Smells like Ween spirit: cult rockers paint the town brown

by Ryan Snyder

‘­All hail the Boognish! Ween injects a little bit of weird into Winston-Salem. (photo courtesy of David Wainer,’­ Ween is not for everyone,including the easily offended,recovering alcoholics,those clinging to a tenuousgrip on reality, anyone withstrong moral convictions,feminists, chauvinists,pacifi sts, honor-roll students,Tea Partiers, Justin Bieberfans and the indiscriminatelyhumorless. Pregnantwomen should not handleWeen because of the riskof a certain type of birth defect. Do not staredirectly into Ween. Possible side effects includeheadaches, dizziness and dry mouth. Ask yourdoctor if Ween is right for you. With that warning out of the way, it’s fairfor me to reiterate that Ween certainly isn’t formost, though that doesn’t make their show atthe Millennium Center last Wednesday, the secondof their current tour, any less signifi cant. Ina city where the largest venue has all but givenup on booking acts of any cultural import, therehasn’t been a truly noteworthy rock concert inmonths. Yet, there’s a reason why Ween is known asa cult act, though the patient and open-mindedlistener could fi nd one of the most humorous,subversive and fulfi lling bands of anystrain. Only Frank Zappa could have gottenaway with songs like “Waving My Dick In theWind,” but it’s where Ween’s mix of earthen,tube-haired itinerants, polo-ed frat types, andpuerile Encyclopedia Dramatica trolls fi nd theircommonalities. The quintet clearly doesn’t careabout their image, either. Singer and guitaristGene Ween (Aaron Freeman) is aging like theNazi who drank from the wrong cup in IndianaJones and The Last Crusade, but it’s also aproposthat he fronts a band that built their legendon spitting in the face of good taste. Ween impulsively shifted from the absurdistpower pop and rare live treat of “MarbleTulip Juicy Tree” to the rebellious and utterlyderanged “Spinal Meningitis (Got Me Down)”to the Calypso-and-cocaine-infused cabananarrative “Bananas and Blow” in the fi rst 20minutes of the show, making it a good bet thatanyone who might have bought tickets on recommendationalone standing with arms crossedfor the rest of the evening. It was a fans-only open indeed, but evendiehards were in awe of the morsels throwntheir way as the intensity ratcheted during“Voodoo Lady,” one of the bands few “normal”songs that still happens to rock — and hard. Inbetween a trippy distortion sortie and a repriseof the song’s boogie-oogie-oogie chorus,Freeman postured and smacked his lips like aqueen on a two-verse tease of Prince’s “Kiss.”It was a moment that was both unexpectedsublime to see the graying, puffy Freeman nailinga spot-on Prince facsimile, but shouldn’thave shocked any repeat offenders to theseshows. Ween’s fans have come to expect thesemoments, though one never really knows howor when; they’re simply thins you have to beready to embrace. The band gave a solid look at their lastrelease, 2007’s La Cucaracha, starting withthe blatantly sexist lament “Object,” but it wasthe acerbic “Your Party” which I awaited withbated breath. Lines like “I was calm whenwe arrived at the party/ I spoke with fervor,embracing the evening” and the account of“candy and spices and tri-colored pastas”satisfi ed my ache for some skewering of theWASP-y extravagance of 1980s yacht rock, butnot even former Blood, Sweat & Tears keyboardistGlenn McLelland’s cheesy synth interludecould completely replace David Sanborn’sultra-syrupy sax on the studio cut. If any fi rst-timer in the house had escapedunoffended to that point, they were certainlyfl oundered after Dean Ween took the vocalsfor arguably the superlative live track from LaCucaracha, “With My Own Bare Hands.” Histhroaty metal vocal chops heaved words soobscene that they were only made possible bythe First Amendment’s parody protection.The set list was fi lled out by beloved regulars“Buckingham Green,” “Mutilated Lips”and “Pandy Fackler,” as fans showed theirappreciation by tossing garbage onstage.It was almost as if Freeman acknowledgedthe crowd’s general obtuseness after rippingthrough a cover of David Bowie’s “Let’sDance.” “Thank you so much Winston-Salem, welove you so much. We always look forward tocoming here every year,” he said with tongueplanted in cheek. “Deaner and I, we talk aboutit on the phone. He says, ‘So much love for usin Winston-Salem.’ I said, ‘Yeah man!’”All was forgiven, however, as Ween threwa bone to the wayward Phish fans who latchedonto the band during the wookie icons’ hiatus,as they ended the 2.5-hour marathon set witha cover of Phish’s cover of their own “RosesAre Free.” No doubt some of those wenthome beaming about Ween playing a “Phishcover.” Those who hadn’t choked to death onganja smoke by the encore were ushered outby a mildly uneventful encore of the lyriclessparty jig “Fiesta” and the tear-jerking Spanishepic “Buenos Tardes Amigos.” Sorry friends,no tortuous, 30-minute long “PoopshipDestroyer” this time, but it was still easily thebest show Winston-Salem has seen this year. ! ‘­