Words and Images by: Jake Krolick
Ween :: 11.24.07 :: Tower Theatre :: Philadelphia, PA
Thanksgiving pulls out the best in family dysfunction - your uncle says something wildly inappropriate or perhaps your sister's boyfriend gets too drunk and pukes on the centerpiece. With bins of turkey still in crammed in the fridge, it was the perfect season for Ween to host their own homecoming party laced with steaming new songs and heaps of improper actions to delight their wonderfully dysfunctional "family." Whether you traveled across Philadelphia to Upper Darby or trekked in from some other hole-in-the-wall, it was well worth grabbing a seat at this table. Ween served its guests a monstrous helping of La Cucaracha, their shining Rounder Records debut. The performance of these latest songs not only reflected the band's beginnings it also piled on the rebellious varieties of sound Ween fans celebrate.
| Ween :: 11.24|
Tucked in the back alley across from the Tower Theater is a classic dive bar, the Waterford. Walking in Saturday night was like reliving the night before Thanksgiving from another era. Drinks were in high demand as the musty smelling bar was filled with laughter and a who's who of fans from across the Delaware Valley. The brown liquor was finished fast as smoke started to rise from the stage inside the Tower. Mickey "Dean Ween" Melchiondo and his musical cohort Aaron "Gene Ween" Freeman flashed grins and grabbed instruments before they each snagged a stool. The acoustic opening suited the evening well and gave the homecoming a nice, sentimental feel. Dean's patience and timing carried the solo on "Mutilated Lips." His tweaked pick strum ladled up a bit of David Bowie weirdness as he let his guitar free flow through the chords.
The odd sight of seeing notoriously rowdy Ween fans sitting didn't last for long as Gene snatched his electric axe midway through "Golden Eel." The song combinations were as tasty a pairing as mashed potatoes and gravy. "Learnin' To Love" was the first of eight new songs played from La Cucaracha. This thumping little country shuffle offered the kind of spirit that ignites farmer's daughters. It was only fitting that Ween defile her with a rousing version of "Piss Up a Rope." Glenn McClelland was spirited and smiling as he ripped us apart with a honky-tonk piano solo before he tossed the rope back to Gene and Dean.
| Ween :: 11.24|
The fine light show bathed bright colored spots from floor to ceiling giving the crowds' intoxicated senses an extra boost. Once you made it past the show's extensive external distractions you found musical mastery and meticulous skill. It's not some secret joke that you have to be in on to understand. With Ween, you listen to it and you either love it or you don't. The Boognish possessed Dave Dreiwitz (bass) and Claude Coleman Jr. (drums) as they shook "Spiritwalker" with some serious thump and bump. Coleman and Dreiwitz locked horns all evening and their exchanges kept building the show's momentum. Gene put down his guitar to pursue the life of a lounge singer from "Take Me Away" until "Transdermal Celebration." The not-quite-Vegas performer wobbled and strutted across the stage as Deaner washed down a multitude of beers. A lighter ironic side of the evening emerged with the disturbingly natural sequence of "Bananas and Blow" and "Your Party." Gene took his time letting his tongue examine each line of "Your Party," the Peter Sellers styled dinner party where "candy and spices and tricolored pastas" are served as a meal.
Ween's wide-ranging tastes and grubby humor appear to be an extension of who they are and what they enjoy listening to. The evening oozed with flavors of Van Halen, Parliament Funkadelic and Prince. Dean's solos were extraordinary and dripped raw power as he slaughtered our senses and destroyed his guitar during "Roses Are Free" and "My Own Bare Hands." The Tower's version of "My Own Bare Hands" was a tad faster than the album take and was received with sheer delight. Its heavy licks, punchy singing and nasty ending solo were so tremendous that this take will be the point of comparison for all future versions. Lyrics like "I wanna be your lawn mower and cut your fuckin grass" turned our cheers to screams.
| Ween :: 11.24|
Dean Ween never let up as he wailed on his guitar, his hands acting at masturbatory speed while he ripped the skin off during "Johnny On The Spot." La Cucaracha displayed a bit more of its fantastical entertainment during the duo of "Shamemaker" and "Fiesta." Gene performed "Shamemaker" in all his glory, running through a gamut of faces and gestures. These glimpses into Gene's mind offered us views of something similar within ourselves.
The five-song encore spread the Philly accent on thick as a fiery "Pork Roll Egg & Cheese" paid homage to the city. The energy released during the march across "Touch My Tooter" and "Dr. Rock" could only be rivaled by an Eagles home game. The power ending made fists pump and the band grin wide as they bowed goodnight. Gene's quote of the night was, "Billy Joel is the iceberg lettuce of rock 'n roll." It's only fitting to say that if Billy Joel is rock's iceberg lettuce then Ween is the spinach that makes rock stronger.
Ween at the Tower Theater
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