Andrew W.K. is a certifiable musical genius.
He’s also created something disturbing, an Insane Clown Posse for white guys who don’t want to take it that far. The concept is simple: catchy songs full of guitars with topics like girls and partying. Pro wrestling coming from an instrument and a microphone. People in the crowd at Andrew W.K. shows lose their sh*t from the second he appears until the second he leaves, and there isn’t a moment of downtown, not a moment where things slow down. The bloody nose on his iconic album cover isn’t art, it’s a mission statement.
And at the same time, what kind of asshole doesn’t like Andrew W.K.? Time magazine called him, “truly cute.” I feel like you’d have to be heartless to not at least appreciate the performance — a guy in all white doing not a lot more than hand gestures while a literal front line of musicians and fist pumpers go nutso. It becomes less about music and more about the vibe of a room, if you can call guys in sleeveless denim vests doing forward rolls while they crowd surf a “vibe.” Like the McCabe & Mrs. Miller of hard rock shows.
He opened with “It’s Time To Party,” because it was time to party. He closed things out with a song that was also about partying. In the middle he urged us to party, and Cherie Lily, acting as the Fergie of the ensemble, handed out fist bumps. Sh*t, how do you even review an Andrew W.K. set? “He came out and was Andrew W.K. He continued to be Andrew W.K. until he left.”
Not to be overshadowed are the Screaming Females, headed up by “King Mike” and Marissa Paternoster, rising up like some time displaced, musically-unstoppable Bobby Hill and Connie Souphanousinphone. They didn’t get any fist pumps or fuel any pits, but Paternoster lit up anybody else who dared to play guitar in the same building. In a better world, they’d be headlining the festival somewhere.
So yeah, out of all the shows I’ve been to at SXSW so far, Brooklyn Vegan’s showcase was the biggest party. Whether or not that was directly ordered is beside the point.