So, it’s E3. The 2018 Electronic Entertainment Expo, held every June in sunny Los Angeles, an event dedicated to that newest and least-respected of art forms, gaming. You are one of the half-dozen or so large publishers with enough clout to host a big, dumb, flashy, press conference to hawk your latest gaming wares. Usually, these are held on very large stages with giant screens that glow with terms like “WORLD PREMIERE” or “CONSOLE EXCLUSIVE” to let all the nerds watching at home in their Cheeto dust-coated gaming chairs that your joystick is bigger than that other developer’s.
In this case, you’re Bethesda Softworks, the studio behind such giant video game success stories as Dishonored and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim — SmartFridge Edition. At this year’s E3, you’ve got plenty to show off — a new Elder Scrolls, a new installment in the nuclear-themed Fallout series, a brand-spanking-new sci-fi property that probably won’t come out until Elon Musk figures out a way to microdose on mushrooms bred on the Martian moon of Phobos — but what you really want people to get excited about is Rage 2. The first installment of this post-apocalyptic shooter didn’t do so hot — it’s a bad sign when your disturbing vision of the future is called “relatively safe” by IGN — and you’ve decided to amp things up a bit with a flashy, candy-colored, Suicide Squad-style marketing campaign. You need people to like this game. You’re dying for people to like this game. So who do you get that can make anything exciting?
Enter Andrew W.K.
Biceps bulging, long, black hair flowing behind him like reeds sunken in a pond, he wore his trademark white pants and T-shirt as he strode onstage and beckoned to the audience: “Are you ready to Rage?! Are you ready to Rage?!” Then, joined by his band of jolly headbangers, he launched upon the nearby keyboard like a wolf pouncing on its quarry and launched into a stunning rendition of his heavy metal hit “Ready to Die.”
The song is a classic off the infamous I Get Wet album from 2001, which has only grown in esteem since the stuck-up hipster poseurs at Pitchfork gave it a 0.6 (then, 10 years later, an 8.6). It’s a proper warrior’s anthem, a super-peppy, hard-rolling tune with lines like: “We shoot without a gun / We’ll take on anyone / It’s really nothing new / It’s just a thing we do.” In other words, it was a perfect introduction to the punkish, kill-or-be-killed, Technicolor Mad Max world of Rage 2, and a smart marketing ploy by Bethesda. But more than that, it was a burst of life in the dull, soul-crushing slog of E3, where flashes of innovation and excitement puncture the cloth of sameness, the slow march of pretentious previews for military shooters, retro-chic indie titles, and other games you will never play. It was the only time during E3 that I actually felt any joy.
And how did the in-house audience respond? They just sat there. As I bounced with glee in my office chair, they, the dead-eyed, gormless cadre of gaming “journalists” and other slack-jawed, brainless zombies privileged enough to go to the glorified stockholders’ meeting that is E3 had barely any reaction to the show in front of them. There were some smiles, a few barely enthused, ironic “Woo!” sounds. But mostly, they just sat there. They didn’t clap along, or get on their feet. Their bespectacled asses might as well have been glued to their seats.
And you know something? That’s goddamn disrespectful. Andrew Wilkes-Krier has spent his life in pursuit of the perfect party, has dedicated his entire being, his pure, undying soul to being an outstanding entertainer, a ball of energy so profoundly bright, it outshines the sun — and he did it all for us.
The list of things he has done to capture our attention is staggering. He has been on TV shows from The Daily Show to Aqua Teen Hunger Force to My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. He has collaborated musically with Wolf Eyes, Boredoms, Lee “Scratch” Perry, and another bizarre-yet-endearing public figure, Canadian interviewer and punk musician Nardwuar the Human Serviette. In perhaps his greatest feat, in 2013 he broke a world record by drumming for 24 hours straight. He has a taco-shaped guitar to complement the pizza-shaped one. Your fave would never.
Still, this does not satisfy him. In the last decade, he has embarked on a quest to spread his message of enjoyment far and wide. He has given lectures on topics like “pure fun and total love” at prestigious universities like Yale and New York University, and media events such as South by Southwest. Over a decade of motivational speaking has culminated in his latest album, 2018’s You're Not Alone, where uplifting spoken interludes bookend tracks like “Music is Worth Living For” and “The Party Never Dies.”
“It’s a conscious decision to look at life — despite all the evidence to the contrary — as an incredible event,” he told Rolling Stone earlier this year, “and therefore to be grateful for it every day, and celebrate it every day. People celebrate Friday nights, holidays, birthdays, and other special events. So being alive must be the most special event of all — we’re partying about having been born and not having died yet.”
Andrew W.K. is perhaps the greatest force of positivity we have in this miserable, beaten-down age. All he wants for us is to appreciate the gift of life a little more, to greet each day without fear, and embrace the joy found in existence. He has dedicated his life to the party, to getting us to party, and for that, we owe him our respect.
So, when Andrew W.K. asks you if you’re ready to rage, you shout, “Yes, king.” When Andrew W.K. asks if you’re ready to party, you don’t just jump, you don’t just ask, “How high,” you get off your miserable keister and jump as high as you can, and bang your head, and make a fool of yourself. Because if you’re not enjoying life, what’s the point of living?
Andrew W.K. With Tony Martinez. 8 p.m. Tuesday, September 4, at Crescent Ballroom, 308 North Second Avenue; 602-716-2222; crescentphx.com. Tickets are $19.50 to $23 via Ticketfly.
KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE...
Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Douglas Markowitz was born and raised in Broward County, Florida, he studied at Sophia University in Tokyo before graduating with honors from the University of North Florida with a bachelor's degree in communications. He began writing for Miami New Times while in college and served as their music and arts editorial intern in 2017.