Andrew W.K. Packs ‘Em in At the Hi-Fi
The first glimpse I got of Andrew W.K. was when my brother and I nearly ran him over in the parking lot adjacent to the Hi-Fi. It was one of those moments that you can’t quite believe, no matter how clearly you’ve fixed it in memory. It was one of those things you know you’re going to carry for the rest of your days. The concert…well, wasn’t like that. Even so, it was pretty good. Andrew W.K. has built his career on a philosophy of partying. Most of his more well-known songs revolve around the subject, as does his persona. It’s not a particularly intelligent philosophy, but then, it doesn’t need to be. I mean, who doesn’t love a good party, right? And a good party is what the very large crowd who turned out at the Hi-Fi got.
In case you didn’t read the title, on the 9th of May the Hi-Fi hosted a concert given by one Andrew W.K. The California-born, but Michigan raised, musician first entered public consciousness in the early 2000s with the album I Get Wet. Among other things, the album gained a fair bit of infamy for its cover art. Namely, a close-up of Andrew W.K.’s face with blood pouring out of his nose, courtesy of a self-applied brick to the schnoz. An image which, when you think about it, set the tone for his career pretty well. Since then, he’s expanded his offerings beyond music, even entering the self-help market.
Because it’s always nice to support local artists, W.K.’s show featured an appearance by The Day After. Formed in 2008, The Day After is a mostly DIY outfit working in Indy’s surprisingly varied musical scene.
The Hi-Fi usually doesn’t have any attendance problems I’m aware of, but if they do than the surge of people kicking their doors down to see Andrew W.K. probably made up for it and then some. I’ve never seen the Hi-Fi as packed as I saw it last Wednesday, or as active. Management had actually cleared out the tables from everywhere except the VIP section. Well, that’s not quite true. They did leave one table near the stage, but it didn’t stay for long. Especially after the show began. SRO folks. S.R.O.
The Day After
The Day After were first up for the evening. And if the shear chronological confusion of that sentence gives you whiplash, trust me you’re not alone. They proved to be a fairly ordinary and straightforward pop-punk outfit, easycore really, with some hard rock accents. In my opinion, they took a little too much from Linkin Park’s playbook. While that’s not a bad place to start, their sound never grows beyond that. They’re not bad, really, just generic.
Although I can’t fault them on a technical level, The Day After were ultimately forgettable. Oh, they screamed and howled, and I will admit that the heavy rumble of their guitars got your attention, but there wasn’t much to distinguish them from comparable acts.
Credit where it’s due, Andrew W.K. knows how to make an entrance. Now, forget any ideas you may have of him leaping out onto stage like Freddie Mercury with rocket boots. No, a couple booms from his opening number was enough for that.
Especially given the size of the speaker cabinets that lined the back of the stage like a collection of monoliths. While they didn’t push the kind of wattage that an outfit like Ministry would use, they were more than sufficient. Because the thing about Andrew W.K.’s music? It’s loud. Really, really loud.
In terms of style, Andrew W.K. uses a mixture of metal and punk to get his gospel of partying across. Of course, when I describe his music as a mixture of punk and metal, I’m speaking in the broadest terms possible. Like many great musicians, W.K.’s sound is almost wholly his own, give or take a few influences. For example, his music has some similarity to the anthem rockers of the late 70s and 80s, but they’re superficial at best. Really, the basis of W.K.’s sound seems to be his ability to mix quiet instruments, like the piano, with very loud ones. As a result, he creates a sound that is at once playful and smoldering, much like W.K. himself.
Overall, his music is almost like leaping from the top of a skyscraper with a parachute that may or may not work. A mixture of exhilaration and sheer terror that pushes you past your threshold and into one hell of a motor high. You know, like a party. But even leaving all that aside, his most important trait as a musician is his infectious energy and exuberant stage presence.
Come for the Concert, Stay for the Free Sauna
And exuberance is what we got, brothers and sisters. I think the only thing that kept him from leaping around the stage like a gazelle on a triple espresso drip was the 6 odd other musicians he had to share it with. Still, even rooted to his spot at the front of the stage, he still managed to give himself a full calisthenic workout. A nice fit with the soaring guitar that cracked and boomed from the speakers behind him.
He ran through a fair selection of his hits, “Time to Party”, “Get Ready to Die” among them. Guaranteed crowd pleasers all, and fitting with the atmosphere he generated. Speaking of which, let me share something with you, the Hi-Fi is moderately-sized venue no matter how you slice it. So, when you cram just shy of a hundred people in their, standing shoulder to shoulder, the air fills with heat, sweat, and god know what else. It stank, it was borderline suffocating. Then Andrew fired the smoke effects off. Can you say sauna? Even so, nobody cared. They danced and danced and danced, even though there was a serious risk of spontaneous human combustion.
And really, that’s getting at the core of what Andrew W.K. is about. There’s an element of reckless abandon, to be sure, but he never makes it dark. Quite the opposite, there’s a deep sense of bonhomie that underpins his music. Ergo, you dance like a maniac because you’re having fun, not out of desperate hedonism. Frankly, Andrew W.K. is just what Naptown needed right now, a mega-party to cheer us all up after a long, depressing winter. In that he succeeded and gave us a damn good show in the bargain.
Keep listening, everybody.