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The Power of Partying: Radical Positivity

It’s no secret that Andrew W.K. is one of my favorite musical acts. A long time ago, my mother asked me what kind of music he plays. I thought for a moment and said, “It’s fast, loud, positive… happy rock and roll about deriving enjoyment from everything in life.”

Andrew W.K. spreads a message of radical positivity in something that he describes simply as partying: anything counts as partying, regardless of if that something actually fun or something difficult yet formative in your life. Here are some choice lyrics:

When you’re down on your luck / You gotta do it
And you’re covered in mud / You gotta do it
You still going on / You got to do it
Gotta do all the stuff that you love

You’re doing alright / You’re doing ok
Just follow your heart / And don’t run away
You can never let down

There were days that I stole / But I also got robbed
So I made a mission my goal / And a vision my job

Just because this life ain’t easy / Doesn’t make it bad

Today will be over and done with a sunrise
But the way that you feel will be frozen forever in time
You’ll forget yesterday
You’ll forget all the fears in your old life
You will remember tonight

Seriously. The two bolded phrases are song titles, except the last two stanzas, which are The End of Our Lives and You Will Remember Tonight, respectively. He has other, more simple songs about partying (in the Animal House sense) and about finding and being in love. They’re great but it’s the motivational ones I find myself belting out louder when I’m at a show.

HuffPosts’s Lauren Himiak wrote Apparently Andrew WK Is A Healer after attending a show in October 2017:

While some may scoff at lyrics and guitar riffs that don’t read as incredibly deep or poetic, I am now firmly convinced that Andrew W.K. could heal the damn world. My face still hurts from smiling so much. For somewhere around two hours, I let go of every ounce of stress that was piled up in my head and body. Work, deadlines, annoying people, the Trump administration, the news, and anything that I had experienced or thought about that week. And I wasn’t alone.

Never have I attended a show where every single person in the room was actually happy.

This has been my experience at every show I’ve ever attended, which is every live show he’s ever done in Pittsburgh, full band or by himself.

Here’s a quick video of “She is Beautiful” I recorded at his October 9, 2017 at Mr. Smalls Theater:

A few years ago, he wrote an advice column for the Village Voice. The staff of the magazine wrote a list called 10 Times Andrew W.K. Gave the Best Advice. I highly recommend reading it, the full columns referenced in it, and, well, all of his articles.

One response in particular, to Can I be Straight-Edge and still party hard?, defines what partying is:

How each of us decides to party within that partying is up to the individual, but true partying doesn’t necessarily require drugs any more than it necessarily requires skydiving — to each their own. As long as it doesn’t blatantly hinder someone else’s ability to party, all forms of partying are permitted.

This describes one of my key principles, that of non-aggression. This message resonated strongly with me. One response in particular offered insight on the deep political division in the U.S, when a submitter in 2014 asked advice on how to handle his right-wing conservative father:

The world isn’t being destroyed by Democrats or Republicans, red or blue, liberal or conservative, religious or atheist — the world is being destroyed by one side believing the other side is destroying the world. The world is being hurt and damaged by one group of people believing they’re truly better people than the others who think differently. The world officially ends when we let our beliefs conquer love. We must not let this happen.

In 2016, amidst the controversial U.S. election, he channeled his own frustration with American politics and used his platform and popularity to talk about his concept of partying as a way of unifying people into a speaking tour entitled The Power of Partying.

“This is not a political party rally, it’s a rally about partying with the political elements set aside,” insists Andrew. “This is my attempt to add something positive and unifying to the divisive atmosphere surrounding us in so many different forms. Without targeting or preaching to any one side, I want to see if we can party together in our common humanity. We will have a party about being people.”

I attended his talk in Cleveland and took some notes. I’ve sat on them for almost a year and after some difficult events in my own life, I want to share them as a way of committing them to the record of humanity–the Internet–in text form.

[Beware of the] satisfaction of the fight versus doing something about it.

Hate is loud and blathering. Love is quiet and succinct. Partying can amplify love.

Embrace nonsensical loving kindness.

Constantly enlarge your capacity to care.

Sometimes you have to live the way you wish someone else would live.

The family that parties together parties forever.

I’m on the Internet. No one knows who I am. “You suck,” [they say!] Why do we do that? Humanity is clearly in is adolescence.

People are not ideas. They are not beliefs. They are not opinions.

[Let us] weave our collective threads together.

Maybe I could be the first head of state to headbang at a meeting.

I can love all of humanity without wanting to hang out with a specific person.

Celebrate even when it feels inappropriate.

“Can I party?” “Yes.”

Andrew talked a little about the things he’s overcome. The enemies he’s made before — and during — his rise to success as a musician and businessman.

I’ve manufactured most of my enemies. I’ve taken friends and twisted their words and actions and turned them against me. That enmity never really existed. … All of these bad things were the ignition of the good things.

The particular quote struck me hard. I don’t have any personal enemies that I know of; I am unaware of anyone who dislikes me individually because of something I did to them. So, this quote applies more appropriately to me when I replace enemies with problems to convey that I have been fortunate and privileged in my life to have largely created my own problems. I’ve taken tasks and twisted them into something that was sophisticated beyond need to challenge myself. The things that went poorly served to teach me what not to do next time I tried something similar. These bad experiences were the ignition of the good experiences in my life. They equipped me to move forward and taught me to share where I’ve come from, where to tread lightly, and where not to tread at all.

When I’m having rough time, I almost always look to the spirit of Andrew W.K. for wisdom and words to get me through it. When I can, I’ll turn up the Andrew W.K., loud, fast, and happy as ever.

Scholar, bon vivant, champion of the oppressed. Pittsburgh-based software engineer+architect+consultant and community builder seeking serenity.

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