“PAR-TY, PAR-TY, PAR-TY!” One word repeated by a God-like voice blasted through the speakers at Portland’s Wonder Ballroom on September 25th. The music accompanying the chant felt like the soundtrack to an epic movie, as if the party gods were summoning their troops to battle. In a way, this is exactly what was happening, as the party gods that are Andrew W.K. and his band were about to take the stage.
While Andrew W.K. is undoubtedly always up for partying, but The Party Never Dies Tour has some reasoning behind it. He recently announced his first new album in over a decade, so when W.K. and his compatriots hit the stage there was cause for celebration beyond the basic human urge to party. For the entire 90-minute performance, every song felt like a celebration, as if the band was playing their grand finale over and over again. The crowd joined in by leaving their adult selves at home in favor of non-stop crowd surfing and pure joy. Musically, Andrew W.K.’s sound is essentially piano rock on steroids with a touch of baroque. Songs like “Take It Off”, “Totally Stupid”, and “You Will Remember Tonight” felt like triumphant onslaughts with three guitarists shredding constantly, and soaring synths and piano. At times the band’s anthemic sound brought to mind acts like Twisted Sister and Thin Lizzy, but more metal and punk with plenty of bar band splendor to revel in. There were tender moments too, like when W.K. laid into a beautiful solo on a pizza shaped guitar, but the real magic came from songs that invited chanting like “Party Till You Puke”, “I Love NYC” (NYC was replaced with Oregon), and “Pushing Drugs”. These were the songs that allowed common men and women to become party legends as they basked in crowd surfing glory, raised high with the support of their party brothers and sisters. One shirtless man even accomplished the epic feat of crowd surfing during one of W.K.’s quieter piano solos.
Only a bandleader like Andrew W.K. could convince an audience to join in on an 80-second countdown before a song, and that is exactly what he did as he closed out triumphantly with his most famous and quintessential song, “Party Hard”. By this point even those who hadn’t been moshing and crowd surfing were sweating and smiling, a natural physical reaction to experiencing pure unadulterated rock and roll joy for 90 minutes straight. In our divisive times Andrew W.K. reminds us that we don’t always need to take sides. In Portland his devoted fans united under one roof for the sole purpose of partying with one of rock music’s most entertaining acts.
See it to believe it…