What happens when someone, for no reason and without warning, just FREEZES and doesn't respond for 20 minutes? That's when the fun begins. That's when entertainment becomes an unpredictable, interactive, and memorable experience. I'll get to that in a minute...
So it started earlier in the month when I decided that I was going to spend an entire week celebrating my birthday. I scheduled a week of things to do and events to attend: Talk! Rock! Comedy! Parties! Foods! Drinks! BFFs!
It seemed apropos, then, that Andrew W.K. the guru saint of the philosophy of partying, should somehow be paid tribute to. Turns out he was going to be part of a panel discussion at the Pomp & Circumstance Post-Apocalyptic survival party with Author Tony O'Neill and comedian Matt McCarthy. That sounded pretty interesting, so I made plans with a friend to go.
The day of the event, however, my friend had to work late, so I was basically confronted with the choice: Go alone or not go at all. The thing is, I pretty much never go to events alone. It makes me anxious and uncomfortable. Since seeing his CMJ lecture, however, I'd been inspired to approach life with a more WWAWKD? attitude and what that meant in this situation is that I had to not be a fucking wimp. The very fact that the situation made me anxious and uncomfortable meant that I ought to do it.
So I went to the event alone and I was feeling kind of awkward, so then I thought "maybe I should just go start talking to people." Again, this is something that makes me anxious and uncomfortable, so I made myself do it and talked to a bunch of people, even, yes, I talked to Andrew W.K... in for a penny, in for a pound, right? As with many anxieties, I found that it was not really scary at all. It actually doesn't even make much sense since I'm pretty much the hostess with the mostess when I'm in my own home or general comfort zone.
So the panel discussion starts and I'm in a good mood because I wasn't a fucking wimp and I was being a boisterous audience member because there's nothing worse for a person onstage than to have a reticent and unresponsive audience, and hip, artsy Brooklyn crowds can often be too much on the "I'm too cool to show enthusiasm for anything" side. It turned out that Matt McCarthy couldn't make it to be on the panel [and, as an aside, see Matt McCarthy if you have a chance, he's a hoot. Also, yes, I know he kinda looks like my boyfriend.] So there was an empty chair and about halfway through the panel, since I had just been shamelessly begging the emcee, Lianne Stokes, for a can of Miller Lite, I was invited to take the empty chair and join the panel.
Now what's kind of ridiculous at this point is that I think it's perfectly reasonable for me to be on the panel since it's not like I've never been on a panel or otherwise in front of a microphone speaking to the youth of america, but since nobody knows who the fuck I am, I'm basically just some drunk chick from the audience. Whatever...I'll be the best drunk chick from the audience I can be!
Okay, now I'll finally circle back around to the thing I was talking about in the first paragraph: So at a certain point in the discussion, Andrew W.K. just freezes. He's sitting stock still and staring and not responding to anyone. This, here, is why I tell people that if you only know Andrew W.K. as the "party hard" guy, you're missing out on a cornucopia of treats. He's actually morphed into a delightfully provocative and compelling figure. He's basically become this bundle of paradoxes who is constantly subverting expectation and even his own public image. Asking a random sample of Andrew W.K. fans to describe him is like the Blind Men describing the Elephant. Some people have even conceived crackpot theories that he's not a real person. He can seem, at different times, like a rock star, a philosopher, a clown, the big brother you wish you had, a geek, a virtuoso, a madman... In short, you are never 100% sure what you're going to get from him, so it's always interesting and fun to see where things are going to go and how, as a spectator, you are going to be engaged or made to feel and react. In a sense, his all-white "costume" has become a metaphorical blank screen on which people are invited to project.
And, really, this is why I like conceptual art in general: because the art becomes this unpredictable synergy between the artist and the audience, with both sides coming together to create the whole...but back to the panel and the frozen Andrew W.K: So the first reaction is confusion. We don't get it at first. Nobody knows what's going on. Do we try to snap him out of it? Do we play along? Do we ignore it? The situation is amusingly disorienting. When the panel finished and broke up, he continued to sit there frozen. He's still there? How long is he going to do this?
At a certain point, with the few people remaining there by the stage, things went in another interesting direction: If he's going to behave like an inanimate object, we can treat him like an inanimate object. We all posed for pictures with him. One person pretended to drink from his glass. Another commented "he smells nice."
Eventually I wandered off to get another drink and talk to more people. At a certain point I glanced back and he wasn't there anymore. Still, I really enjoyed the whole thing, as did my friends when I told them about it later. I think that what Andrew W.K. started back in the early 00's with his music has now become a more multi-faceted approach to provoking emotions and creating experiences... and this is why I urge people to take note of Andrew W.K. and go see him in whatever capacity you can if you have a chance!
Also, I would encourage people to not be a fucking wimp, because if you aren't, you just might have an awesome night and meet lots of interesting people.