The mass email from Andrew W.K. came into my best friend’s inbox and even though I only knew the simplistic, punch-along lyrics to “Party Hard,” we were one of the first 100 people to reply, earning us tickets to watch the man in dirty-white pound a few out on Liberace’s mirrored piano. How the famed, reflective Baldwin grand got to the Gibson Guitar showroom (two blocks off Rodeo Drive) from its permanent perch at Kitsch HQ in Vegas, I’ll never know, but there it was, missing its see-through Lucite top and some mirrored squares on the legs, but it was THERE with 100 lucky emailers surrounding it.
Andrew W.K. emerged from a black velvet box and stumbled over a nonsensical speech (about how we should make sure to bring extra quarters to the store when we’re buying water to tip the cashier. WTF?) before sitting at the mirrored beast and improvising simplistic songs about food, being a boy and dog ownership. Clearly hanging out in another dimension where he wasn’t expected to play the instrument in front of fans, Andrew (despite being classically trained since age 4) banged out staccato couplets until they bled into a garbled Nordstrom piano-player audition over which he sang, “You gotta eat food/You gotta eat to live.” His voice was not of Andrew W.K. but instead wandered lost between Bob Dylan’s hiccupping and Randy Newman’s laziness. And even though Andrew’s just-released album is comprised entirely of made-up-on-the-spot piano songs, this was just weird. Not party-‘til-you-puke, force-your-nose-to-bleed-because-it-looks-badass weird (which I was half-expecting), but more upside-own-sunglasses-at-night, I’m-mad-at-my-label-so-I’m-going-to-dick-around-on-Liberace’s-piano weird.
Eventually, he pulled it together enough to play keg-worthy anthems like “Party Hard” and “Get Wet,” which, surprisingly, translated well to the piano. And with his signature tunes coming out of Liberace’s piano, Andrew finally flourished. The pre-written lyrics allowed him to focus on unique re-harmonizations and the audience screamed the songs’ namesake choruses, stoked to be only arms-distance away from the headbanging man dressed like a Heartland mechanic.
I might have been puzzled when he got the crowd to alternately chant “Mrs. Washington” and “asshole Tuesdays” for a whole minute (and again when I realized that his improv songs are only as dry as his humor), but Andrew W.K.’s numerous erratic moments were overshadowed by the epic Beethoven-ness of his rare coherent ones. Oh, yeah. The glittery piano helped, too.