The iconic, towering nose-bleeding backdrop looms overhead when Andrew WK’s set begins, flanked by a wall of speakers and stadium ready lights. While the drummer pounds out a driving beat, he’s joined onstage by a bass player, two metalhead guitar players, and a third guitarist that could be the twin sister of the scene stealing Domino from Deadpool, all shredding their instruments with precision and power. Then, our star walks on, picks up his mic, spreads his arms, and lets loose the high, operatic falsetto opening notes of “Music Is Worth Living For”. This is Andrew WK.
After this opening, I had a smile on my face the likes of which I haven’t had from a show lately. I had never seen Andrew WK before, but had been prepared by photographer Ray and from other friends that his shows were a riot. One friend reported back that this 6”something, huge man still crowd surfs. While none of this took place, he more than lived up to this reputation.
Andrew WK performs with a truly unique powerful physical exuberance and joy, a heartwarming picture of modern positive masculinity. Hugely talented, he’s a classically trained pianist, guitar player, and singer, who vacillates between hardcore worthy guttural screams and concerto-level piano breakdowns, all while preaching his gospel of his earnest and very openly defined ‘Party’ ideology. Andrew WK is incredibly inspiring, and on his latest album, You’re Not Alone, he embraces this with his characteristically wide open (and scarily muscular) arms.
With lighter songs like “Party Mindset” and “I Don’t Know Anything” interspersed with spoken word tracks like “The Feeling of Being Alive” and anthemic “Keep On Going”, he headbangs along the line of dopey, overgrown bro and brilliant motivational speaker and performance artist. In this day of rising feminist power, Andrew WK’s inclusive and positive masculinity is an example all young men should learn from to rise alongside and lift empowered women. If you’re new to his tracks, throw on “She Is Beautiful” for an example of this, or check out this video of him performing with his wife, model and artist Cherie Lily. They’re a hilarious pair, and it’s all unquestionably silly (at one point WK announces “This is the point in the show where I play a guitar shaped like a taco”) but that’s what makes his brilliance evident- it catches you off guard to the point where you fully notice the power of what he’s saying when it goes there.
And then- “You’re Not Alone”. After being blown away by the entire band’s incredible showmanship, and laughing my face off with the spectacle of the journey that is an Andrew WK live show, just before closing the show he breaks into his album’s victorious title track. I felt like I’d been punched in the gut. “Your journey’s not over, it’s just begun… if you’re frightened, if you’re worried, you’re not alone… hand in hand, we’ll take the step into the great unknown”. Tears streaming down my cheeks, while the guitarist shreds out a face melting solo, I was thrust back into my own tragic story (as too many of us have) of a loved one ending their life, heartbroken that they hadn’t had this song and this human as an example to maybe, just maybe, pull them back to life. In the middle of this intense emotion, I also felt inspired and proud that this exists to be a lifeline for those it’s not too late for. I’m aware it’s dramatic to slap WK with all of this weight, but this is the kind of messaging we need in this dark, cruel world we find ourselves in today. I wish I could thank Andrew for this song and for everything he’s doing to preach his gospel. This article will have to do.
I’ll leave you with lines from spoken “The Feeling of Being Alive”, regarding the deep fear we all experience in our lives of simply LIVING-
“It’s a challenge you are ultimately worthy of. Rather than dread or resent this challenge, we can embrace it, we can learn from it, and we can celebrate it. Life is very intense but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. Understanding this is what partying is all about.”