“Are you ready to fucking rock?!” The hoary, KISS-worthy bit of clichéd crowd work is delivered with no traceable irony. It comes courtesy of a man who otherwise appears diametrically opposed to any kind of rock-star convention: a 300lb, sweat-suited, diagnosed schizophrenic from Chicago named Wesley Willis. His forehead is permanently bruised from greeting fans with loving head-butts. He’s plopped at his Technics keyboard, ready to hunt-and-peck pre-set melodies so rudimentary they make minimal-wave synth sound like baroque opera.
The room roars back, giving Shea Stadium in 1965 a run for its money. “Yeeeah!” A hint of skepticism is detectable in the crowd, however. How could there not be, at such an introduction, so impossibly full of naïve joy? The question of exploitation is necessary, but right now the artist is either oblivious or unconcerned. He’s already launching into “Chuck Hazelwood,” like so many other Willis tracks an homage to a personal fixation, belted out with maximum enthusiasm and zero vocal range.
The apeshit crowd shouts back the hook, full throat, with each (frequent) repetition. The frenzy peaks with a Carolina-tailored version of the patented Willis coda: “Rock over London, Rock on Chicago,” followed by his trademark drop of random corporate ad sloganeering. “BMW / It’s the ultimate driving machine!”