Concert review: Off Broadway’s Ween tribute takes concertgoers to ‘Chocolate Town’ to bask in the glory of Boognish, Friday, August 3
The band Ween made a career of poking at genres from every angle, stretching parody into marvelously-real, uplifting art.
The duo of Dean and Gene Ween flawlessly used experimentation and genre-play to often absurd and humorous effect. Funk, reggae, rock, psychedelia, ’70s rock, modern rock, jazz and more — they did it all while lightly poking fun at the style they mimic like chameleons.
Amazingly, Ween songs never feel like “humor songs.” No Weird Al schlock here, no, the tunes are a universe of niches as vast as modern music itself. Distilling what Ween is (or isn’t) proves impossible, for they are the sum of everything and nothing, an odd reflection of music, modernity and the pained human condition.
Ween dealt fans a collective blow when, on May 29 2012, they announced their retirement to allow Aaron Freeman (Gene) to pursue his solo career. Off Broadway‘s “Taste the Waste: A Tribute to Ween” show — featuring St. Louis artists the Feed, Dock Ellis, Cree Rider Family Band, Picture Day, Fattback, False Moves and Sean Allen Canan — was an immediate and very welcome effect of the news. Simply, the show rocked.
Picture Day’s “Stay Forever” found the song’s creep-stalker vibe intact. “Happy Colored Marbles” made me trippy with fuzzed psychedelic leanings. Unlike the recorded version, the song slipped into a delirious jam that conjured Hendrix.
“Awesome Sound” was greeted by the audience shouting, “Mah!” and “Fuck!” like a house of wild ducks. “Dr. Rock” was campy and speed driven with distorted guitar and the shouted chorus, “Dr. Rock!” “Freedom of ’76′s” vocals were perfectly emulated and the wet-jazz guitar effect tightly dialed. The entire presentation proved to be a major highlight of the night.
Between each band’s short set the audience adjourned to smoke on Off Broadway’s back porch. The big outdoor space held the large crowd well and it was a pleasure to float among all the Ween-heads.
Dock Ellis Band skewed into Ween’s country territory with “Help Me Scrape the Mucus Off My Brain.” The five piece emulated the song’s lap-steel guitar and keys with poise. “Put the Coke on My Dick” was a distorted throw back with wah wah effects and plenty of hilarious innuendos both subtle and not. “Piss Up A Rope” may be the best misogynistic, poor-me, cowboy song of all time. Doc Ellis even nailed the song’s screeching closing solo. “Stoker Ace” finished Dock Ellis’ set with No Doze-fueled, highway rock.
Fatback’s take on “The Golden Eel” was epic and incendiary with stuttering guitar stabs and bubbly synth. “Big Jilm” spurred the audience into singing the “Do, do, do” parts in their best high pitched, Dean Ween voice. “Don’t Get 2 Close (To My Fantasy)” showed Fatback’s impressive range with a bit of hallucinatory British rock. Bowie would be proud, or maybe offended. Such is the beauty of Ween. “Ocean Man” pleased on every level, as did “Booze Me Up and Get Me High,” which found the audience hoisting their beers and singing along, reveling in the darkened Americana, Dylan vibration.
The Feed with Cree Rider capped the night with an impressively long set. “She Wanted To Leave (Reprise)” parodied old-world Irish longing. “You Fucked Up Bitch” consisted of one large,”Ahhh!” shared by the audience and band. “Baby Bitch” lilted like an Elliot Smith outing. The song gently and lovingly says to a lover, “Fuck you, you stinking ass hoe.” Saying such things in a subdued manner as the song does makes for great comedy and oddly, a fair amount of restrained vindication.
The Feed and Cree Rider continued forth before a raucous crowd and played excellent versions of “Pork Roll Egg & Cheese,” “Pandy Fackler,” “Mutilated Lips,” and “Transdermal Celebration.” “I’ll Be Your Johnny On the Spot’s” face-peeling punk rock felt a bit loose in translation. “Buenos Tardes Amigos” stood tall as a hearty Mexican goodbye — Ween style.
The Feed and Cree Rider closed out with “Blarney Stone” and invited the evening’s musicians on stage for a shared rendition. The audience again raised their beers in the air in celebration and mourning of all things Ween, both real and perceived.