Andrew W.K. is such an electric performer and personality that it is a herculean track to open for him. I did not envy the rest of the lineup when he made his stop at Hartford’s Arch Street Tavern on his Human Machine Party Tour.
When Amherst’s all-girl punk quartet, Potty Mouth took the stage it was not apparent if they had what it took to open for Andrew W.K. All throughout their set up the band looked morose, never cracking a smile. The mood did not immediately improve either as half-way through the first song the band had to stop with the bassist having trouble being heard. Although in the audience it sounded fine, she made it very clear she was not happy with the bass sound and continued to make it known throughout the set. Despite the wet blanket, the rest of the band carried on like troopers. Lead singer, Abby came alive once the set started; gone was the grim face replaced with theatrical like expressiveness mixed with a punk sneer. Although drummer, Victoria never cracked a smile, he expert drumming punctuated the performance. In a world where Travis Barker owns the drumming landscape, Victoria puts him to shame with her amazingly quick right hand pumping out the hi-hat at a rate that most other drummers have to use two hands for. In the end, the band had what it took to open for Mr. W.K.
Next up was Math the Band. The Providence male-female duo knew they had what it took to open for Andrew W.K.; they have done it upward of 30 times. The duo play a type of controlled (maybe uncontrolled) chaos mixture of Andrew WK and Atom and His Package rock. In concert, the band is more of a spectacle than enjoyable. Kevin Steinhauser manically flips, throws, jumps, and falls with his guitar while Justine Leigh plays synth, floor tom and cymbal (sometimes all at the same time). She moves at a frenetic pace somewhere between an aerobic instructor and a four year old on a sugar rush. The chaos of both members’ stage presence is matched by the music which can sometimes sound like an 8-bit version of grindcore. The spectacle was definitely worthy of opening for Andrew W.K.
When Andrew W.K. hit the stage, the crowd was sufficiently ready to party. Chants of “party hard” and “U-S-A” were equally able to be heard. Finally, Andrew W.K. made his way to the stage to perform. Flanked only by his tour manager, Blake on backing vocals, Mr. W.K. ripped through a set of party-themed classics and sing-alongs.
For those in the front of the crowd, it was hard not to be spilled on to the low stage from the crowd swell behind them. For those in the back of the crowd, the show lacked certain elements. Andrew W.K. would occasionally have music playing while he did something on stage but because of the low stage, it was impossible to see if you were more than three people deep. This did not allow a huge portion of the audience to enjoy the show fully. For those in the front of the stage, the show was an opportunity to have one giant singalong with Andrew W.K. but farther back it was nothing more than watching a pile of people screaming.