I can easily put that album in my top 10 and list his live shows amongst the best times I have ever had at a concert.
Last night me and some coworkers (including friend of the show Chris Gsell) went to his I Get Wet “reunion” show at Webster Hall here in NYC and we had a blast, one worth writing about. Opening for AWK was Aleister X and Math the Band. In honesty I did not see Aleiser X, as we wanted to get food before the show and then we met with some friends in the basement of the hall for a drink or 2. Once we had our fill of whatever was on tap (I think it was PBR, I don’t question when someone else is buying) we went back upstairs to the show to catch Math the Band.
Chris was already big into them, I had heard only one song prior to seeing them live. My initial reaction to them was that they were doing something I liked in that their music is a loose combination of Punk with 8 bit synth/NES system sounds. I also felt they were a bit too Hipster-ish for me. The band is a guy/girl Duo hailing from Providence, RI, which is kinda a cool town but has that that grimy underbelly of scraggly beards, vintage clothing, and fixed speed bikes. Seeing them live did sell me on them musically however, as they were a ton of fun and I could put the hipster look aside.
The band put forth a lot of energy and the songs we all loud, fast, and mostly distorted (as punk rock should be). The movements on stage were frantic and kinetic, with the guitarist basically playing jump rope with his guitar strap by taking it on and off again, and the keyboardist switching between playing electronica and slamming a single cymbal and a floor tom. The crowd did not really know how to react at first it would seem, as for all the energy on stage, the floor was mostly still. One could safely assume that people really were there to see Andrew WK and either did not know what to do with the energy they were being given or were just saving it for the main show. About halfway through the show a few fans showed up with energy to spare and got the floor moving. The pit was pretty open and people had good spirits, though the floor was mostly just friendly bumping and pogoing.
This is a band that I could totally see playing at PAX, and I for one would love to see the musical acts diversify at the con and for it to add even a fraction of the energy these guys had to it’s lineup.
Once Math finished their set it was time for the big show.
AWK went on at 9:15 and after a brief opening build up went into “It’s time to party”. It was also at this time that the floor lit up and I was compelled to pretend I was still 20 years old and push my way into the pit. The crowd was pretty mashed together, there was no intricate choreography taking place, there was simply no room.
This tour, being in honor of I Get Wet, followed that album as its set list. The show was start to finish of the pre-encore segments was song for song in order. Here’s the list in case you didn’t know (also shame on you if you don’t):
It’s Time to Party
Girls Own Love
Ready to Die
Take It Off
Mexican Hat Dance/I Love NYC
She Is Beautiful
Party Till You Puke
Got to Do It
I Get Wet
Don’t Stop Living in the Red
I won’t go into a song by song replay for you. If you were not there nothing I can say can do justice to the show experience, it is just an energy you need to be part of. I will however hit you with a personal event that took place that gave me several hundred heart attacks. During Party Till You Puke, one of my favorite songs off the album, I decided that my 10 year self imposed hiatus from getting on stage was well past due to end. With the help of a few fans, I managed to get a hoist onto the stage, where I got on mic with Andrew for a verse. This, in honesty, is not a big deal because getting on stage with Andrew at his shows is really only limited by the space on the stage and your will to do it. I almost think that getting on stage really is just part of the Andrew WK concert experience. Everything was Jim Dandy until this point.
Not wanting to be a glory hog (I so am), once the chorus kicked off I decided it was time to do my dive and have my story for the night. As I took a step onto the monitor and pushed myself off, literally just as I got past the point of no return and could not stop the jump, I felt my wedding ring come off my hand. I was pretty sweated out so I honestly think it probably just had enough grease to fly off when proper force was applied. If you’re not married you may not be able to relate to this, but to any man who is reading this who is married, I am sure a wave of panic just crossed over you. Beside the financial burden of replacing a ring, the emotional weight on you and/or your wife can be just massive. Plus my wife would actually beat the shit out of me for this, fully aware I can’t hit her back. I imagine my face about midway through the dive would have been pretty priceless, I hope someone has a picture of it somewhere.
So now I have just landed on some people and I am being pushed away from the stage by the momentum of the crowd. Normally when surfing the first reaction a person has is to relax and go with and maintain balance. I was frantically trying to right myself and get back on the floor so I could look for my ring, which my instincts are telling me is on the stage. I managed to hit the ground without taking anyone out but pulled both my calf muscles pretty hard, not enough that the adrenaline would not keep me going the rest of the night but I certainly still feel my legs telling me I did something dumb as I write this. Once I adjusted myself to being upright, I pushed my way back to the stage.
It is at this point in the article I want to stop and just tell anyone who is reading this who happened to be between me and the stage at that point that I am profusely sorry, because I manhandled people like never before to get back to that stage. Literally it is probably the closest I will get to being one of those guys who does too much PCP that starts ripping car doors off looking for invisible rabbits.
I get back to the stage, give a quick look, and literally like Bilbo in the Misty Mountains, I see my ring staring back at me between two stage monitors, just out of reach. As I am clawing back to the stage to grab it, a stage hand walks up to adjust the monitor that I kicked sideways. I must have dug my nails an inch into his arm to get his attention, and believe me his first reaction was not “How can I help you sir?” The very fact that I got my ring back and my wife will not beat the hell out of me is astonishing. So I got my story at least. After that event I took a sideline for a few songs. I came back out to enjoy I Get Wet as it is my favorite song on the album.
Andrew did a few musical items that were not album pieces scattered about the main set list, including a song medley which included Panteras Walk played on a guitar shaped like a slice of pizza, and a cover of Angel of the Morning and the Mexican hat dance which actually elicited a real reaction from the audience, really a reaction that only Andrew could elicit.
Once the main album set was over, Andrew did his first encore which included a few of the more high energy tracks off his later albums and a new song, which I believe was titled Headbang. At least that was an appropriate title if not the real one. It was actually uncharacteristically hard for him, with a very metal / Hardcore breakdown. I do have high hopes for a new album that is closer to I Get Wet than not, so hopefully this is just a prelude to that.
Andrew closed the night with We Want Fun, which I constantly forget was not on the release of I Get Wet. I had to jump in one last time for sure, once New York remembered who they were and opened up a circle pit. The night ended with a bang just as everyone had hoped.
Overall the show was fantastic. What Andrew managed to create with I Get Wet is a musical accomplishment that cannot be encapsulated just by the album itself, you really need to be part of the show. I am glad that I saw him live during the release of the album and now so many years later to see that it held up and is no less exciting than it was before. Seeing the show really made me long for a time 10 years ago when someone could release an album like this and people could fall in love with it based on its merits, even with it defying the conventions of the time. It also makes me look at what is now considered “Party rock” music (LMFAO) and cringe a big, because Andrew shows you how it can be done and be genuine.