Andrew W.K. brings the party concert to Halifax

By Sean Mott

Andrew W.K. relaxes with his bag of salted chips. (Sean Mott / Peninsula News)

It is 1 a.m. on Saturday. Andrew W.K. (Wilkes-Krier) relaxes in his dressing room in the basement of the Marquee Ballroom. Thirsty, he has two water bottles nearby. Wearing a pair of sunglasses, he unwinds by reclining in his chair. Next to him are a bowl of salsa and a bag of salted corn chips.

Actually, the bag has unsalted chips but W.K. took a cup of salt, poured it in the bag and shook it.

“I like it,” he says. “Although some chips have a lot of salt and others have none.”

W.K. is surprisingly calm for a man who just led a party mosh pit.

“It’s very intense,” he says. “It takes quite a bit of time to come down.”

W.K. is a rock musician and “party god.” At 34, W.K. has been combining music with partying since 2001, releasing six studio albums and bringing a party to every concert.

The party concert

The stage is bare, save for a lone keyboard. The crowd, mostly comprised of 20-year-old rock fans, bristles with anticipation, constantly chanting “Andrew” and “party.” They’re ready to go.

Suddenly, W.K. bursts out from behind a curtain and the crowd erupts. W.K. high fives a few fans and launches into a song on the keyboard. He moves about the stage like a man possessed, waving his hands like a manic conductor and urging the audience to sing along with tunes like “Party Hard.”

The crowd gladly agrees, dancing with wild abandon. This is what they came for. This is the party.

W.K. is in the midst of a Canadian tour. Having been invited to St. John’s, NL. for the first time, he decided to also visit Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Halifax in a concert series. Accompanied onstage by tour manager Blake Canaris, W.K. has been celebrating a “shared enthusiasm for not being dead” with his Canadian fans.

“I like touring in Canada,” W.K. says, a native of Michigan. “Aside from the United States, I’ve probably toured here the most.”

When not performing, W.K. likes exploring the cities he visits. This time, he went to the Halifax waterfront, eating at Salty’s restaurant.

“You can’t beat the seafood here,” he says.

Controlled chaos

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Onstage, W.K. performs in front of a raucous crowd that surges towards him in a massive swirl of humanity. Despite the chaos, people don’t break out into fights. It’s controlled chaos.

“With this kind of music, it’s so cheerful, people aren’t trying to be mean,” W.K. says. “It’s not an angry headspace.”

Even when fans jump onstage, W.K. stays calm. Or rather, embraces the excitement, singing along with the energetic audience members. It’s a reciprocal relationship of partying.

“The best shows are where the audience is entertained and I am entertained by the audience,” he says.

“These are all my friends in a way,” he adds. “This is our time to hang out.”

 Downtime

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Onstage, W.K. leads the crowd in a sing-along for the final song of the night. Reaching the climax, he thanks the crowd and disappears behind the curtain. The crowd continues to chant “Andrew,” even as the lights come on and the crew takes the keyboard offstage.

“This show completely exceeded my expectations,” W.K. says backstage. “I’m humbled.

“Let this be the beginning of a wonderful party relationship.”

Backstage, W.K. eats his salted chips and calms himself down. A normally busy man, this is the rare time in his schedule when he unwinds.

“I haven’t had a lot of slow days in a while,” he says. “I’m grateful for that.”

W.K. plans on returning to Canada, exploring new areas.

“I want to go up north,” he says. “Places that you have to scroll up to on the map.”