Ween | 09.06.09 | Red Rocks

Words & Images by: Tk Kayembe

Ween :: 09.06.09 :: Red Rocks Amphitheatre :: Morrison, CO

Ween :: 09.06 :: Red Rocks
In 1984, a pre-pubescent Mickey Melchiondo and Aaron Freeman formed Ween in their Jr. High typing class. Little did they know at the time that their uniquely spirited sound, comprised partly of Freeman's soulfully melancholy lyrics and Melchiondo's dexterous and occasionally Jimi-esque guitar playing would inevitably have them performing at Red Rocks Amphitheatre (among many other stellar venues). Since their first studio release, 1990's godWEENsatan, Dean and Gene Ween (Mickey and Aaron's pseudonyms) have toured all over the world pushing their odd, heavy, awesome sound.

When it was announced earlier this year that Ween was going to play Red Rocks, I immediately got giddy, ordering pre-sales and calling up my friends. Now that it's over, trying to separate my feelings towards the performance from my feelings regarding the setlist they played is difficult, presumably because the emotions I harbor are completely contradictory. Overall, the show was marvelous. The Meat Puppets were a terrific opener, serving the Rocks with their staple '90s grunge sound, capturing the audience in a nostalgic haze while reliving songs such as "Lake of Fire" and "Backwater," readying patrons for the chaos to come. As for the headliners, each Ween track was exquisitely played with plenty of Fender grinding solos and playful nuances, but their selections were puzzling to say the least. But before I get hung up on the songs they didn't play, let's discuss what they did, because what they did play they played the hell out of.

Opening their set with "Pork Roll Egg and Cheese" followed by "Bananas and Blow," Gener captured the attention of the crowd, getting everyone up on their feet and singing right along with him. Deaner upped the ante with the opening chords to "My Own Bare Hands," his latest "fuck you" track off La Cucaracha. Dean's excitably strong, raspy voice belted out the aggressive lyrics while energetically attacking bar chords and cleanly thrashing through solos. Abruptly changing pace from "Take Me Away," we were welcomed by the haunting intro to The Mollusk outtake, "Did You See Me," a murky, melodic masterpiece. "Transdermal Celebration" was as lively as ever and during the chorus the band cut the tempo, giving the tune a swing feel, until Deaner brought it back with the angelic intro guitar lick.

Ween :: 09.06 :: Red Rocks
Other memorables included "The Beacon Light" from the X-Files soundtrack, "Woman and Man" and an extremely spacey "Zoloft" with a tiny "Exactly Where I'm At" tease (or hiccup) during the drop. Following was a practically nine-minute "Voodoo Lady," complete with relentless solos, strobe lights and intense smoke, which filled up the stage and billowed deep into the crowd. Red Rocks was also treated to the instrumental "Ice Castles," which immediately played into "The Final Alarm." They closed with "Mister, Would You Please Help My Pony," "Spinal Meningitis" and "Buckingham Green," to name a few, before capping off the set with "Dr. Rock," leaving the feverish mob howling for an encore and warbling the band's name over and over.

Following the first encore, "Fiesta," the group stared out into the crowd and up towards the sky, enamored by their surroundings. The nearly full venue, which seats 9,450, was gushing with applause and chants. During this brief onstage break, a glow stick war ensued, filling the sky with shimmering light. Deaner responded by opening his arms in the air, offering himself up as a target while neon tubes showered onstage. After enduring a couple wallops, he displayed his love in true Dean Ween fashion with a polite flipping of the bird, complete with shit-eating grin. Turning around, they went in for the second encore selection, "The Mollusk," before ending the night all too soon with "Roses are Free."

This end of summer blowout was monumental and enthralling, glorious and weird. On the other hand, it regrettably fell a bit short. While the intensity and energy were all present, something still irked this reporter, namely Ween's chosen setlist. It played less than extraordinary, feeling rather common and, dare I say, comparable to a "best of" festival set (excluding Bonnaroo 2004). This being the first time Dean and Gene played the mountain-carved venue in years, the talk of rarities, hidden gems and album outtakes being busted out were in full swing on the Ween forums. Red Rocks audiences in the past have been treated to epic renditions of "Captain," "ReggaeJunkieJew," "L.M.L.Y.P.," "I'm In The Mood," "Frank" and "Back to Basom," not to mention the noteworthy acoustic set from Red Rocks 2006.

Ween :: 09.06 :: Red Rocks
Unfortunately, the overall experience of this performance felt generic and deficient of something special, particularly for long-time listeners. People traveled to Morrison, CO from all over the country expecting a mind-blowing spectacle, but the only tracks which strayed from the formula in the least were "Ice Castles," "Beacon Light" and "Did You See Me?" While most assuredly stellar songs, I nonetheless felt many fans, like myself, were pining for something more out of the ordinary. Perhaps a red letter version of "She Fucks Me," "Ode to Rene" or possibly a darkly bitter "Loving You Through It All"? This could have been the perfect place to unleash the powerful "Alcan Road" or "Ooh Va La," but I guess not this round.

I suppose the prolonged build up of anticipation for this concert led me to believe there would be something inimitable about this night other than a superb band playing Red Rocks. Was this because I have yet to see a truly bad Ween show? They always start strong, finish hard and simply deliver. This couldn't be it, since this show wasn't "bad" by any means, quite the contrary in fact. As I said before, it just lacked a certain excitement level which is reached when rare tunes are nestled in between the more popular "to be expected" tracks. I was waiting for that distinctive something that would solidify this night in Ween/Red Rocks/my personal concert history, and aside from the great community of fans and friends at the venue, I fear this one may be doomed to be forgotten, swallowed up by others in the past and future.

Ween :: 09.06.09 :: Red Rocks Ampitheatre :: Morrison, CO
Pork Roll Egg & Cheese, Bananas and Blow, With My Own Bare Hands, Learnin' To Live, Now Im Freaking out, Take Me Away, Did You See Me?, Transdermal Celebration, Your Party, Beacon Light, Woman and Man, Zoloft, Voodoo Lady, Ice Castles > Final Alarm, Gabrielle, Stroker Ace, Touch My Tooter, Don't Get Too Close To My Fantasy, Buckingham Green, Ocean Man, Mister Could You Please Help My Pony?, Spinal Meningitis, Johnny On The Spot, Dr. Rock
E: Fiesta, The Mollusk, Roses are Free

Continue reading for more pics of Ween and the Meat Puppets at Red Rocks...

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