Watching Ween perform in the parking lot of the Murat Theater in Indianapolis, it was impossible not to notice the innumerable crusty, matted tubes of hair falling about the lilywhite faces of the middle-class twenty-somethings who made up the majority of the audience.
How did this happen?
9 May 2003: Murat Theater Parking Lot Indianapolis, Indiana
I have a message for you pseudo-hippie jam-band devotees: Ween are not for you. You, with your foggy-headed politics and outdated pacifistic defiance—you cannot begin to comprehend the scope of Ween’s brilliance. And despite what the herd mentality that dictates your lifestyle may lead you to believe, you need not listen to Ween because Phish have covered a couple of their songs. Let me put it to you in simple terms: Ween are not a jam band. Rarely, if ever, do they jam. I suppose they have been known to freak out, but their freakouts are white-hot, unpredictable, and vaguely frightening energy fits, not meandering instrumentals that predictably build to a flaccid crescendo. Ween are an entity unto themselves. They are cosmic orphans. It would behoove you not to entertain any notions of trying to adopt them.
I say this because I have seen the crowds, and the threat is real. The worst part is, knowing Ween, they would likely submit to the transaction. They are ridiculously nice guys. If a bunch of misguided quasi-hippies start following them around, Ween aren’t going to tell them to beat it. But then again, Ween aren’t the ones who will have to stand amidst the fetid odors and cover-your-eyes bad fashion that invariably come with these clowns. So for the last time, to all of you white-bread, hygienically challenged posers: Ween aren’t for you.
Oh, the show? Ween rocked. Of course they rocked—they’re Ween, arguably rock and roll’s best kept secret. People who think of them as simple pranksters or satire artists have got it way wrong: Ween are more in tune with the fundamental nature of rock and roll than anyone currently making music. They’re doggedly passionate, gloriously theatrical, brilliantly subversive, and maybe a little bit evil. Nothing is sacred when Ween play, either in the studio or on the stage, except for every person’s right to unbolt that forbidden black box inside himself and let whatever’s in there come pouring out, fuck the consequences.
On this night, the show started with Dean summoning the sinister spurts of guitar that begin “Buckingham Green”. Gene joined in, using every muscle in his face to push out the words: “A child without an eye / Made her mother cry / Why ask why?” Rounding out the rest of the band was Claude Coleman on drums (back in good form after a nasty car accident), a keyboardist whose name I regrettably do not know, and a bassist (Mean Ween? Looked kind of like him. Can’t be sure). The sound was crisp, the band was well-oiled, and so, presumably, were the bloodstreams of everyone in attendance. The band rollicked through a set that drew a fair amount from all of their albums, but most heavily from Chocolate and Cheese. They even played “The HIV Song.”
The highlight of the night would have been the encore performance of “Buenos Tardes Amigo” if I hadn’t already seen the band close with it twice before. So instead, zenith props must go to what was a profoundly rich interpretation of “Touch My Tooter”, during which singer Gene went off the hook, loping about the stage and screaming into his mic, “Buddy why’s my brain so muddy? Why do I feel like putty, when she walks into the room?” It was transcendent. Everybody loved it. Even the lousy neo-hippies.
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