Photos by Tyler Sterling, Review by Max Stewart
To see Ween live is to be taken on a carnival-like musical journey. The band defies any genre classification in the most mind-blowing way, allowing fans to take the ride with them through all of its magical twists and turns. One second you will be entranced (and slightly in fear) by a far-out alternative jam, next you are joyfully basking in the twang to a two-stepping to a Country tune. This band has continued to be prolific and sought out by fans of all music because of their ability to not be defined.
Ween darts so smoothly across every corner of the musical galaxy, it would be impossible (and frankly, improper) to catalogue the Experimental / Noise Pop / Lo-Fi / Country / 70s Soft Rock / Psychedelic / Everything Under the Sun world of Ween into one clean category. Gene Ween (a.k.a. Aaron Freeman) and Dean Ween (a.k.a. Micky Melchiondo) formed the band in high school in 1984 and have been keeping the ‘Brown’ music churning out sporadically on the road since their 2015 reunion with the help of long-time bandmates Dave Dreiwitz (Bass), Claude Coleman Jr. (Drums), and Glenn McClelland (Keyboards).
During their two night stand at Atlanta’s The Eastern, the band treated the audience to a mix of many stylistic highlights from the Weenverse. From thrashing punk (“Dr. Rock”), to Beatles-inspired pop (“Stay Forever”), to distorted showtunes (“Take Me Away”), to alt-rock in space (“Back to Basom”), and even some off-putting nursery rhymes (“I’m Dancing in the Show Tonight”). Deaner also proved why he is the exuberant, childlike Rock ‘N’ Roll presence in the band with tasty guitar solos at every turn. His expressions and energy are worth price of admission alone.
Oftentimes, when a guitar-based band that has as much talent as Ween does and their songs extend beyond what you hear in the album cuts, that band will get lumped into the “Jam Band” category. Ween is certainly not comfortable in that role (Gene: “All that jam band shit makes me want to puke”; Dean on LOCKN’ 2016 and Phish: “I wanted to blow their f**king asses off the stage”). From someone who witnessed their extremely obscure but extremely gratifying LOCKN’ Thursday night festival set, don’t expect Ween to embrace their inner flower-child anytime soon. That being sad, wow this band has the chops to improvise theirs songs into long and wild stretches. In fact, their jam of “A Tear For Eddie” was one of the highlights of the weekend.
The Atlanta shows were further confirmation that the band doing it all continues to lend itself to more fans seeking them out. The crowd was a mix of Gen X original fans in faded Boognish shirts to twenty-somethings holding their cells in the air trying to capture the magic for their Instagram followers. Not gonna happen, you need a ticket to truly understand.
Nothing about this band makes sense, or is by any definition, “by the book”. But that, in essence, is what makes Ween so appealing. Seeing a band successfully break down barriers of classification without muddying it or becoming a ‘jack of all trades, master of none’ act is beyond satisfying. In a world that needs absolutes and definition (“The GOAT basketball player of all time”, “Best album of all time”, “The award for Best Picture goes to…”), Ween is a big middle finger to it all. They exist comfortably in their own skin, letting every one of their influences ooze out of them without paying mind to traditional record label notions of what it is required to have a following and sell records.
To hell with genres, Ween is living proof that musicians do not need to be part of a ‘scene’ or stay within their lane to be commercially successful. The band has droves of dedicated fans by playing what they want and embracing the brown.