Andrew WK / The Bennies / Bare Bones
Manning Bar, Sydney 26/08/18
Review: Matt Doria (Website) | Photos: Peter Zaluzny (Facebook / Twitter)

The human embodiment of big dick energy, a wildly outspoken pizza enthusiast, and the unf***withable demigod of all things partying: Andrew WK dons many a crest. As sprightly as he is buff (see: ridiculously), the Michigan metal man called a packed-out Manning Bar home for his achingly long-awaited return to Sydney, wielding a distinctive balance of sharp rock'n'roll gruffness and Mr. Rogers-esque optimism. His entrance was grand, the authoritative rings of "The Power Of Partying" (the intro to this year's You're Not Alone LP) pulsing through the hall as his five-piece backing band gradually slinked out.

Before all that, however, our Sunday night partygoers were treated to a soul-melting hardcore set from the local legends in Bare Bones. Overdriven guitar solos wailed with Metallican might; thick, guttural chugs padding up the foreground as vocalist Tom Kennedy outright assaulted his mic. The fivesome (with a touch of fresh blood in an unnamed new guitarist, who crushed his first hometown set without a hiccup) are bonafide veterans of Sydney's punk scene, and as such, had a pocket of devotees in the palm of their hands. Hellishly heavy, but with the just the right tinge of party-ready shimmer, Bare Bones proved themselves a warm-up worth their skin. It's without a doubt that LP2 will see them make a raging crack into the mainstream – heed it as a warning when we say their sets reach implausible levels of intense.

The party vibes were amplified by Melbourne pot-punks The Bennies, who rolled in hot with a spate of cuts spanning their entire six-record discography, from the jammy ska pumps of "Mushroom Tea" to the rollicking punk hooks of "Get High Like An Angel" (the latter of which saw the band balloon to a septet with a two-piece horn section). Bolstered evermore by their wax-scratching sidekick, DJ Snes Mega, the troupe pummeled through a notable lethargy with a forced, yet unquestionably devoted energy – when he wasn't bashing chimey blips on his KORG or ruminating on a fiesty shroom craving, frontman Anty Horgan thrashed around the stage, fuelling the spirit of the party with every one of his offbeat punk jumps and perfectly timed fist-pumps. Ditto for guitarist Jules Rozenbergs, whose shredding was as vicious as his face was sweaty (and trust us, this venue got hot).

No matter the ardour his openers doled, nothing could prepare us for the breakneck chaos of Mr. Party himself. A double dose of grandeur in early cuts from You're Not Alone had us whipping hair and pumping horns, but when the lights cut out and the brooding riser of "Take It Off" smacked us down, the room erupted into a tsunami of sweat and swinging bodies. The same could be said for any of the jams pulled from WK's 2001 debut, I Get Wet – an album that has not only aged like port (in clear defiance of the critical slam it was gifted on release), but stands as one of the greatest comedic rock opuses of our time. Fan favourites "Party Hard" and "It's Time To Party" both landed in the later minutes of the movie-length set, but the limits of human physicality be damned, the room thrashed with glee as if it hadn't been doing so for almost two straight hours. 

Of course, it's hard to stand placid when you're being crushed with the billion-tonne wall of sound that three guitars all cranked to 11 deliver. Giving bassist Gregg Roberts the futile task of matching their fury, Amanda LepreDave Pino and Erik Payne all walloping their axes with destructive aplomb. Payne was (aptly) the token metalhead of the bunch, his 12-string riffage searing hot and his sandpaper screams deliciously violent. Still, the focus was always on WK – there was an inkling of scriptedness to every pseudo-slapdash riff he'd batter to his keyboard and the disco flavoured dance moves that cornerstones his stage presence, but it never felt like the frontman was just going through the motions. WK was truly and unremittingly dedicated to imbuing Sydney with the party mindset – if it was residual of his "corporately manufactured character", it was convincing enough to overlook.

It was successful, too. Balding heads bopped and bounded like their owners were uni freshman fuelled by adolescent gaiety. Some fans were dressed in WK cosplay (a few so accurate it bordered on disturbing), some in superhero garb and some in the tattered denim jackets they'd last washed in '03 – all breaking loose with the comity of brothers. It was a school/work night for most of us, but that didn't stop us all from partying 'til our lungs gave out.

Such is the power of Andrew WK. Such is the power... Of the party mindset.

Check out our full gallery of shots from Andrew WK after the jump!