I Finally Got To See Ween Play Live. I Can Now Die A Happy Man.
“I can only speak for myself, but as far as I’m concerned, as long as Aaron and I are both alive on this planet, Ween is still together. We’ve never broken up. The idea of quitting is just laughable. This isn’t something you can quit. This is a life sentence.”
– Mickey Melchiondo (Dean Ween) on the demise of Ween in 2012
Sorry it’s been so long since I last checked in, I’ve just been extremely busy. When you work as a writer, as I have been recently, the last thing you feel like doing when you get home is writing something. Also, I have a computer that keeps crashing. Today, however, is a public holiday and it’s snowing, so I’m not going anywhere, but this has still taken me all day due to technical problems. Oh, and I’m not dying, it was just a metaphor.
Let’s get to the point of this post; For years Ween has been my favourite band. Like most my age that aren’t American, I first heard them when Push th’ Little Daisies came out, which was pretty big in Australia, getting to #18 on the singles chart, although a lot of that popularity came from people trying to figure out if they were mentally retarded or not. In fact, at the time the Australian series of The Late Show came out with this little gem:
I remember walking to the shops during my lunch break in high school and finding the Pure Guava album in a bargain bin at Blockbuster Video for about $5.00, getting it, putting it in my discman and thinking to myself, “Damn, man, this is some messed-up shit”, but I loved it. I knew it wasn’t their first album, but I also knew their stuff wasn’t going to be all that accessible in a small country town in Australia.
Then, in 1994, Chocolate and Cheese was released. As soon as I heard Voodoo Lady I was hooked.
Fast-forward 22 years, their music has only got better and better and I have become a bigger and bigger fan. I even have a brown Boognish tattoo on my wrist. In fact, I was teaching a class one time and a five year-old Japanese student who spoke almost no English (right) was making this face at me. I couldn’t work out why until I saw her work. Yup, she had just drawn my tattoo. And people think I’m a bad influence…
So, why does any of this matter? Because it has always been my dream to see them live, but I’ve never been able to for one reason or another. Sure, I’ve got live albums and DVDs, but it just isn’t the same as being there. For example, I moved to Singapore at the very beginning of 2008 and I don’t think they’d even be allowed in the country. In 2010 my friend’s band, Digger and the Pussycats (remember these guys?) played the same bill as Ween in Melbourne and said they could get me an all-access pass, but I had no way of getting back to Australia for it.
Their shows were known for getting pretty wild, but not everyone is Keith Richards. Not everyone can constantly be eating ‘shrooms and chugging a bottle of Jack Daniels on stage from the time they were a teenager until their 40s. That is going to catch up with you, so it finally happened; In 2012 Ween were finished. According to Aaron Freeman (Gene Ween):
“All that matters to me is that I’m getting sober. Becoming an out of control drug addict and alcoholic is my own fault and I take responsibility for it. I HAD to leave the Ween organization to stay sober.”
After that, Dean Ween started doing his old stuff with the Moistboyz and The Dean Ween Group, while Gene Ween quit his stage name and just started recording and performing as Aaron Freeman. Had I missed my chance? Dean Ween kept playing full sets of Ween stuff at shows and releasing old Ween material, plus there was the quote about Ween being a life sentence. There was hope.
In late June, 2015, Anna and myself moved to New York for 12 months. By this time Aaron Freeman was playing gigs again as Gene Ween with a lineup consisting of two other Ween members. I wrote here about how I tried to buy tickets off a scalper to see them open for Modest Mouse at the Celebrate Brooklyn festival, only to get fake tickets and have to watch from over a fence. Has anyone else ever been burnt trying to get tickets to see the support act?!? It was a great show, but it wasn’t the same without Deaner on guitar. Or me being inside the actual venue.
Then it finally happened. We were in Las Vegas for Anna’s conference and I had been checking out Circus Circus when I felt compelled to have a look at Facebook on my phone, something I rarely do, especially on the seedier parts of the old Vegas strip, when I was greeted with this video:
I ran back to our hotel to check out the ticket details and there were several options; A non-guaranteed lottery, multi-day tickets or the Buckingham Green VIP package, consisting of in their own words:
- One (1) 2-Day or 1-Day GA Floor or GA Bowl ticket to Ween at 1STBANK Center
- Admission to the Chocolate and Cheese Lounge with…. you guessed it, Chocolate and Cheese and a private cash bar!*
- Early entry into the venue
- One (1) Limited Edition event poster signed by Gene and Dean Ween
- One (1) VIP Parking Pass per order
- One (1) Limited Edition Ween Merchandise gift
I got the one day package for Saturday, 13th of February (an extra date was added on Sunday, too), which meant that I would be flying out on February 12th, our five-year wedding anniversary. Luckily, I have a cool wife. Now I just had to book flights and accommodation and wait three months, but when you’ve been waiting over two decades for something, what’s an extra couple of months?
