Louder Than War | By Andy Santiago | Photo by David Wala
The Wardrobe, Leeds 29th July 2014
Andrew W.K. plays Leeds – just a room full of people going absolutely mental to a thoroughly uplifting and righteous racket. Andy Santiago bears witness.
“Well, if you don’t like that, you’re a miserable get.”
Mark Radcliffe on BBC Radio 1 in 2001 after playing his single of the week, Party Hard by Andrew W.K.
It’s an impossibility to argue with true wisdom and on the subject of Party Hard Mr Radcliffe was spot on.
Andrew W.K. burst on to the scene in 2001 with his debut album I Get Wet and with a great amount of hype from the NME who put him on the cover twice in the same issue and gave him the prestigious headline spot on the NME tour that also featured The Coral, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and Lostprophets.
I got to the Leeds and Manchester dates of that tour and there was no doubt at all, Andrew W.K. was a phenomenal force in a live situation.
After a couple of UK festival appearances, he seemed to vanish off the radar as far as this country is concerned but was always remembered with fondness.
It turns out in his absence from these shores he’s been far from inactive and as well as continuing with his music career, he’s also a self help and motivational performer, writer, nightclub and live music venue owner, record label owner and appears regularly on several TV shows.
So when I heard his Possessed By Partying solo tour would be calling at Leeds, I decided to go along and check things out.
Photo by Vicky Pea
I was at first quite skeptical when I found out this tour would involve nothing more than Andrew W.K., a keyboard and a drum machine. How was this going to work when the last few times I’d seen him was with a full band? I was even more concerned when the venue was moved from The Cockpit to somewhere I’d never even heard of in Leeds, The Wardrobe.
Anyway, due to roadworks in York and the Leeds inner ringroad, we sadly missed all but the last few seconds of the support act, Chris Catalyst (Eureka Machines, Ginger Wildheart Band, Sisters Of Mercy) who was doing an acoustic set, finishing off by playing a cover of Take on Me by Aha to a rather large and rowdy bunch that were gathered in front of the stage.
The venue was pretty packed and there was certainly an atmosphere of good natured expectancy in the room. The crowd was a diverse gathering, everyone from grizzled Metalheads, a smattering of Goths and even a large contingent of bearded Hipster types.
Eventually, the intro tape rolled, I guess it was some of the motivational stuff W.K. has been doing. Anyway, it had the desired effect and by the end of it, the entire room had raised it’s arms and was chanting TONIGHT WE PARTY! in an almost religious frenzy. A bald dude in a vest appeared on stage to hype things even more and then, looking exactly the same as he did at the turn of the millennium, clad in grubby white jeans and t shirt, Andrew W.K. walked on stage with a beaming grin and started to pound the shit out of his keyboard, the drum machine kicked in and the familiar sound of It’s Time To Party blasted out.
I honestly can’t remember a gig where the crowd went so ballistic from the very start, no getting warmed up or waiting for the hits, total and utter mayhem from the outset and not a hint of aggression or attitude. The pit just got wilder as the night went on and the two shaven headed security lads on opposite sides of the stage were looking more than a tad concerned by the events under their noses.
My initial scepticism was completely unfounded and this was turning out to be every bit as good as I remember the full band gigs been. The vest wearing bald dude (Blakey Boy as Andrew introduced him) remained on stage, sharing vocals and generally stirring up more carnage. By the time they played Ready To Die I found myself been slowly drawn ever closer to the sea of grinning faces, gleefully killing each other in the nicest way possible down at the front.
This was turning into a something quite spectacular, the atmosphere was nothing short of euphoric and I doubt there was anyone present who wasn’t having the time of their lives.
When W.K. introduced You Will Always Remember This Night, I genuinely believed him and started to wonder how madder this gig could get when the first wave of crowd surfers flew over my head and were deposited on stage only to be picked up and hugged by W.K. Security looking on, far from impressed.
