Ween fans flocked to Chicago on 13 February, 2010 for a solo-acoustic performance by eclectic song smith Aaron Freeman. Freeman, better known as Gene Ween, performed in front of an enthusiastic sold-out crowd at Chicago’s newest venue Lincoln Hall. Opening the evening was Jeremy Jacobsen, better known as The Lonesome Organist. Jacobsen captivated an intoxicated audience with an astonishing ability to multitask.
The Lonesome Organist
At all times he would exercise two or more instruments: for some songs he would combine accordion, tap dancing and singing. Other times he would rock out on the drums, while keeping his accordion going, followed by some toy piano and vocals; banjo and yodeling were also intermixed. Jacobsen’s proficient hodgepodge of skills was achieved without the use of background loops, putting legendary multi-tasker Andrew Bird to shame.
The most impressive aspect of Jacobsen’s performance was his incredible sense of rhythm and timing; his drumming was tight and snappy, matched with an ability to keep two different time signatures at once. Jacobsen’s whimsical, waltz worthy set lasted approximately 30 minutes. Gene strolled onto the scene and perched himself atop a stool located center stage at approximately 10:30 P.M. “How you doing Chicago people?” Gene asked the boisterous crowd. “I’m Gene Ween. I’m here to play all my pretty Gene Ween ditties and some other songs.” Equipped with sparkling water, red Chuck Taylors and an acoustic guitar, Gener set into the crowd request “Now I’m Freaking Out”. Throughout the tune Gene was able to naturally manipulate his voice to sound synthesized, as if he had inhaled a lungful of helium. He put his vocal talents to the test yet again during a rendition of “Stallion Part 3”.
As Gene played on he appeared modest and vulnerable, shielded only by his guitar. Though grateful for the audience’s enthusiasm, he proved to be slightly out of his element by commenting after the finish of “ The Golden Eel”: “That was nice…(guitar strum)…It’s so fucking weird playing acoustic solo. It feels like my brain is going backwards.”
His honest comment seemed to increase the audience’s appreciation and excitement for the man of the hour. As the performance wore on they continued to egg Gene on with request after request, many of which were honored. Perhaps the best request was rarity “Ooh Va Lah”, to which Gene remarked: “I forgot that I love that song.” From the balcony I was able to see the requester glowing in jubilation that her song was approved.
Plowing forward Gene changed grooves by jumping into some selections from Ween’s country days including “You Were the Fool”. Halfway through the song’s lyrics reminiscing about “Jim and Dan prancin’ round the pool,” Gener broke into a chuckle. “Thinking about Jim and Dan prancin’ ‘round the pool…[laughs]…I’m thinking about it…[laughs]…it’s fucking Jim and Dan!” And with that being said the audience fell in love with Gene all over again as they joined him in laughter and explicit banter. An hour into the evening Gener announced a cigarette break. Before heading off to smoke he broke out a brief and unexpected rendition of the rarity “Boy’s Club”, closely followed by a chummy tribute to his partner in crime Dean Ween with “What Deaner Was Talkin’ About”.
Upon returning from smoking Gene opened the floor for requests. Being the eve of Valentine’s Day the second set was saturated with “brown” romance.
Each song was filled with a cross between raw, sincere emotion mixed with tainted, bittersweet affection. Gene’s Valentine to all was a cover of John Lennon’s “Oh Yoko”, which simply brought the house down. He followed suit with an engrossing, heartfelt “Buenos Tardes Amigo”.
He got so wrapped up in the moment that one could feel the song’s imagery of an outlaw in a gritty, hot Mexican saloon set in the middle of the desert. Gener worked his voice into a variety of shrieks and outbursts of revenge, matched with some vocal adlibbing. Eventually he brought himself back down to Chicago calling himself out on his musical wanderings. “This is where I space out, man,” Gene said. Gene wrapped up the performance and exited the stage. The sacred and profound performance lasted a mere hour-and-a-half. Expecting an encore fans did not make any efforts to exit the venue. Instead they remained at a standstill, inching forward towards the stage, cheering for Gene’s return.
The house lights remained down for at least five minutes, crowd screaming and chanting, and still no Gener. Six minutes passed and the house music rose, though the lights remained off. Still the crowd held their ground continuing to plea for Gene. I watched as front row fans invaded the stage, snatching the performer’s beverages, sweat rags, possibly a set list or show notes, and littered his stool with Valentines. Next the house lights rose, and the stage hands began to dismantle the scene. The fans still didn’t budge. Eventually they came to the realization that an encore was not going to happen, bringing the exclusive, grandiose evening to an end.
Now I’m Freaking Out
Tried and True
Stallion Part 3
Flutes of the Chi
Don’t Get 2 Close 2 My Fantasy
Ooh va lah
She’s Your Baby
I Don’t Want To Leave You on the Farm
You Were the Fool
What Deaner Was Talking About
Oh My Dear (I Must be Falling in Love)
Buenos Tardes Amigos