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Andrew W.K. bringing a full-scale party to Tampa

Andrew W.K. is bringing his full-band party to town.
Andrew W.K. is bringing his full-band party to town.
Published May 30, 2013

One thing you learn quickly about Andrew W.K. is that he likes to party.

His songs extol the virtues of partying in varying levels of intensity (It's Time to Party, Party Hard, Party 'Til You Puke.) His Twitter feed is filled with party tips that range from the playful to the philosophical.

He punctuates casual conversation with party metaphors. On hoping to work with a musical idol: "I prayed to the gods of partying." On the nature of collaboration: "That's the beautiful thing about a party."

Now he's coming to celebrate with a concert in Tampa on Friday at the unusually intimate venue of the Orpheum.

Friday's date will be the only full-band show on W.K.'s tour. The singer said that's because his backing band, which formed 13 years ago, mostly lives in the bay area.

Among those who played in that initial group was Donald Tardy, drummer of Tampa death metal act Obituary. When W.K. moved to New York City at age 18 from Michigan, he met a friend of his favorite drummer and got his mailing address.

"For some reason, I got it in my head that maybe he would be willing to drum in my group or record on my album or something like that," he said. "It seemed like a crazy idea, I had no expectation of it coming true, but I figured why not?"

Tardy agreed to play in his band and on his breakthrough 2002 album I Get Wet. But beyond that, W.K. said he helped build his entire touring group, from the other members to the sound man.

"I'm more indebted to him for more reasons than most other people in my life," he said. "He changed everything and made it possible for me to probably even be talking to you about anything."

It was also during his move to New York that he devised his party philosophy. W.K. "really struggled with bad feelings and anger and depression," he said, so he chose to devote his life to creating something that would cheer people up.

"I decided that partying was the best way to communicate that feeling of good cheer and energy and excitement," he said. "Everybody understood that the word partying means fun in some form or another."

Even when he's not singing about partying, his songs are characterized by a kind of gleeful exuberance on tracks like I Love Music and I Love NYC. (That's perhaps excepting his album of moody, improvised piano solos, 55 Cadillac.)

Out of that positive philosophy came a sort of second life as a motivational speaker, being asked to talk everywhere from Yale and Harvard to a My Little Pony Convention and the Gathering of the Juggalos.

It even looked like the State Department was interested in W.K., inviting him to travel to Bahrain as a cultural ambassador. Yet days before he was scheduled to leave in December 2012, the trip was canceled "due to some higher-level controversy," according to a blog post by W.K.

Despite that setback, W.K. has had something of a banner year in 2013. Besides his current tour, he's also been tapped as the frontman for Marky Ramone's Blitzkrieg, performing 34 Ramones songs. And by the winter, he hopes to have a new album.

It could be a described as a whirlwind momentum, and W.K. said he feel likes he's literally being pulled by a force, and that he's no longer in control of the path in front of him.

"I have now given myself over entirely to this force, and I feel like I signed up for that," he said. "And if you don't hand yourself over, you're not really being fair to the miracle that made your dreams come true in the first place."