A masterpiece of sight and sound: John Braaksma reviews Ween

Ween Roy Wilkins, July 19 By John Braaksma

The cloud of fog machine, cigarette and marijuana smoke that descended upon the Roy Wilkins theater served as the perfect backdrop for the Ween show Saturday night. It was a show unlike anything I’d been to before, but at the same time it had the feel of a night at one’s favorite dingy bar.

Drummer Claude Coleman Jr. set the tone early by divesting himself of his shirt while nearly simultaneously hammering out a driving beat and taking long swills from the array of beers within easy reach of the drum set. The crowd sang along as front man Aaron Freeman, aka Gene belted out old favorites like “Even if You Don’t” and “VooDoo Lady” with a fervor that left him sweat-soaked yet vocally unreserved. Meanwhile, Mickey Melchiondo, or Dean, his mop of curly hair plastered to his forehead, remained flawless on guitar. He wedged his cigarette between the strings as he performed solo after solo.

A masterpiece of sight and sound: John Braaksma reviews Ween

Very few shows I’ve seen approach not only the musical but also the entertainment value of Ween. This show was a masterpiece of sight and sound. The energy in the small venue was palpable and the band played to the crowd’s enthusiasm. I felt as much a part of the band as I did of the fraternity of concertgoers. In fact: there is nothing like urinating in a sink with three guys pissing in nearby sinks, warm beer in hand while Ween reverberates underneath your feet.

The three-hour set spanned much of Ween’s musical catalogue, an hour of which was devoted entirely to the encore. As the less committed of us trickled out of the venue, the band returned from backstage for what was perhaps the highlight of the show. A pair of panties flung on stage and Dean, like a true rocker, hung them on the mike stand near the drums, a catalyst that ignited the delirious post-show festivities. The band belted out Irish anthem “Blarney Stone” followed by a cover of Motorhead’s “Ace of Spades,” something that someone standing within earshot of me claimed was a Spinal Tap cover, and an ethereal song where Gene, shrouded in smoke, sang a capella. His voice sounded like the combination of a native chant and the wail of a busted electric guitar.

In a climatic ending Dean started making sirens noises with his guitar set on playback, and then thrust it over Coleman’s shoulders to switch places with the drummer. Coleman had since abandoned his drumsticks for a bass guitar and was creating a spooky, hollow sound. Dean flogged the drums as Coleman, bass in front, guitar in back, produced a series of piercing and melodic sounds. It was as if we were all stuck in a vortex of space and noise as the music rhythmically came unwound. In the finale, Dean kicked the drums over, spilling the beer, and spit on the floor. Then he and Coleman exited the stage for good.

Ears ringing, I stepped over discarded plastic cups and breathed in the smell of stale beer as I left the venue content. I have to admit that Ween definitely “brought a tear to me eye.”

--John Braaksma

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