A Day on the Town with Andrew W.K.
Arts & Entertainment
by Jonathan Zeller, 03/07/2012
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If you've heard Andrew W.K.'s most famous song, his personal philosophy is unsurprising.
"My whole mission," he says in Herald Square, eating a falafel sandwich from a nearby halal cart, "is personally to party every day as hard as possible."
But what does he mean by "party?"
"Do what it is that gives you the greatest pleasure, and do it to excess…. To me, it's the most sensible thing to do. You find out what makes you happy in life, and you do it every day as much as you possibly can."
So it's always time to party?
"Exactly," he says. "And when it is, then we'll party hard."
Spending an afternoon with W.K. in Midtown Manhattan, it's clear he really lives by those words. On one of his last days in New York City before embarking on an epic I Get Wet 10th-anniversary tour—during which he'll perform the album in its entirety every night, including on April 2, when he returns to New York at Webster Hall—he can scarcely contain his affection for every detail of the city he loves (we've seen this before). Take, for example, the falafel sandwich from Express Power Lunch, at Sixth Avenue and West 33rd Street.
"It's not regular pita bread! It's that thicker, chubbier pita kind of bread," he says, before going on to vividly describe virtually every other aspect of the meal, from the veggies to the hot sauce. It's as if all of his sentences, all day, end with exclamation points.
"I'm a big fan of falafel in general and just all the food carts. I think that's one of the most exciting things." W.K. goes on to explain that he prefers food carts to food trucks, because "if you have a truck, you might as well open a restaurant at that point. I mean, it's so big."
Sticking to the subject of handheld NYC foods, he says that deli-style sandwiches are another terrific option. And if you're looking for a deli recommendation in his neighborhood, he's got one: Mr. Broadway.
"In my opinion," he says, "one of the greatest, best restaurants in all of the City. Not just for kosher-style deli food, but, I mean, they have the most incredible sushi." He goes on to explain, in brilliant detail: "The fluffiest rice! The softest fish! It just melts in your mouth! You don't even need to chew it! The seaweed has a melty quality."
We ask if he'll take us there. He agrees, adding, "It has a fantastic logo as well." Later, he executes an impressive rock 'n' roll jump in front of said logo, then jovially tips his hat while mugging for the camera.
This kind of passionate embrace of every potential stimulus is a reason why W.K. has made a home in New York—and, particularly, Midtown.
"It just seemed like the craziest place for me," he says. "I didn't want it to be relaxing. I came from tree-lined streets. This is the concrete jungle! This is what's in the movies and on TV, and it's the most diverse place."
He loves seeing people from different backgrounds every time he steps outside. "I just want to be around people who are completely strange to me," he says. "Every person who walks by is, like, the most intense person you've ever seen! And you wonder, what gall, what nerve did they have to come here and make it here and want to be here?"
He personally knows that courage. Back in 1999, when he wrote "I Love NYC" (chorus: "I love New York City! Oh, yeah! New York City!"), he was trying to rally himself to stick around.
His first days living with friends in Williamsburg were rough. "I wasn't a very good roommate," he says. "I'd throw out food in the fridge because I thought it smelled bad; it turned out it was meant to be strong-smelling cheese. So they were pretty happy when I got my own place in Greenpoint." He was, too. W.K. gives a shout-out to the area's Amarin Cafe as one of his favorite Thai restaurants, and then praises the general feel of the neighborhood. "It always felt like fall," he remembers. "No matter how hot it was outside, what season—it just felt like perpetual autumn."
And in Midtown, it would be an understatement to say he feels at home.
"You only love one city," he says. "It's like you love a lot of people, but not like your mom and dad. You love a lot of people, but not like your wife or your brother. There are these singular parts of your life, and that's what New York is to me. It's completely singular and I'm made of it, and vice versa." He calls the feeling he gets from living here "a natural high."
W.K. wants to enhance that natural high for New Yorkers and visitors when he brings his I Get Wet show to Webster Hall. "I hope that they surprise themselves and shock themselves," he says of the audience. "I'm there to stir up the frenzy…. If it's going to be truly surprising and shocking, then there's no way I could predict it."
Another way W.K. contributes to New York City's vibe is through Santos Party House, his Chinatown nightclub. The place is in touch with the zeitgeist (random example: it hosted a show by Theophilus London in 2009, before he hit it big), so we asked what he thought was the next big thing in New York City culture.
W.K.'s response: "Slow songs. I have this feeling, like, the way dubstep and of course hip-hop and rap beats have made a big impact on music overall, I want to see even slower. Even slower songs. I think that's the next wave."
We've firmly established that Andrew W.K. is a wise man when it comes to knowing how to party, in the broadest sense possible. His more than 170,000 Twitter followers are always on alert for "party tips"—(i.e., "PARTY TIP: Punk is a way of life, not a clothing style" and "PARTY TIP: Hugs are more party than handshakes."), and W.K. has been enough to provide nycgo.com with an exclusive, never-before-released one.
"Party tip: Don't do what I say!"