As the date drew closer, the anticipation grew and more information about the shows came out. They had come up with a set-list of 94 different songs so if you went all three nights, you wouldn’t hear the same song twice. These shows were going to go down in folklaw!
Anna’s friends had flown over for a week in Austin, Texas, so Anna was there from the previous Friday and returned the night before I flew out. Now it was my time.
Friday, February 12th, 2016
So, the shows are being held in Broomfield, Colorado; The state that Hunter S. Thompson called home and one with the foresight to realise that people who want to smoke a little weed in the privacy of their own home shouldn’t be treated as criminals.
My two flights were all smooth sailing and as soon as I set foot in Denver International Airport, I knew I was going to be a part of something big. I was resplendent in my Ween t-shirt, as were many other commuters. “Hey man, are you here for the show? I’m going <insert day here> night!” was a question I was constantly asked by people of all ages. My airport shuttle driver, a Middle-Eastern father of five named Abdul asked me why I was in Denver. When I told him, he responded, “Oh yes, the concerts, many people have come for them.” I checked into my hotel and the clerk asked, “Are you here for business, pleasure or the Ween concert?” Upon hearing my answer, he simply replied, “I should ask if they’re here to see Ween first.”
There wasn’t a whole lot to do in Broomfield, so I just made my way down to this huge microbrewery, C.B. & Potts, pulled up a seat at the bar, ordered some buffalo wings and a few beers and spent the night chatting with the locals and watching college basketball. The first was a 55 year-old guy who was extremely annoyed that I’m Australian and have never been to the outback. I tried to explain that it isn’t all that accessible, but this did nothing to help. Ironically, he bragged that his wife is Alaskan and part Inuit. When I asked if he had ever been to Alaska, he replied, “Nah, it’s too far out of the way and there’s nothing there.” Hmmm…
Later, all of the chefs from P.F. Changs came in and started drinking with me. No, not a bunch of middle-aged Chinese men, rather a bunch of white college-kids who do it as a part time job. It was a fun night, a guy who looked like Magtau from Zoolander rocked up but it would’ve been a lot better night if I hadn’t got lost in the fog for about an hour on my way home. I seriously considered just sleeping on the ground.
Saturday, February 13th, 2016
The day was finally here. I got up and decided to get some lunch, but I wasn’t particularly hungry. I wasn’t hungover, but I’m definitely not used to that altitude! It was a bit early to eat anyway, so I decided to have a look in Walmart. I’ve never been there before, but it was exactly how I imagined; You can’t just buy one of anything, but it’s cheap.
I still wasn’t feeling spectacular, but I had to eat something. The only problem was there was only really massive restaurants, Taco Bell, or the mall food court. I wasn’t hungry, so the restaurants weren’t a great idea, I didn’t want dysentery on the night I was going to tick an item off the bucket list, ruling out Taco Bell. In the end I went to the food court which even had a gum-ball buffet! I was wearing another Ween shirt and on my way to the mall I got pulled over by a cop:
Cop: “Hey! Are you going to see Ween tonight?”
Cop: “Cool. I’ll see you there!”
Okay, that was both bizarre and awkward, but he seemed pretty cool.
There is very little to do in the Flatiron district of Broomfield, Colorado, so I kicked back in front of the TV for a while until it was time to make the one hour walk to the 1stBank Center. Remember, public transport is almost nonexistent in this town.
I was still feeling a little strange. Was it nerves? Excitement? Anxiety? Altitude? A mixture of all four? It didn’t matter because all of that would subside the second I got in the door.
We could hear the band sound-checking and that’s when I started to get pumped. There were a few other people of all shapes and sizes waiting for the VIP section to open; A goth chick with her mum, her mother looking more excited to see Ween than her daughter. A bearded guy in hiking shorts, shirt, vest and boots who was there the previous night and was trying to impress people with his Ween knowledge.
Finally, the VIP section opened and we were privy to all the perks. I felt like Archer! There was a cheese fountain, chocolate fountain, antipasto plates, a bar. There was also a green-screen where you could dress up as different presidents for photos. I was too tall for it and I didn’t receive my picture, but it didn’t matter. Life was great in the Chocolate and Cheese lounge:
Part of the VIP package was that we got to enter the venue and get our spot on the floor or seats first. Mine was a bowl ticket, I’m too old to be in the pit, plus I know that people would be pissed because I was blocking them. I took my seat and straight away the guys behind me started lighting up joints and passing them around to anyone who wanted them, a pattern that continued the entire night. All you could see and smell in the whole venue was pot, there was just a constant haze everywhere. Everyone in the place was baked, whether they intended it to happen or not! In fact, over the course of that hour leading up to Ween hitting stage I was offered weed, acid, cocaine, ketamine, and mushrooms. People were there to party!
There was also one of the drunkest dudes I’ve ever seen, pictured below with the concert photos, who managed to get thrown out before the show even started. I was chatting to him on Facebook yesterday and he said that he had been drinking since lunch time and he pissed some guy off in the crowd by standing in front of him and pouring beer all over himself. Ironically, the security company was called Argus, the title of a Ween song.
