So Andrew WK. What do I know about Andrew WK? The answer? Sweet FA. The only exposure I’ve had is from living in the UK and seeing Party Hard on pretty heavy rotation on Kerang TV. And that’s all she wrote. So with mind wide open, I joined the denim-clad and hairy in the queue outside the Corner Hotel on an evening when Richmond had a close win against the Bulldogs. Swan Street was awash with Yellow and Black and I decided it wise to keep my mouth shut about barracking for Collingwood!
There are 2 supports on the bill. First up, Bare Bones from Sydney. Triple J describe them as a Punk Rock, Hardcore hybrid, which I reckon about sums up the sound. Certainly, by 3 songs in, I was pretty sure that what I was hearing was unique, something that I’m sure led to them being chosen as one of the Triple J unearthed Soundwave winners, giving them a spot on the bill with legends such as Faith No More, Soundgarden and Slip Knot. Lead singer Tom Kennedy has a great set of lungs and delivers on the vocals in a great rock voice that sits comfortably between the more melodic rock and a hardcore scream.
Melbourne, punk/ska/metal favorites, The Bennies were up next and the stage is crowded with gear including turntables, macs and other gizmos. Not to mention a generous selection of beers and other mixers and coke that are strategically placed around the stage. The Bennies are well known for their good time performances but from their lyrical subject matter, I suspect their parties are usually fuelled by an alternative substance (or substances). Featuring tracks with names like High Like an Angel, Mushy Tea and Licensed to Chill, their 9 song set leaves little to the imagination when it comes to their favorite offstage pastime.
Usually a four piece, for this night, they had pulled out all the stops and are supported by a 3 piece horn section, and a DJ to add a bit of scratchy scratchy to their party sound. Lead singer Anty Horgan is like a pint-sized Energiser Bunny, jumping around the stage to the high energy beat. The horn section adds great layers to the reggae sound, especially when Anty starts twiddling the knobs on his voice synthesizer thingy beefing it up further. The vocals are shared between Anty and bass player, Craig Selak with guitarist “King” Jules Rozenbergs taking his turn as well. The energy is high and from my position at the back of the Corner Hotel, the dance floor is starting to go off. The stage is well and truly set for Andrew W.K. to continue with the party.
As always at the Corner Hotel, the aged red velvet curtain is drawn across the stage to ramp up the anticipation prior to the headliner’s appearance. After enough of a break to let the assembled partiers lubricate sufficiently, the lights are off and an Electronic voice is heard uttering these prophetic words “Party, Party, Party.” First out is the drummer who lays down a beat and incites the crowd into a rousing fist pump in time to the beat. Andrew’s band (except for the drummer who appears to have just left high school) are old time rock and rollers. All hair and denim with a million road miles under their belts. Andrew W.K. appears all muscles, teeth, and hair with a big scream. In his trademark grubby white T-shirt that looks to have ended up in the black wash one time too many, he reminds me of Tom Cruise. You know, the Tom Cruise who jumps around on couches on a talk show like some congenial, slightly unhinged evangelist? That Tom Cruise. Only this time the message is a simple one….”Music makes life worth living.” Well, I won’t disagree with you there, Andrew.
So having come from a place of complete ignorance at the Corner Hotel, I have since done a bit of research. Andrew (or Andrew Fetterly Wilkes-Krier as his passport will say) is here in Melbourne as the keynote speaker at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival! WTF?! I am surprised, because the voice that is heard in the between song banter, reminds me more of Bill and Ted than Clive James as he delivers the inspiring line “I will now play a guitar, shaped like a pizza.” And he did, although keyboards, or more accurately, a kind of honky-tonk/rock hybrid style piano which features heavily in each song and occasional piano solo.
Much like The Bennies, I think you can tell a lot about Andrew W.K. by the song titles. E.g. Beer Again, Tear It Up, I Get Wet (a song about sweating), It’s time to Party and Pushing Drugs. The Party message permeates all but the sold out crowd are loving it and are rallying to his cry.
After an hour, they pop off for what I thought must be an intermission, but in fact, was the break before encore. A bit premature I’d say but whatever. Naturally, the call from the crowd for him to return was “Party….. Party.” The band returns to oblige us with a 5 song encore. Violent Life, It’s Time to Party and Pushing Drugs continue the theme before a countdown into the obligatory rendition of Party Hard. Now when I say countdown, I mean countdown from one hundred. Well that’s one way to kill 5 minutes of a show. It seemed a bit excessive but the crowd were certainly well on board from about 20 down to 1. And then those immortal words “When it’s time to party you must party hard.” And we did.
I’m reading the theme of the Writer’s Festival Opening Gala that Andrew was here to speak at. “Life is complex and we all try our best. So let’s toast survival, joy, resilience and pure existence.” So maybe Andrew W.K. was the obvious and best choice to head the event as his simple message of joy and living without fear of consequence is one I wish we all could adopt, if only from time to time… Maybe we should not need a reason to let loose and all we need is some encouragement and a soundtrack to party to?
Review Contributed by Wendy Smith