The last time Andrew W.K. came through town, it was as the opening act for Canadian rocker Danko Jones. Even then, his fame had grown to the point where he was probably the main draw, and his popularity has only increased since then, as the 1,000-person capacity Capital Music Hall was nearly sold out. His own opening act was a bit of a mystery; ex-Hole and Smashing Pumpkins bassist Melissa Auf de Mar’s name appeared in a few newspaper advertisements, but when showtime  rolled around, the beatbox belonging to Ottawa-based Mike Patton-worshippers Daiquiri was positioned on a stand in front of the microphone.

Daiquiri have carved a bit of a niche for themselves opening for various oddball acts that have rolled through town (weirdo metallists Faxed Head and Bobby Conn being two of the most noteworthy) and toured with a number of fringe musical performers.

Singer and beatbox operator Mike Hickey doesn’t have Patton’s versatility, but he’s still an excellent vocalist; he emerged on stage wearing an apron, sport jacket, sunglasses and a headband made from crime-scene tape. Guitarist Leigh Newton, in white shirt and slacks switches easily between heavy riffs , sci-fi shredding and spastic guitar wipeouts, very much in the style of Faith No More’s Jim Martin.

Daiquiri have an active stage show — lots of jumping and robot dancing, good songs and despite their occasionally convoluted music, a cohesive one. Apart from the heckling of one audience member who kept asking where their drummer was (to which singer Hickey finally deigned to reply “There’s no answer to that”) they were well-received by an audience who were entirely their for the main event.

A mighty shout went up when Andrew W.K. and his musicians — three guitarists, a bassist and a drummer, a somewhat stripped-down setup for him — were seen on the staircase  that descends to the stage from the dressing rooms. A.W.K. went to his keyboards for some instrumental intro, then launched into songs from all three of his releases — the 'Girl’s Own Juice' EP from his early days on Bulb and his two major label releases.

A.W.K.’s super-condensed arena rock, with it’s crunchy stompalong riffs and relentless joi de vivre stands counter to almost everything gloomy indie rockers love, as did his frank declaration that “This music is good ... because you like it!!!” Taking every cliche and flogging it to its limits — a bottle of water was opened and sprayed over the audience between every number — might eventually run out of steam (when push comes to shove, Daiquiri was the more interesting act musically —  but there’s no denying that A.W.K. connects with his audience. What they want is a combination crowd rally and exercise video, and that’s what they get.

There was energetic crowd moshing, clapping and chanting when asked for, and A.W.K. dished out his by now rote declarations of “Everyone go totally crazy!” and “We are not dead!” (I checked my pulse, just to make sure — yup, he was right, on both occasions).

“Do you want to love Ottawa, or New York City!?!?” he asked the crowd at one point. After a quick audience vote, it was determined that Ottawans actually preferred the old home town, and A.W.K. and company launched into a reconfigured version of 'The Wolf' tune.

A few more numbers, and it was time for the inevitable departure and return for the encore, which was received with even more ecstasy. At the end of the encore, two dozen audience members were hauled up over the barrier to jump around on stage, hoist Andrew W.K. on to their soldiers. Finally, A.W.K. himself surfed out in the crowd, and the show came to its upbeat yet riotous conclusion.

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Commenting On: Capital Music Hall, Ottawa, 16/2/2004 - Andrew W.K .and Daiquiri

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