Then came the words that sent something already insane into complete meltdown. “When it’s time to party, we will party hard”.
Suddenly, I was at the front, having an absolute blast. Never before have I seen a group of people try and form a human pyramid in the centre of a circle pit, no mean feat given the size of the room. The crowdsurfing became an epidemic and before long more than half of the crowd had swamped the stage in joyous raptures. The security battling to restore some semblance of order were involved in an act of futility.
I’m not sure if Party Hard was supposed to have been the set closer or the venue pulled the plug in the face of such crowd madness but Andrew W.K. shouted something I didn’t make out and left the stage to a chant of “We Want Fun!”, sadly, no encore and the house lights came up.
Waiting at the side of the room for my companion of the evening who had vanished, I ended up talking to several complete strangers about everything from Wildhearts tattoos, the similarities between Chester and York and my Kvelertak t shirt. It seemed like everyone in the room was part of some huge communal thing and everyone was a friend. Gigs are always communal things but this level of friendliness was previously unseen by me. As we spilled out on to the street, the party didn’t seem to be ending and new found best friends disappeared off into the Leeds night in search of more fun.
As far as sheer, unadulterated good times go, that was THE gig. No attitude, no holier than thou scenesters, just a room full of people going absolutely mental to a thoroughly uplifting and righteous racket. What more could you possibly want?
Andrew W.K. – Classic Grand, Glasgow | Sound The Charge! | Photo by Vicky Pea
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this won’t be the most impartial review ever written. I love Andrew W.K’s music. The same love a person shares for oxygen or a YouTube video of a penguin failing to jump onto a bit of ice. I will endeavour however to give a fair and balanced account of the time Andrew W.K. hosted a party in Glasgow.
If I’m being honest, I was apprehensive about tonight. A man, a keyboard and another guy (Blakey Boy I believe) on backing vocals isn’t usually the recipe for a good gig. However, as Andrew points out early in the set, this isn’t a gig, but a party (surprise!). The thought of Andrew W.K. hiring out a venue to host a party where he just plays his own tunes pleases me though, so I’m more than happy with this state of affairs.
The night opens with a monologue over the PA leading the assembled crowd in chants of “It’s Time To Party” while we all tried to figure out if we should be saying Party in a Scottish or American accent. This cumulated with them launching into the first party anthem (most of his songs can be described as such) of the night, It’s Time to Party. All of my fears were immediately dashed aside as the crowd went mental and the pints went flying.
The floor promptly turned into an ice rink after drink after drink rained down on the floor meaning the pit turned into some form of drunken figure skating event. Speaking of pits, you’ve never seen so many people pummelling each other, but at the same time, grinning like a kid on Christmas Day. By the end of the show, my cheek muscles had a dull throb in them from the constant smile plastered on my face.
It was a strange sight to see such an empty stage at a high energy show. The lack of guitars, drums or amps seemed slightly unnatural, but Andrew and Blakey Boy strived to fill the whole stage anyway. Whenever Andrew wasn’t playing his keyboard he was running about the stage dancing up a storm while Blakey Boy strode around handing out T-shirts to the crowd.
The enthusiasm for decade old party songs stayed at a high throughout. During the build up for Long Live The Party (or Dance Party, it seemed to be a mix of the two), the audience around me were sort of hopping in anticipation, when the song kicked in all hell let loose and the floor became that bit more slippery. Slide Pits should be a thing.
Similar stories go with Ready To Die where everyone from the bar staff to the crowd were moving through to We Want Fun, I Love NYC (or in this case, I Love Glasgow, Scotland) and the obvious Party Hard.
Sadly I missed my chance to invade the stage at this point with the rest of the crowd as a bouncer decided enough was enough, but I enjoyed the sheer level of insanity produced by crowd during that time.
After a countdown from somewhere in the 90s until zero, the night ended on my favourite AWK song, I Get Wet. With that, the somewhat short, but excellent show ended. The night however was not over as downstairs the after party was just kicking off. I entered on Andrew’s cover of the Mickey Mouse theme and decided that it really has to be added to his live sets.
