Andrew W.K. parties with bloody-nose birthday cake at the Echoplex
How appropriate that a night of violent headbanging would culminate with Andrew W.K. clutching an edible version of his bloody-nosed noggin above the crowd at the Echoplex. Staring up at the stage from the heated mass of bodies and spilled booze, fans howled as the lord of piano-rock party anthems hoisted up a freakishly detailed birthday cake shaped like his face as if it were a ritual sacrifice. Clawing photographers and rocketing stage divers swamped him on all sides like a Greek chorus.
In the closing moments of the monthly Check Yo Ponytail 2, hosted by L.A.label I Heart Comix, the 32-year-old (born Andrew Wilkes-Krier) proudly took the role of Bacchus in a dirty white T-shirt and jeans. Plans to perform a solo show with only a keyboard and backing tracks were dashed by revelers who ran up on stage to hug, tackle and fondle the one-man band. You might just say they were genuinely glad to see him on his special day.
Most fans had spent the entire night priming themselves for ear-splitting ecstasy, withstanding sets by Sacramento hardcore outfit Trash Talk and the emphatic noise pop of Wavves. Starting around 10:30 p.m., the first wail of chaotic chords indicated that fist-pumping or even leaping from the top of the stage scaffolding were encouraged.
It was a sentiment that W.K. was happy to cultivate further as the crowd swelled for his midnight performance. As the stage darkened and ominous organ music signaled the headliner's entrance, leather-clad show goers doused their cigarettes on the front patio and put down their smartphones to join the sweaty legion of W.K. disciples. One group of enthusiastic female fans even showed up to the gig with fake blood streaming down their noses in an homage to the cover of W.K.'s 2001 debut album, "I Get Wet."
It had been about a month since the long-haired rocker had played a low-key show at L.A. gallery Dem Passwords, with mixed reviews from fans who felt the gig lacked the classic W.K. party vibe. But even before the birthday cake came out, it was obvious that his birthday celebration was not an occasion to stand around and watch him play.
"This is not a concert! This is is not a show!" W.K. roared on stage. "This is a -- "; the open space in his sentence was promptly filled by the crowd, who yelled "party!" with unified, expert timing. Though tracks like "It's Time to party," "Party Hard" and "You Will Remember Tonight" are all assertive in their demands, it really wouldn't have worked without W.K. receiving the greatest birthday gift of all: a crowd that was willing to let it all hang out.
-- Nate Jackson
Photo: Andrew W.K. holds up a bloody-nose birthday cake. Credit: Nate Jackson / Los Angeles Times