Ween Brings 2018 Summer Tour To Burlington – Review, Audio & Videos
Words by: Kelley Lauginiger
Ween :: 7.29.18 :: Waterfront Park :: Burlington, VT
As an entity, it’s no secret that Ween loves the water. Full of nautical imagery, their musical catalog includes tunes like “Ocean Man,” “Golden Eel,” “Polka Dot Tail,” and “The Mollusk” while guitarist Mickey “Dean Ween” Melchiondo doubles as a fishing captain in his off time. It felt a bit like a friendly “wink” that they headlined Burlington, Vermont’s Lake Champlain Maritime Festival on the beach Sunday night, closing out the weekend as the sun set.
The final of five stops on their summer “mini-tour,” as Melchiondo called it, the five guys from New Hope, Pennsylvania left the stage burning with drums covered in blood after a marathon two hour and 40-minute performance. Featuring 28 songs and a rare full-band rotation jam into “Demon Sweat,” this show was like a magnified microcosm of the overall versatility and wide range that Ween offers musically, both as a band and among the wildly talented musicians within.
One of Ween’s unparalleled strengths is their ability to read and play to a crowd. Kicking off in jest, the band thanked everyone for coming and commented on “beautiful Lake Michigan in the back,” which got folks loosened up and laughing at the sarcastic statement. After seeing a sizeable group of regulars on the rail, and two young women dressed as young Deaner and Aaron “Gene Ween” Freeman up front during a rare and intimate public soundcheck that afternoon, perhaps it felt less like a festival set, and more like everyone was there for Ween. The band came out comfortable and ready to rock.
“Did You See Me?” started the show and segued into “She Wanted to Leave,” then smoothly into, “Stallion 1” and “Stallion 5,” or what a good friend calls “the bookends.” Whenever a “Stallion” is played early, it seems like the band gets into a groove, so this was a solid push off the dock. Between songs, people yelled out compliments, sentiments and requests, all of which the band ignored, which was somehow endearing. In their own little world on stage, they leaned in together, bassist Dave Dreiwitz laughing at Mickey, and Gener lighting a smoke. They were in their happy place. All of our happy place, really.
The first track of the show played from 12 Golden Country Greats, “Japanese Cowboy,” then led them into “The Grobe,” both featuring some of the silliest lyrics overall. It’s comical the way “The Grobe” starts out with the lyrics:
Sometimes the ones you hold so close can make you cry
But it’s a pain in the ass to let ’em go
Which is relatable and catchy, and sounds like it’s about to get deep. But then, in a guttural, distorted-mouthed Gener growl, you get:
With a battered wish you hoped that the monkey wore a tie
But it’s no surprise to find he don’t
Which makes no sense, but that’s hilariously the point. Maybe it’s an inside joke, I don’t know. But it just flows as comical nonsense, an example of the fun within Ween. Goofing their way into “Boys Club,” Dreiwitz led Gener and Deaner on woodblock, as all three lined the front of the stage to a huge applause from the crowd. “’Boys Club!’ They love it!” Deaner said into the mic as the song ended. Laughing together and smoking what seemed like thousands of cigarettes, the band seemed to be having a great time, and the crowd was too.
Arguably Ween’s sexiest song, “Voodoo Lady,” came next and this version was no exception. Mickey’s solo was hot with a little bit of below-the-dick stylings to start off, and up to above-the-dick to take it to the bridge. I swear he was teasing Sabbath or something toward the end, but I couldn’t quite place it …
The middle of the show featured some favorites and somewhat of a rarity. Right after Deaner said he couldn’t wait for the sun to go down, they sang the chorus to “Gabrielle” — “the sun is shining in your eyes,” and again it seemed like a funny little wink to the situation. Mickey’s gift of writing a setlist to perfectly fit the environment was on point this beautiful evening and was only interrupted by a couple technical difficulties that the band tried to make the best of.
When Deaner’s sound went out, Gener said to him lovingly, “Dude, what happened, Jimmy? You lost your thing.” Everyone laughed, but, the band didn’t seem too thrilled despite wearing smiles.
When he got his sound back, Mickey sarcastically asked, “Can I just sing tenor? Ten or 20 miles from here…” He added that the sound guy was fired, which may or may not have been a joke, then went back to business with “I Gots a Weasel.”
As if controlled by the sun, the band played heavier as it went down, and perfectly matched the darkening pink-sky backdrop to the red stage lights illuminating “Object,” a dark tune inspired by a serial killer. Comforting, right?