Despite being a glorified karaoke, this is one of the best concerts I’ve been at. The sheer amount of positivity was mind blowing, as a guy who generally goes to concerts were the musicians sing about death, slaughter (or unicorns..) it was a nice change.
Seeing a person this full of joy, energy and just desire for life to be awesome is electrifying. If you’re ever presented the chance to see the man, just take it. Unless you hate fun, then it probably wouldn’t be for you.
Andrew W.K. – Classic Grand, Glasgow | Indulge-Sound | By Heather | Photo by Vicky Pea
There is no denying that in this moment in time, there is a buzz about in the town of Glasgow. Thanks to the Commonwealth games, people all around are hyped up and excited about the prospect of coming together to see winners come out on top, but most importantly, have a good time. Someone else who is here in Glasgow tonight who shares this same viewpoint is the one and only Andrew W.K. Returning now with the Possessed By Partying tour, following his stint in the UK with Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg, ready to Party Hard on his own terms.
The show opens just after 9pm, and the tension within the audience is sliced open with the sound of sirens from the PA. The party that everyone has been waiting for has finally arrived. Of course, Andrew W.K. (****) could not simply walk on stage without an introduction. Despite being advertised as a solo tour, one of his band mates walks out on stage and amps up the already enthused crowd. Then the headliner appears, majestic in his stance, clad in his iconic white shirt-and-trousers combo, sans nosebleed. It wouldn’t be surprising if the energy in the room would be enough to bring one on.
Of course, this show would not be what it was if it wasn’t for a motivational speech. We are encouraged to come together and to be happy and that tonight, is not a gig, but a party.
After that, it doesn’t take long for the crowdsurfers to begin travelling over the crowd. The upbeat, high energy noise is accompanied by eclectic sound from a single keyboard in the middle of the stage. Headbanging is imminent in both the performer and the audience as the night goes on and people are ever riled up. There is one lull in the night, however, when Andrew W.K. slows it down with a slow piano solo.
Duly picked up afterward, the night then descends into something like one big drunken family get together. People begin to pile onto the stage and suddenly it is heaving with fans young and old, male and female, long haired and nearly balding. The set is shorter than anticipated, with only an hour set, which concluded with Party Hard, followed by an countdown from 90 to the encore of I Get Wet.
Andrew W.K. – Classic Grand, Glasgow | Herald Scotland | By Ryan Drever | Photo by Will Barnes
What started as a seemingly novelty hard rock act in the early 2000s hell-bent on partying – with songs such as Party Til’ You Puke and Party Hard – has come to evolve into a much more profound and powerful entity, with Michigan native Andrew W.K. applying his message to a much broader motivational philosophy that encourages us all to enjoy the positive (or “party”) things in life and dispel the negatives and fears.
After a raucous turn from Glasgow punks The Jackhammers, it was just Andrew, a backing track and his keyboard this week (with his tour manager on backing vocals/hype-man duties). As the lights dimmed to the sound of sirens and “party” chants, he erupted into view and immediately launched into trademark “classic” It’s Time To Party. There was no need to tell anyone twice.
With a Cheshire cat grin built square into his face throughout, Andrew danced, pogoed, headbanged and hammered at his keyboard with manic proficiency as he fired out his own self-stylised party anthems, one after another, with little time to breathe. From We Want Fun to an extended chaotic version of Party Hard, and even a solo keyboard tribute to the Commonwealth Games, the crowd spent most of its time on the stage with the man himself, as he hit high-fives with every last hyped-up stage-diver and wrapped his arms around everyone as he screamed his lungs out.
Ending on a triumphant singalong version of I Get Wet, sweat practically cascading down the walls, it was difficult to imagine anyone else in a dirty white T-shirt and a keyboard whipping up such a frenzy. But then, not everyone is as confident, exciting and ridiculous as Andrew W.K.