Andrew WK at Riot Fest 2012 | Photos and live music review
If this summer’s Chicago festivals suffered from anything, it was a profound lack of no-frills rock n’ roll. Occasional frills notwithstanding, Riot Fest 2012 is a welcome retort to Grant and Union Park’s respective droughts of catharsis. At home on virtually any festival bill, Gathering of the Juggalos veteran and undisputed party champion Andrew WK held a mid-day slot on Saturday afternoon. “It’s a beautiful day!” he roared between lyrics. “The sun is shining!” How often do you hear cheery nonsense like that from a frontman? “This is not a concert,” he said later. “This is a party!”
Unlike the bulk of this weekend’s black-shirted lineup, the man in white has no patience for austere self-effacement. The only thing he seems to take seriously is partying, which apparently allows him minute-long, godawful solos on a pizza-shaped guitar. Hey, no one’s complaining. You’re either down with rock n’ roll’s resident anti-cynic or you’re not. And at a festival filled with shirtless, roided out meatheads and scowling basement-dwellers, a heavy dose of brazen joy was just what the afternoon needed.
AWK’s band is ridiculous: four guitars, drums, bass, the man himself on keys and his wife, the stunning Cherie Lily, on, uh… backing vocals? High kicks? Let’s just call her the hype-woman. While many bands struggled with bad sound on Saturday, Andrew WK’s guitar players got what they bargained for. Four guitars will never sound like anything but muddy noise, and this set was no exception. And despite a surplus of energy, most of WK’s songs simply aren’t good enough to carry even a festival-length set. But “Party Hard,” arguably the man’s most popular tune, was an undeniable triumph. Even if you can only appreciate the song for its ridiculousness, as you should with all of WK’s material, something about that tune must get under your skin and get you a bit more excited about life. That’s Andrew’s goal, anyway. And if his mission failed with you, well, it’s not like that’s gonna stop the party.