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Despite sparse turnout, Andrew W.K. holds court at the Midland

Andrew W.K., shown performing in 2012 in Atlanta, headlined Afentra’s Prom, an annual concert presented by the alternative rock radio station 96.5 The Buzz, on Friday night at the Midland theater.
Andrew W.K., shown performing in 2012 in Atlanta, headlined Afentra’s Prom, an annual concert presented by the alternative rock radio station 96.5 The Buzz, on Friday night at the Midland theater. Invision/The Associated Press

After donning a tiara that a fan tossed onto the stage of the Arvest Bank Theatre at the Midland on Friday night, Andrew W.K. proudly declared, “I am the prom princess.”

W.K., the stage name of the California native Andrew Fetterly Wilkes-Krier, was the headliner of Afentra’s Prom, an annual concert presented by the alternative rock radio station 96.5 The Buzz. Admission to the ersatz adaptation of the high school ritual was free, but prospective attendees were warned that they would “be turned away without proper dress attire.”

W.K. resembles a life coach as much as a rock musician. He writes an advice column for The Village Voice and is the founder of the Party Party, a quasi-political organization with a credo loosely based on the universality of fun.

He hasn’t released a conventional rock album in 10 years, a hiatus that contributed to the exceptionally low turnout of less than 500 people. At least two fans dared to crowd surf during a frantic rendition of W.K.’s “Party Hard,” a considerable feat given the bountiful empty space near the stage.

Like most W.K. songs, “Party Hard” blends the sweet power pop of Cheap Trick with the lusty heft of AC/DC. Gleeful versions of “Ready To Die,” “It’s Time To Party” and “I Get Wet” followed the same formula.

Half the appeal of the 60-minute set was the berserk frolicking by W.K. and his four-piece band. W.K. occasionally manhandled his keyboard like a cowboy in a steer wrestling competition while guitarist Dave Pino ran in tight circles. W.K. and his band mates wore their customary informal stage clothes.

“I believe that we … missed the memo on the dress code,” he said.

The three men in Dreamers opted for tuxedo T-shirts under their black leather jackets. While a reading of “Wolves (You Got Me)” was uncomfortably similar to the stylized sound of the Strokes, most of the Brooklyn band’s material was appealingly rugged barroom rock.

The Young Wild was far less impressive. The bland San Diego quartet looked and sounded like musicians that might be cast to appear at a high school dance on an outdated TV soap opera.

The first few minutes of the Sluts’ opening set didn’t go well. Ryan Wise’s barbaric guitar riffs and Kristoffer Dover’s primal drumming were initially met with stunned silence. The insolent primitivism of the Lawrence duo eventually won the audience over. While the Sluts lack W.K.’s dynamic stage presence, the duo shares the headliner’s uncanny knack for making rudimentary rock ’n’ roll seem extraordinarily thrilling.

Bill Brownlee: @happyinbag

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