Showtime hit and I think a little bit of wee might’ve come out, I was so excited. The crowd was such a mixture of people, old and young, freaks and normals, but all some of the coolest, friendliest people I have ever met. One girl kind of overdid it and had to be taken out in a wheelchair, but besides her and the drunk kid, an awesome time was had by all.
A few photos from the night:
It was an incredible show, they played a bit of everything, including a fair bit from my favourite Ween album, The Pod. I spoke to a lot of people that night and the following day and those who had seen Ween a ton of times said that was the best they had seen them play, they didn’t miss a beat. Each time there was an epic guitar solo or a song reached a crescendo, the guys behind me would light up again and get everyone in their immediate vicinity passively baked. I remember thinking at one point, “I’m currently being watched by my future self in my memories.” Deep. And where else will 6,000 people scream “You f_cked up, you f_cking Nazi whore” in unison, but also in jest?
Setlist (song + album,*acoustic, ^debut performance):
- Pork Roll Egg and Cheese (The Pod)
- Take Me Away (Chocolate and Cheese)
- Transdermal Celebration (Quebec)
- Back to Basom (White Pepper)
- Mister Would You Please Help My Pony? (Chocolate and Cheese)
- The Grobe (White Pepper)
- Stroker Ace (White Pepper)
- Object (La Cucaracha)
- Ice Castles (White Pepper)
- The Golden Eel (The Mollusk)
- Happy Colored Marbles (Quebec)
- Kim Smoltz*^ (The Mollusk Sessions)
- Tried and True* (Quebec)
- Baby Bitch* (Chocolate and Cheese)
- Help Me Scrape the Mucus Off My Brain*(12 Golden Country Greats)
- Joppa Road* (Chocolate and Cheese)
- I Don’t Want It* (Quebec)
- Frank (The Pod)
- She F_cks Me (The Pod)
- Ocean Man (The Mollusk)
- You F_cked Up (God Ween Satan: The Oneness)
- Poopship Destroyer (Pure Guava)
- The Rift (Shinola, Vol. 1)
- Transitions^ (Shinola, Vol. 1)
- Ace of Spades (Motorhead cover)
- Laura (The Pod)
- Zoloft (Quebec)
- Doctor Rock (The Pod)
- Pollo Asado (The Pod)
- Demon Sweat (The Pod)
I managed to film a few songs from the show:
Also, I decided to just do an audio recording of one of my favourite songs, Demon Sweat, which you can listen to right here:
This was by far the best show I’ve ever been to. I met some cool people and had an incredible time. Even when I got stranded at Denver International Airport for four hours because of snow at Chicago on the way home the next day, I couldn’t be mad, I was still smiling from the previous day and still meeting random fans from the gig.
Oh, and if you’re wondering what “Limited Edition Merchandise Gift” a VIP ticket gets you, it’s stuff like this:
So if you’re single, lonely or bored, my advice is go to a Ween show. You’ll have a great time, meet a ton of people or, worst case scenario, there’s heaps of free drugs going around.
Just a quick update, I managed to find the whole show on Youtube:
I was at all 3 nights, first time I saw them as well. The most incredible show I’ve ever seen. I didn’t feel like I was at a concert. I felt like it was the culmination and closure of a feeling of saudade. It was as if I had finally found home. The set-lists for all 3 nights were fucking out of this word. The only two songs I feel like I missed were LMLYP and Voodoo Lady, but the 93 songs that they played all rocked. I’ll be there on Thursday night of the NYC shows too, and if they announce any other close to me I’ll be there too. All hail the Boognish.
You just summed up better in about 150 words what I couldn’t do in 2,500.
Haha I’ve been trying to put it into words all weekend. I still didn’t do it justice. The only thing left for us to do is ride the Poopship into the brown supernova.
Going to all 3 NYC shows. Im still upset I couldn’t work it so I could get to CO, but Incas there in spirit thanks to the wonderful world of periscope. The shows were on point. I’ve been to about 12 ween shows since 9o, including DWG, and this is the best they’ve sounded in a very long time. April cannot get here fast enough
I would’ve done anything to go to those NYC shows!
Did you stay at the Renaissance Hotel? That’s where I was (room 810) and drank at the same bar you did, but it was the night before you. Sorry you had a rough time in that bar. Everyone there the night before were really friendly. Glad you had a good time. It was amazing
I stayed at the TownePlace Suites, almost directly opposite Walmart. I actually had fun in the bar on the Friday, it was a great night! Just almost didn’t make it back.
Oh, okay. I was in the Renaissance, on the other side of Walmart. At the bar, their wall of liquor looked amazing, with the TVs in the center. I liked how there was a giant ladder with wheels connected to it, like one of those old libraries.
Sounds like you were right near me, I was at the bar, right in front of that. They were showing hockey and college hoops