Denver happily rolled out the brown carpet for its favorite non-native sons Ween for a three night stand, culminating in an epic New Years Eve blowout, at the Fillmore Auditorium. Needless to say, anticipation and expectations were almost unbearably high, as this was Ween’s first NYE show since 1998 at the Westbeth Theater in New York City. To further goad the Ween legion, the band announced on their website that they would be “Going for the Record”; attempting to break their personal record for most songs played during consecutive three night shows. Guitarist Dean Ween (aka Mickey Melchiondo) said in a pre-show interview to heyreverb.com: “You probably won’t hear the same songs over three nights,” Melchiondo said. “I’ve got an aggressive goal over the next few days of figuring out 100 songs so we can pull it off. We’ve done it before, but it takes time to come up with three unique set lists”.
Night One clocked in with thirty one songs, while Night Two found the band getting psychedelic and spacey with twenty eight songs in a three hour performance, leaving me to wonder, “How the hell are they going to pull this off?” No matter I thought, as I approached the venue on a New Years Eve night that had suddenly turned cold but felt warmly electric. Arriving early, I hoped to secure a MARS-1 designed poster, but to my disappointment those sold out within ten minutes. Say what you will about Ween fans, they’re unquestionably loyal. Above the 3,500 capacity show floor, nets housed hundreds of ballons emblazoned with The Boognish, Ween’s demi-God mascot and deity. Securing residency in the upper-left balcony, fans decked out in their NYE finery began trickling in, most delaying their entrance until after opening act Kid is Qual had mercifully limped off stage, nursing the wounds of three straight nights of consistent boos and jeers from Ween fans hungrily waiting for their heroes to take the stage.
When Ween finally appeared just a shade before 10 pm, the capacity crowd erupted. Whereas the previous night had been a sonic exploration, Ween was all about the party before the apocalypse for NYE. Kicking things off with the standard but albeit fitting instrumental opener “Fiesta” from 2007’s La Cucaracha, the band immediately fed from the fevered energy of the crowd, and anything seemed possible. Three hours later, I left the venue giddy, with a dumb smile plastered on my face. My notes were an incomprehensible mess. My shirt was damp with sweat. I had made some new friends and united with some old ones. It was a new year, and I was happy. So what happened in between? I had witnessed the best Ween show this jaded fan has seen in over a decade of actively following the band. Did they reach their goal of one hundred songs? No. But it didn’t matter. What mattered was that I had tapped into that private place in my soul that live music can touch, on the right night with the right friends and just the right band. Ok, back to the show.
After “Fiesta”, the rest of the 31 song show included oldies, deep cuts, and a slew of familiar covers, all performed with a verve and raw intensity that has been missing from recent Ween festival dates. As live performances become increasingly sporadic, it’s a treasure to catch Ween when they truly seem to be having fun. Gene Ween’s vocals were pitch perfect, and from my recollection there were no botched or forgotten lyrics. Dean Ween got loose and heavy on extended solos during “Frank” and “Doctor Rock”. Adding to my personal love for the night, I got that elusive rarity that I’ve been dying for my entire Ween career; a stellar rendition of “Beacon Light” from the X-Files soundtrack. As midnight approached, Ween slowed things down for the appropriate selection of “Your Party” from La Cucaracha. When the moment hit, a rushed countdown from Dean Ween segued into explosions of cannon confetti and the balloon drop as 2012 began. “Looks like the Flaming Lips,” remarked a bemused Dean Ween as the band kicked into one of the most joyous moments of the night, a synth-heavy rendition of David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”.
As if “Beacon Light” wasn’t enough, I got my other elusive favorite “Polka Dot Tail”, a woozy, distortion heavy cut from 1997’s The Mollusk. For the four song encore, the band got extra brown (a ween term for anything heavy, fucked up and/or awesome.) In an ode to the 2004 Live in Chicago three night stand, Ween closed the night with a rousing version of “The Blarney Stone”, complete with fan accompaniment of raised glasses and pounding fists. “See you next time. Happy New Year!” Gene Ween proclaimed as a fond farewell to the night. The world hasn’t ended yet, but I can’t have imagined a better way to go out.
02. “Take Me Away”
03. “Transdermal Celebration”
04. “Waving My Dick in the Wind”
05. “Bananas and Blow”
06. “Beacon Light”
07. “Push th’ Little Daisies”
08. “Stay Forever”
09. “Awesome Sound”
10. “Mutilated Lips”
11. “Touch My Tooter”
12. “Doctor Rock”
13. “Hey There Fancy Pants”
14. “I’ll Be Your Johnny On the Spot”
15. “The Goin Gets Tough From the Getgo”
17. “Piss Up a Rope”
18. “Help Me Scrape the Mucus Off My Brain”
19. “Buckingham Green”
21. “Your Party”
22. “Let’s Dance” (David Bowie cover)
23. “Don’t Laugh (I Love You)”
24. “Polka Dot Tail”
25. “The HIV Song”
26. “Ohio” (Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young cover)
27. “Tender Situation”
28. “It’s Gonna Be a Long Night”
29. “Licking the Palm for Guava”
30. “Mushroom Festival in Hell”
34. “The Blarney Stone”