[Originally published on Virgin.com, May 2013]
[Santos Party House – May 3, 2013] It was the first night of Andrew WK’s stint as frontman to drummer Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg. The pair, along with Ramone’s bandmates, are about to tour the world, performing songs from The Ramones’ catalog. Yes, those Ramones. Marky is one of two surviving members of the legendary punk band, whose ubiquitous hits, including ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’ and ‘Hey Ho, Let’s Go’ still continue to inject rock adrenaline into public consciousness.
There was no mistaking this show as anything but a rock fest from one look at the patrons milling outside Santos Party House, a dark club in Chinatown owned by none other than the night’s lead singer. An overwhelmingly male crowd of black-clad fans sandwiched into the venue, beers clutched and necks craned. We shuffled our Chucks and waited for the synergy of awesome.
Indeed, the collaboration of Ramone and WK seems fated. Both are paragons of New York City’s music scenes, past and present. Ramone honed his chops in the late 1970’s at local haunts like CBGB, where his band helped craft the punk genre as we know it alongside the likes of Richard Hell, Blondie and Talking Heads.
But these days, the city’s rock scene is more about an attitude than a sound. If this attitude doesn’t bellow “Party!” then perhaps it mumbles “Let’s get weird”, but either way, Andrew WK is without a doubt the spokesman. In addition to his own high-octane shows, his party-hard-and-often mantra finds him at some of New York’s strangest, and very rock-n-roll, events. For example, we once met WK in a Masonic temple at a masquerade party after having eaten bugs (long story). That he would be tapped to bring to life the soundtrack of a rock scene past just makes perfect sense.
“I’m serving the gods via this incredible sound Marky and his band created”, WK says. “There’s never been better rock ‘n’ roll music made than this, and I will give everything I have to do it justice”.
To equally reverent applause, Ramone, in a muscle tank and mop of black hair, manned his kit. WK stood before us in his dirtied white painter’s get-up. The night promised a tall order of 30 songs, but recalling the superhuman pace at which WK rips through his own material, the figure felt about right.
Without hesitation or fanfare, things got loud. ‘Rockaway Beach’ and ‘Teenage Lobotomy’ whizzed by us, and ‘Psycho Therapy’ brought the first eager crowdsurfer onstage – the first of many to come. While WK lent the lyrics a gruffer edge than Joey Ramone might have, the delivery was decidedly less intense than WK’s solo performances. WK seemed determined to nail the lyrics, serve up Ramones-level energy and, as he mentioned earlier, do the music justice.
The effort was successful. The crowd, at first soberly absorbed in the novelty of the performance, quickly devolved into a moving mass of bobbing heads and perspiring bodies. Limbs flailed. Alcohol sloshed to the floor. At times, as many as four or five fans joined WK on stage, throwing arms around him and shouting into his mic – some welcome, some less welcome, but all gestures borne of the best intentions. Several turned to Ramone to bow in deference.
He and WK churned out track after track without a lag in force, rolling through ‘I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend’ and ‘I Can’t Make It On Time’ with equal muscle. We shouted along to favorites ‘Beat on the Brat’ and ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll High School’, which, clearly, was where we were getting schooled.
A sweaty behemoth of a man who’d just been onstage dumped beer all over my leather jacket as he drunkenly barreled through. If this were any regular show, I’d spew choice words at him, but in the spirit of punk past and present, I chose to wipe off the beer and keep rocking.