In keeping with the aquatic theme, seeing Ween live (at times) can feel a bit like when you take a running leap off a dock into a lake and plunge so deep that it’s dark, and it’s hard to catch your breath, but you eventually begin to surface, doing circles with your arms as bubbles surround you. You can begin to see the light, but you can’t quite catch your breath until you burst through, above the water and into the sunlight, gasping as your eyes adjust. You blink to see the beauty of everything surrounding you with appreciation that you can breathe again, even more than before. It can go from dark to beautiful within the blink of Boognish, and that’s just like life.
Next, Claude Coleman Jr. led a lengthy hand-drum segment during “Never Squeal On The Pusher,” that was so powerful, he drew blood from his hands and left the drum kit covered in blood. Claude lifted his hands to show the blood to screams from the crowd and followed with a seemingly nonchalant continuance for the rest of the show (using drumsticks). Then, like the machine he is, Claude played the sold-out Mike Dillon Band after-show immediately following Ween’s gig.
“Final Alarm” got heavy and was superbly juxtaposed to the placement of the psychedelic version of “Captain” that followed. Gener’s guitar solos were notable throughout “Captain,” as he seemed pretty in the zone. “Stallion 3,” came next, a personal favorite, and into “Buckingham Green.” Watching Glenn McClelland on the Theremin, and watching other people watch Glenn McClelland on the Theremin was a blast.
Even though they play “Buckingham Green” a lot, it’s completely lovable regardless. If people complain about this, it seems unfair, as the band seems to love the tune, and it really does rev up the crowd. Especially people who may see only one Ween show on the tour. Not uncommon for Ween to deliver, this Burlington show did an impeccable job of speaking to the most seasoned fan as well as a first-timer.
Through the next part of the show, “Pink Eye (On My Leg)” was a highlight with the longest show gap (17). Even though it is one of those songs that seems more like a studio song, it is truly goofy and enjoyable to see Deaner bark and make the dog sounds they originally sampled in the studio. Dreiwitz sounded strong throughout the “The HIV Song,” which came next. As back-to-back disease tunes, it reminded me of last year’s Red Rocks show when they did “Spinal Meningitis” into “The HIV Song,” which is a more common “disease” pairing.
The standout moment of all the many standout moments in this show came with the rare intro into “Demon Sweat” featuring improvisation and a full-band rotation on instruments. Brownbase detailed:
Improvisation begins with Dean on keys, without Gene and Glenn. Glenn, then Gene, join Dean on keyboards for a three-man key jam, then Dean switches to drums and Claude to guitar. Improv concludes with Gene and Glenn on keys, Dean on drums, Claude on guitar, and always reliable Dave Dreiwitz on bass.
Claude sounded great on guitar. Everyone was smooth and natural, though it was unclear if this part was planned or caught everyone but Mickey by surprise. They ended with a slowed-down “I Can’t Put My Finger On It.”
After a short break backstage, the band came out to shouts of “Ween! Ween! Ween!” Mickey shared that he loved Burlington and had history there. They had stayed with his sister there back in the day and “leeched off her for two weeks.” He added that they sold the van they drove there to get Amtrak tickets back to Trenton, New Jersey.
A big crowd reaction segued into a lengthy “Fluffy” encore featuring tears and cheers throughout the crowd, and tons of hugs across the beach. The symbiosis between Ween and their fans is palpable, and this night in Burlington was a high-energy lovefest between them that powered them to play almost the entire setlist, and made it what Mickey called “the best crowd of the tour.”
Audio (Taped by Peter Retzlaff)
Setlist (via Brownbase)
Set: Did You See Me?, She Wanted to Leave, The Stallion pt 1, The Stallion pt 5, Japanese Cowboy, The Grobe, Boy’s Club, Voodoo Lady, Albino Sunburned Girl, Waving My Dick in the Wind, Waving My Dick in the Wind (reprise), Gabrielle, I Gots a Weasel, I Gots a Weasel (reprise), Object, Never Squeal> Drums> Never Squeal, Ice Castles> The Final Alarm, Captain, The Stallion pt 3, Buckingham Green, Happy Colored Marbles, Pink Eye (On My Leg), The HIV Song, Exactly Where I’m At, Sorry Charlie, I’ll Be Your Jonny on the Spot> Improvisation> Demon Sweat, I Can’t Put My Finger on It
- – soundcheck: Bananas and Blow, Transitions, Mango Woman
- – Improvisation begins with Dean on keys, without Gene and Glenn. Glenn, then Gene, join Dean on keyboards for a three man key jam, then Dean switches to drums and Claude to guitar. Improv concludes with Gene and Glenn on keys, Dean on drums, Claude on guitar, and always reliable Dave Dreiwitz on bass.
- – Gene on keys for Demon Sweat