We Got The Ultimate Summer Party Tips From A Bonafide Party God—Andrew W.K.
Philosophical thoughts as refreshing as a summertime brewsky from the self-proclaimed king of partying.
June 21, 2018 ● 6 min read
By Roxanne Webber | Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell
Ahh, summer: the season of barbecues, impromptu backyard cook-outs, and jam-packed beach coolers.
To celebrate the arrival of the ultimate go-out-and-do-something season, we turned to the (surprisingly?) Zen master of all things party, Andrew W.K., for some tips. He weighs in on throwing a highly considerate summer bash, how to keep the flow going without putting the pressure on your guests, and why, in times of darkness, partying is more important than ever.
Cortney Armitage | Art by ChefsFeed
It's a challenging time in the world at large. Why is it important to keep partying?
I think life is a cyclical, and perhaps even endless, challenge; there [are] times when things are worse, and times when things are better. With a longer perspective, you'll see that it's always the best of times and worst of times. What partying intends to do, as far as I'm concerned, is celebrate that fact, rather than resent it. When not everything is perfect, it leaves us with this type of tension: something is wrong, and it's a problem. But with a celebratory attitude, we develop a type of resilience, and a type of inner courage and power, to accept that there is a seemingly unavoidable amount of wrongness in the world by its very design and it's up to us to not necessarily even make peace with it but come to terms with the fact that a certain amount of suffering must be tolerated.
This is an age-old idea, trying to develop the qualities of character to appreciate life even in the worst that it has to offer.
It's an irrational attitude, and I understand that. It doesn't really make sense. But, it does align more closely to reality than being frustrated and mad about life not being perfect. There's a point where our anger and resentment of the inherent unfairness ends up ruining the life that we do get to live. Trying to strike that balance is this great labor that we're all engaged in. We're trying to figure out how to be a person. We're trying to learn how to be a human being. If we can celebrate the process of that learning, then we're partying.
What makes someone a good party host?
I don't think that anyone should have to bring anything to a party. They're already contributing a great amount simply by showing up. There are so many other things they could do with that time, so many other places they could go. Their gift to you is their presence. As the host, you are there to serve. Anything and everything that you can do to make their time there as enjoyable as possible should be your pleasure, and it goes all across the board.
How do you create a fun party atmosphere?
As a guest, I've gone to dinner parties that were quite formal. It was extremely stressful, 'cause there [were] a lot of rules, and a lot of order to the event that was not fun or relaxing. In fact, it just seemed like the entire event had been designed to maximize the potential for me to make a mistake and offend the host. That should never be the situation.
The host should create every opportunity for the guest to not have to worry about doing something wrong, not have to worry about the order of the evening. It should all be taken care of. In fact, I would even eliminate the order of the evening—I would have hot food and cold food available at any time, and never necessarily have a formal seated portion of the event.
Any tips for setting up?
I would have bags of brand name chips and pretzels, peanuts. I would have peanuts on their own, and mixed nuts, but because they're smaller objects, in individual Dixie Cup-size portions, so that people don't have to grab into that container [and put their hands all over the nuts]. This might not be elegant. This might not be fancy or very impressive, but to me, it's much more ... I'm thinking about the utility of all this, and what's practical. I would have lots of different beverages, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, room temperature and chilled, ice, no ice.
Often, there's a shortage of garbage cans. It should be prominently displayed. If you're just relying on people finding the garbage can, for example, under your sink, that's not good enough. You need to put it out in plain view. This is also for your own sake. It makes cleaning up easier. It doesn't clutter the area so that people can use the counter space for their partying, rather than as a trash heap.
Do you have any songs that you would put on a good summer party playlist? What would you throw on there to get it going?
I would hope, if I may be so bold, to put all my songs on there. I mean, every one of my albums, I think, is conducive to partying, starting with the first one. The first song on the first album, "It's Time To Party", and that sets the tone right there.
I'm seeing a lot of parallels between your approach to party hosting and the hospitality industry at large.
Bringing people together with a common purpose is what I relate to. I have struggled throughout my whole life to interact with others when there is no shared purpose or common magnetic lure. So, the most meaningful relationships that I've ever developed are with people I'm working with together on something. It's quite striking, actually.
Sitting and talking about everything or nothing is quite a lot to take on. Where do you start? You make small talk. So that leads us where? The classic topics such as weather, or politics, or other, even hot-button issues will come up because it gives you something to fixate on together. What if you fixated on some kind of task instead? It's only through doing and through engaging in some kind of noble effort, some kind of noble work, noble labor, that I've been able to feel like I understand life, and that there's a meaning for me, and there's a place for me, and there's something for me to contribute.
I think society has really told us that the best part of life is when you're not working, and you're just sitting there. But, I think we all struggle with that on some level, and it's just a matter of how comfortable we feel with going along with that concept.
I know that you have a particular enjoyment of pizza, and I was wondering for you, what sets a good pizza apart?
I'm not picky when it comes to pizza. There's been only a very few times that I can recall where I wouldn't eat a pizza because I didn't think it was good enough. In fact, I actually can't remember a time when I've stopped eating a slice of pizza, for example, because I didn't like it. I think we all are aware that pizza is extraordinarily popular, and I'm just one of its many fans.
Do you have any favorite spots, either on tour or at home, where you like to grab a slice?
Wherever it comes from is where I get it. We've been very lucky on these recent tours to be engaging in these pizza parties where we invite some of the audience members to enter into a contest in which they win a pizza party with us backstage.
In Warsaw, Poland, late after a show, a promoter ordered us pizza as a treat. I was surprised, one, that they had pizza available at 1 am, because it's hard to get that sometimes even in a pretty major city in the U.S. Not only did they have pizza, it was in my opinion, hands down, the best pizza we had had in weeks and weeks and weeks of doing these daily pizza parties.
What's your approach to eating on tour?
I definitely let it flow. Sometimes those have been really incredible experiences. For example, in Kansas City, my guitar player and I were desperate for food, and we went to about six places, all of which had just closed. I think it was 11 pm, and they were just closing, so we had to continue on and continue on and continue on. Finally, we found the one place that was open, a very nice, brightly lit, big sports bar. We dove in, and I think it was the best chicken wings I'd ever had.
Again, it was such a random encounter that I don't even remember the name. That's not a good thing; I should've. But, my guitar player agreed, we were just completely blown away. If we had been able to go to any one of the number of other places we had visited if they hadn't been closed, then we never would've found this place. It's that beautiful serendipity. Sometimes going out without any plan, it's just finding out what happens. I'll always remember that meal. I don't know exactly why. Other meals that were much more carefully planned, or [came] with much higher expectations—not only were they disappointing, I don't even really remember them.
It's as though you were just born, but it's also as though you're just about to die—in either of those extremes of experience, you would appreciate and notice things differently.
In a way, that is the truth. If we could move it to the front of our mind in a way that's inspiring or motivating rather than causing anxiety, and dread, and fear, it can put things into perspective. There's beauty that's always around us, the adventure that we're always on. [It'd] help us relinquish enough control to appreciate it all through curiosity.
Want to catch the Party Philosopher in real life? Check out the current tour dates or his new album You're Not Alone.