Dana Auditorium | Guilford College | Greensboro, NC
Ween on 4/20 and a Saturday night. There is poetic justice in this world. 4/20 is a national holiday of sorts for those who know its meaning. I got the impression that many in attendance had in fact heard of it, and were prepared to celebrate accordingly. The stately pillars and manicured lawn of Guilford College's Dana Auditorium seemed a strange locale from which to summon The Boognish, Ween's personal God. But summon him they did, and he blessed the house with a bounty of good music.
The show opened with a classical piano prelude leading into the Broadway-styled crooning of "Dancing in the Show Tonight." The bouncy melody and cartoony feel to the song left some, including my uninitiated companion, wondering just what they agreed to on this fateful night. Before the next song, the band made clear that they too understood the significance of the day. "It's 4/20 dude," said Deaner. "Dude," replied Gener, launching into the upbeat rocker "Take Me Away," from the legendary Chocolate and Cheese album, followed by the chunky power chords of "Captain Fantasy."
Never ones to stay in one mood for too long, they went into "Mister Richard Smoker," a comedy number set to a swing rhythm straight out of Count Basie's songbook. The laughs continued with "Waving My Dick in the Wind," but then it was time for serious grooves and smoke machines. The band erupted into "Voodoo Lady," one of their most popular tunes, and played perhaps the most explosive version I've heard to date. Deaner looked like he was tying his shoelaces while bent over soloing with all his might, switching between blasts of feedback and funky voicebox-inflected licks. The mayhem continued for at least 10 or 15 minutes.
They pulled an old rarity out of the hat with the slow pounding and chugging of "Albino Sunburned Girl." Up next was the island rhythms and sing-along chorus of "Bananas and Blow," a track from their most recent album White Pepper. It tells the politically incorrect story of a man trapped in a cabana in Mexico with nothing to consume except bananas and blow. Proclaiming that "the hits just keep coming," Deaner took the band into "Piss Up a Rope," a hilarious track from the underrated 12 Golden Country Greats album. A song of startling vulgarity, it reminds us of why we shouldn't play Ween records in front of our parents.
The set hit its stride at this point, rolling on with the English classic rock flavored "Buckingham Green," the eerie and disturbing "Spinal Meningitis," a particularly intense rendering of "Pork Roll Egg and Cheese," and the pop craftsmanship of the title track from their album The Mollusk. After attempting to honor a request and quickly teach "I've Got a Weasel" to the rest of the band, Deaner scrapped the idea and went into "Push th' Little Daisies" instead, probably Ween's best known song, and a longtime crowd favorite.
Ween then scaled down to a trio for one track as Deaner took over the bass for their old pop love song "Don't Laugh I Love You." The full band returned with a powerful version of "Roses are Free," a song that became well known to a different set of fans when Phish began covering it live. The set moved on with the plaintive "Sorry Charlie," the composed intricacies and complex chord structures of "Pandy Fackler," and the instrumental guitar piece "Ice Castles."
Towards the beginning of the show, Gener had told a fan with a big sign that he would honor her request later in the show. Staying true to his word, they turned all of their amps past 11 all the way to 420 and unleashed "The Enabler." Smoke machines (or was that the audience?) and chaos continued as they swung into the rarely played rock anthem "Puerto Rican Power (The Power of Love)."
Ween are prolific songwriters, and are currently whittling down songs for inclusion on a new disc to be recorded this summer. The next two songs were from that batch of new material, which fans have been eagerly waiting to hear. "Zoloft," a testament to the healing powers of the popular anti-depressant, was the first of the new tracks. Featuring a catchy lounge type vocal and dissonant keyboards, this was an instant hit with the crowd. They continued with "If You Could Save Yourself You'd Save Us All," a slower number which suggests an ongoing progress in their maturity as songwriters.
The set ended with the epic jam of "Buenas Tardes Amigos." Ween always plays this song with as much intensity as they can muster, and this night was no exception. Ten minutes of lead guitar spun the dusty tale of betrayal and revenge. Surprisingly, although the house lights stayed off for several minutes after the set, the band didn't return for an encore. Ween is usually known for playing very long encores, so the crowd seemed a bit surprised. However, the audience quickly burst into prolonged applause, encore or no encore. The Boognish looked down upon the proceedings, proclaimed it a good 4/20 indeed, and retreated back to his lair. (Supposedly he got the hookup on the phatty soundboard patch, but that's another article...)
JamBase Southeast Correspondent
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