By: Joe Dahlstrom
Andrew W.K. :: 11.15.08 :: Le Poisson Rouge :: New York, NY
I was looking for something to do, and came across a show in the Village Voice that struck my curiosity. Andrew W.K., a popular hard rock party musician, was advertised to be playing at Le Poisson Rouge, a jazz/classical music lounge in the heart of Greenwich Village, with the Calder String Quartet. Curious to see Andrew W.K., who was declared a musical prodigy at an early age, I decided that I would brave the cover charge and drink minimums to see something new.
I approached Le Poisson Rouge and received interesting looks from the bouncers, as I found out that I was heavily underdressed, in pants and a sweatshirt, soaked by the rain, as opposed to the typical jazz lounge attire. I found a nice table in the corner with a good view of the piano and prepared myself for what looked like either a great success or great disaster.
As the show opened with what was listed on the program as "Let Us Get Physical," I heavily contemplated leaving, as it was almost too avant-garde and minimalist for my taste. However, I was immediately happy that I stayed through the introductory piece for the second song, performed by The Calder Quartet without AWK's help. Titled "Interface" (composed by Tristan Perich), it was a piece that the string quartet played with a four channel 1-bit MIDI pattern. I could not help but be astounded by a string quartet using such an innovation.
The next song, "Brandenburg Hey Hey Hey" was W.K.'s rendition of J.S. Bach's baroque piece that was interrupted by multiple "Hey's" over the PA. Andrew then made the abrupt transition from baroque to a party anthem with only one strong "Hey!"
The Calder Quartet's next selection was played with an electronic stringed instrument affectionately called "Bot(i)Cello." This piece, titled "Honey Flyers" (composed by Christine Southworth) was an absolutely beautiful song reminiscent of a combination of God Is An Astronaut mixed with the Tosca Tango Orchestra's Waking Life soundtrack, with huge dramatic breaks and patterns that drew out the beauty of these "Honey Flyers."
After a short intermission, The Calder Quartet played another track, also beautiful, but not as dynamic nor interesting as Southworth's "Flyers." Next, AWK played an improvisational set with Bot(i)Cello, which showcased three things: W.K.'s talent, his sense of humor and his complete contrast to the usual crowd at Le Poisson Rouge.
Finally, the moment I was waiting for (along with about half the audience) arrived. Andrew's set of original party music, but played on piano with the string quartet. "I Get Wet" came first, and seemed mostly as a sing-a-long for the party crowd that came to see what AWK was up to with this new project. His ever-popular anthem "Party Hard" was next and was absolutely as enticing and beautiful as it was energetic. Appropriately, "I Love New York City" was next, and it followed suit as a group sing-fest, as with most Andrew W.K. songs. Lastly, Andrew played a song called "Dance Party" and offered an invitation to all of us to come to the stage and dance with him as he ran around, banging his drum and offering us a chance to sing the chorus into the microphone.
The last song of the show was a beautiful rendition of John Cage's "4'33"." I call it beautiful because of the affect it had on the audience. About half of the crowd knew the point of the silent piece. However, it was quite obvious that the typical Andrew W.K. party crowd was unsure what to think, as they shouted and chanted for more.
All in all, it was an entirely satisfying show and I hope Andrew W.K. continues to do this. This was truly a night to break stereotypes and was definitely a new experience for all present.
Andrew W.K. "I Get Wet" - 11.15.08 - Le Poisson Rouge
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