Andrew W.K. / Merzbow

note: Andrew W.K. didn't play "Never Let Down" in his set, but it's still a great song and should be listened to it often.

"A long time ago, I dedicated my life to making a fool out of myself", he said, "and I would like to thank all of you for making that dream come true!"

A rather profound attitude worth adopting, I think. I was already being a fool-hardy, devil-may-care buffoon attending a show on a Wednesday night, having to go back to my 8-4 job the next day. Which is probably why I spent most of the the show behind the crowd, trying to ignore how much fun everyone else was having, and convincing myself that I was being sensible conserving my energy.

"You see this?" Andrew W.K. asked, presenting a bare stage around him, "this is not a concert! This is a PARTY!". He had no band that night, it was just music playing and him singing along to it, or playing along to it on his keyboard. The crowd cheers, and they are all having a party, and I'm wishing I was cheering and partying with them, but I couldn't!

Or maybe I just wouldn't. Or didn't. Not until some big headed fucker decided to stand in front of me and block my view, and W.K. was singing Ready to Die (most of the set was from the I Get Wet album, which makes sense as it is still to this day a wall-to-wall punch-in-the-face of an album), that I decided it was time to let go of all concerns and preconceptions of tomorrow, and jumped into the crowd and became part of the party.

As the days goes by, I have my ups and downs, but mostly downs, I call it "my downtime". But I've found recently being up mostly coincided with listening to the music of Andrew W.K. He is like Jesus in that stupid "Footsteps" poem that Christians always cling to, only he's better than Jesus, because he Parties Hard, and doesn't give you any conditions. He kicks you in the teeth with his optimism, and dares you to change your life. Perhaps the secret is to never stop listening to his music? I don't know. When I saw him on stage, it made me think it was possible, maybe just possible, to be in a perpetually good mood, to live life like a party. Maybe it's not possible, but I know I don't ever want to feel down again. From this day forth I want to practice giving myself active self-encouragement, to fight any doubts I have about myself, and see where it gets me (so far I've managed to write this post, after an inexplicable hiatus, so there's that).

During the song I Get Wet, W.K. brought a fan on stage--a bearded guy with a Pokémon shirt and blue shorts, who looked like his life was changing on the spot--and they sang the rest of the song together. Then he said "good night" and abruptly left the stage. The crowd cheered for about five minutes, then sang Happy Birthday etc (it happened to be his birthday that night) for another five minutes. The stage-hand was packing up the microphones, and we slowly realised there was going to be no encore. While most were disappointed, I was thankful, because I had to go to work at 8am then next morning and get excited to see Merzbow the following night.

I found it interesting, but not surprising, that I recognised a lot of people who attended Andrew W.K. the night before also came to see Merzbow. Not that the two have anything in common, but I figured if I was fan of both, then it should stand to reason there are others who would be as well. It was reassuring to find I'm not the only one.After the concert, I sent the following text message to my housemate:
"jlyk; merzbow was solid hour of pure orgasm"
Although I don't think it was an hour, probably 30-40 minutes. Time didn't matter, there was no time, just Merzbow, and his heavenly noise.They were giving out free disposable ear-plugs before the show. I had them in for about five seconds before I realised I'm not getting the complete sound I was after. I took them out and my ears were taking it pretty well. Perhaps I've been to one too many loud shows that I am calloused. In essence, I'm going deaf. And Merzbow was probably the loudest show I've been to since SunnO))), which is saying something. I know something is loud when my entire body is feeling the rumbling vibrations, I guess that's the only way I know. I should be worried, but I'm not. I'm glad, because I got to see Merzbow, and hear him complete.

At first I was expecting just to see him sitting behind a MacBook, putting together some sampled noises or whatever like I've seen so many artists do. How do I know they're not just pressing "play" on their iTunes player or something? And it's always a MacBook, as if it's the only computer that can make sound? Well anyway, he had his MacBook, but he also had a table full of other electronic stuff, and pedals all over the floor. He carried some kind of instrument around him like a guitar, I don't know what it was, but it was basically a handle-bar with a large plate in the middle that served as a giant pickup, and he would scrape it with several different objects. The resulting sound was HUGE. From the rumbling bass to the high-pitch squealing of feedback, and everything in-between. I was lost in the sound, I don't know how to describe it other than being in a state of pure joy.

There were people dancing up in the front row. This isn't odd to me, as others may find it, as where some people may be hearing nothing but harsh noise, I was hearing melodies, pulsing rhythms, chords and discords. Everything you can find in "conventional" music, it was there, you just had to listen for it.

Merzbow, along with SunnO))), introduced me to all kinds of new ways to listen to music. Strip away all the superfluous ingredients, and what do you have? It's just wave frequencies, playing in a pattern, playing together, creating a timbre. Things like "time-signature" and "melody" are just theoretical, they exist as an explanation to what makes harmony and rhythm, but they come after the music, not before it. Music doesn't have to be a linear progression, it can be crystalline, it can be realised as you are listening to it, without a beginning or an end. It doesn't have to be listened to with just your ears, it can (and should) be felt, physically. You don't have to listen for the notes being played, there exists a space between the notes, the note itself is just as important. And there is also framing, the effect of juxtaposing a sound next to silence, as the sound continues ringing in your memory.

I try not to be an elitist snob with my nose up in the air, I try to explain to people that there are ways to listen to music that are much more satisfying and fulfilling compared to how we've been conditioned by the radio, TV and pop-culture. I would like people to be on my side, without any notion of superiority or inferiority, but in the end all they hear is harsh noise. Well, it doesn't bother me so much, as long as I can get personal satisfaction. I've been wanting to see Merzbow live for a long time, I was willing to even go overseas just to get the opportunity, but he came here to me, and I saw, I heard, I wept, and I am now complete.

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