The first time I saw Andrew W.K. was in the summer of 2002. I was about to start my first year of college, and as a last hurrah, my three siblings, my future sister-in-law and I all went to see A.W.K. at the Recher Theatre in my hometown of Baltimore County. I can’t remember if the show was sold out, but I do recall lots of sweaty dudes pushing through the 700-capacity venue’s haze (Remember when you could smoke inside?) to get to the front of the stage. A.W.K.’s I Get Wet had come out in November 2001, and although we’d all been drawn to it initially because of the ridiculousness of its party anthem titles—”It’s Time To Party,” “Party Hard,” “Party Til You Puke”—somewhere along the way, our feelings for A.W.K.’s absurdity had turned into a genuine love. The songs and the man behind them were so campy, so exaggerated and so earnest that they seemed like something out of a John Waters movie, which may explain why Waters was standing next to us chain smoking at the Recher that night. This kind of thing was right up his alley, and beneath his pencil-thin mustache lurked a bemused smirk that only faded momentarily when one of us jumped on his foot while moshing. “Well, she’s having fun,” Waters said.
It’s disturbing to me that it has been nearly 10 years since that show (Oh, to be a teenager again.) and longer than that since the album’s release. In honor of the LP’s anniversary, A.W.K. embarked on a celebratory tour in March where he and his full band play I Get Wet in its entirety at every show. The tour came to Webster Hall last night, and once again, loads of sweaty dudes, and a handful of females this time, shoved past me to get closer to the stage. A.W.K. and his band—four (totally necessary) guitarists, one bassist, one drummer and A.W.K.’s wife on backing vocals—played between two walls of speakers and beneath a giant cutout of A.W.K.’s bloodied face, a tribute to the I Get Wet album cover. A.W.K., dressed in his traditional whites, started with “It’s Time To Party,” the opening cut from the album, and ripped through the songs chronologically from there. It was on track No. 2, “Party Hard,” that the bodies started to fly.
Hordes of people, many dressed in the A.W.K. uniform of white T-shirts and white jeans, began jumping onto the stage, screaming a couple of verses and then throwing themselves into the crowd. Some took a graceful fall backward, while others opted for complete backflips. People really lost their shit during “I Love NYC,” which A.W.K. introduced as a “song about the greatest city in the world!” He somehow acquired a Yankees cap during the song, which he wore but added, “Don’t forget the Mets too!” The bouncers were finally allowed to do their jobs and clear the stage of A.W.K. doppelgangers shortly after, leaving room for the man of the hour to play a chopped up, electrified version of “O Come, All Ye Faithful” on a guitar designed to look like a slice of pizza.
After finishing the I Get Wet run, the players left the stage but returned soon after for an encore. “Someone vomited down my pant leg!” A.W.K. announced, seemingly unfazed. And that’s the beauty of this guy: Nothing depletes his enthusiasm while he’s on stage—not getting pushed around by eager fans, not screaming for an hour and a half, not even getting puked on. Sure, a lot of his songs sound the same because of repeated themes—partying—and power chords. But when there’s so much heartfelt energy and headbanging going into them, I don’t see how even the biggest crank couldn’t be moved to joy while watching this guy play live. “Music is god!” A.W.K. screamed. And at the end of the night, as 50 or so of his newest best friends crowded the stage to sing along to “We Want Fun,” I believed him. It was a similar scene to how I left him that night in 2002 at the Recher, screaming, smiling, surrounded by fans. People sometimes change over time. But in 10 years, Andrew W.K. has not. And I love him for it.
Photos by Alix Piorun