Los Angeles, CA
January 29, 2011
Though Ween has recently steered clear of extensive touring or releasing new material, they have done anything but leave the minds of their devoted following. Having never amassed much mainstream notoriety, sans a couple of critiques by Beavis and Butthead (for Freedom of ’76 & Push Th’ Little Daisies), their distinctive sound that blends everything from punk to flamenco has never grown stale to those with whom it resonates. So on 1/29/11, when Ween showed up to paint Los Angeles’ The Wiltern brown, the line of Boognish believers and seekers seemed to coil for as far as the eye could see; all anxiously anticipating entry into the hard-sold-out gig.
Once inside, in an attempt to take it all in, one could not help but notice the vast difference in the apparel and demeanor amongst those in attendance. There were flat brimmed sporting rave types, people who missed the bus to the next Phish show, and the unsightly presence of many muscle bound guys who were sporting backwards hats. They were eerily reminiscent of the guy in Dazed & Confused who "came to kick some ass and drink some beer" and he was "almost out of beer." However an ill-advised adventure into the bathroom revealed that beer was not the only substance on their mind. Let’s just say that the beefcakes left the "Bananas" at home, but were highly stocked in the other ingredient. Perhaps the urinal scene would explain the anarchic scene that the crowd became at times throughout the night that was to come. But in reference to the diversity in the scene in so far as fans were concerned, another noteworthy tidbit of insight could be gleaned; Ween’s sound is persona spanning and that regardless of attire, there are perhaps scarily enough people from all sub-sects who can appreciate the variety of eccentricity that Dean and Gene Ween have been refining since the 80s.
To kick things off, Ween launched into the introductory track from 2000’s White Pepper, "Exactly Where I’m At." The familiar beat intro courtesy of Claude Coleman gave way to the less distorted live version of this track that, combined with Gene’s accentuated N20-esque vocals, provided solid opening and the perfect preamble to Dean’s first shred of the evening. The crowd gave applause but it seemed obligatory. As an opener it made perfect sense, but this crowd seemed to be more in search of something less crafted and more chaotic. Preconceived notions can equal antipathy in the making, but Ween has been down this road many times, and anyone’s apathy would be rattled with the second tune in the 30 song set, "Don’t Get 2 Close (2 My Fantasy)."
Upon opening lick and subsequent vocals from a Gene, who had now disrobed his guitar, the crowd erupted and got their first true glimpse of a Gene Ween in the rarest of theatrical forms – a form that would remain all night. Watching the aging Gene, who has lost a considerable amount of weight over the past year or so, proceeded to do what resembled crazed performance art was quite the sight. Though it was quite the visual spectacle in its own right, nothing was lost in terms of vocal recital. He was spot on though somewhat embellished. It seemed that either he could not figure out where he was at or that he was simply too happy to be in the moment that he did not care. Again, this was a trend that continued throughout the progression of the set.
After the somewhat raucous "Touch My Tooter," the boys gave the audience a chance for a little subdued sing-along with "Freedom of ’76." The massive L.A. multitude’s choral approval demonstrated that no love has been lost through limited touring and that Gene can still hit every nad-less (thanks Beavis) high note as well as he ever could. To boot, Dean sporting a Philly Flyers jersey during the somewhat comedic mockery of the city of love number simple added to the grins that the song causes to naturally adorn on its listeners’ faces.
The set evolved pretty much as one would expect. Dave Dreiwitz held down the low end, providing a place to call home for Dean in case he got lost in his solo space and Gene was…well, Gene. A particularly blood curdling "Spinal Meningitis" ensured that anyone who had perhaps over indulged on a particular substance would have no choice but to run out of the venue screaming or at least have to go to the lobby to call their mommy. But the true highlight actually came in the form of a cover, David Bowie’s "Let’s Dance."
Let’s just say that if Gene Ween ever needs a hustle, he needn’t worry with learning how to wield a pool cue. This guy was the most awkwardly accurate David Bowie that I can fathom. Introduced as "a very special guest, David Bowie" the Gener took that shit to heart and pulled it all off with an air of a confident Vincent Price undertone and strangely appealing grace. Though this was nowhere near the first time Ween has covered the number, there was just some extra sauce on this night in the run down theater that made it extra tasty. Dean tore on his ’62 Fender Dakota as expected while keyboardist Glenn McClelland kept the song authentic.
The show would end on the heels of rarity, "Put The Coke On My Dick," that was a last minute addition per Deaner’s audible from the line of scrimmage. It was a great night to be brown and also was a night in which all Ween fans should bask. With rumors swirling about various things related to the band, one thing is certain: the two Pennsylvania native lads still know how to both play to and work a crowd. They do it in a way that is, to this day, exclusive unto themselves…and they do it with expertise.
Exactly Where I’m At, Don’t Get 2 Close (2 My Fantasy), Touch My Tooter, Even If You Don’t, Freedom Of ’76, Transdermal Celebration, Bananas & Blow, Spinal Meningitis, Learning To Live, My Own Bare Hands, The Argus, Gabrielle, Puerto Rican Power, Johnny On the Spot, Object, Did You See Me?, Buckingham Green, Your Party, Let’s Dance, Slow Down Boy, Ace Of Spades, Push Th’ Little Daisies, What Deaner Was Talking About, Roses Are Free, Put The Coke On My Dick, Ocean Man, The Mollusk, Fiesta, Take Me Away, Mr. Richard Smoker, Lucky Man