Higher education took on an entirely new meaning in the Midwestern town that is home to the University of Illinois as throngs of generously lubricated Weenies whipped themselves into a virtual frenzy awaiting the arrival of their beloved Co-captains of Strange, Gene and Dean Ween.
If there is one thing I have learned in attempting to share the music of Ween with friends, it simply comes down to this: either they get it, or they don't. This audience was certainly the latter, only too happy to dispense with a warm-up band if it meant more helpings of the steamed Ween cheese, awarding the band with a thundering ovation that lasted for several minutes as they strapped on guitars and settled on to bar stools with appreciative grins.
A crisp acoustic set was highlighted by the Deadsy, "Don't Shit Where You Eat," its languid groove approached with the patience afforded from years of gigging.
Gene (Aaron Freeman) and Dean (Mickey Melchiondo) have long ago developed and nurtured the great intuitive quality that defines excellent jam bands. Aaron is capable of creating an amazing variety of vocal styles and is the consummate showman in doing so, bug-eyed and writhing with unbridled joy. Ditto Mr. Melchiondo for guitar sounds; he eschews the noodling for just the right compliment to the song, blending R&B, punk, soul, and even pop into a heady gumbo. While ribald humor is clearly a huge element in the Ween experience, as is their uncanny ability to ape many musical styles, they are often incorrectly pegged as a "parody" band, a source of consternation for these prolific writers and outstanding musicians.
The electric set was a powerhouse effort covering an enormous body of work, including "Take Me Away," "Voodoo Lady," "Baby Bitch," "Spinal Meningitis," "Mollusk" and "Big Jilm," to name just a few. Mickey treated the crowd to a rousing send-off in barking out "The Blarney Stone," with the faithful joining the chorus with the greatest of vigor. Huge fun was had by all.
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