At 10pm the Hawthorne Theatre‘s house lights dimmed and were replaced with the flashing reds and blues that, for many, signal the end of good times. While it was hard to understand all the prerecorded words broadcast over the PA system, the one that would become this evening’s mantra was soon joined by the crowd in hearty unison: “Party! Party! Party!” Dressed in white, the ultimate party-rocker Andrew W.K. descended the stage right staircase and kicked off the first night of his Party Messiah Tour to a crowded and near-frothing Portland audience. But first, the audience would hear two local openers.
Portland’s Black Snake started the night off with a drop-tuned rehashing of late ’80s stoner metal and thrash punk. To say such-and-such metal band is influenced by Black Sabbath is to say that water is wet. But how a band implements the trailblazing guitar work of Mr. Iommi can either elevate them to masters of a well-regarded style or leave them within the pack of decent, yet not particularly noteworthy metal hessians. This I would ponder throughout their set. The quartet’s greatest strength was found within their imagery; a full tapestry of tattoos, Gibson guitars and Orange, Ampeg and 5150 amp heads. If anything, this might have been too much of a good thing for the relatively small size of the theatre. In the end the audience seemed more enlivened by the several mentions of the headliner’s name than the songs Black Snake performed. They did, however, fight the good fight.
Fellow Portlanders Sons of Huns hit closer to the mark. Sometimes less is more; in their hands the power trio format left plenty of room for vocalist/guitarist Pete Hughes’ twisting leads while still retaining the crushing force that a good stoner rock band should strive for. The rhythm section of bassist/vocalist Shoki Tanabe and drummer Ryan Northrop proved to be the fountainhead of the band’s power. Though the bulk of the crowd was clearly there only to see Andrew W.K., Sons of Huns surely won over new fans with the right blend of heavy songs, unfiltered melody and jocular banter. Their mid-tempo grooves and neck-snapping change-ups were just the right medicine to warm up the crowd for the party that was to come. Keep your ears keen for the Sons of Huns Banishment Ritual album release this November.
And then the party really started. The only thing you really need to know about going to an Andrew W.K. show is that you’re going to have a great time. With just a microphone, a keyboard with pre-recorded tracks and a little response-vocal/dancing help from his hype man/road pal Blakey Boy, the white-clad beacon of positivity whipped the assembled souls into a squalling, crowd-surfing throng of joy. Fresh off a tour opening for Black Sabbath (!), Andrew is continuing his experiment as a one-man band with the Party Messiah Tour, freeing the stage of instruments in favor of more room for revelry. As he exclaimed at one point, “This whole room is a stage!” Not that it mattered; no less than half of the audience climbed onto the stage at one point or another to dance, hi-five and catapult back into or on top of the crowd. Glitter bombs exploded, sweat was passed from faces to naked strangers’ backs and the ghost of Macho Man Randy Savage was somehow brought back into temporal form in this weird, joyous séance.
What’s immediately striking about Andrew W.K.’s show is the flood of good intentions. He made it a point to mention that we are all friends, that this night will never be repeated and that together we can all have a great time. His mid-set mini sermons did achieve that unification; a single-minded togetherness found more often in religious ceremonies and football games than rock shows. And then the goofy dancing and boogie-woogie piano playing would once again erupt in an up-tempo, sugar-spun celebration of the now. The photos of his set are blurry for a reason. Whether in the midst of the action or taking a muggy breather from the balcony, these photojournalistic intentions were quickly swept aside. Such is the side-effect of the correct dosage of a proper good time.by Maurice Spencer Teilmann on September 12, 2013