Tuesday, August 14, 2007

My evening with Dean and Gene

I recently was given an opportunity that I had been awaiting for years. The chance to see Ween live in concert! Not only that, but it was “an evening with Ween,” which means that there are no openers and they play for like 3 hours. Truly, an event not to be missed.

The show was at Stubb’s, a BBQ joint with a big outdoor amphitheater behind the restaurant. Yup, that’s right, it was at a blues venue that doubles as a popular BBQ restaurant. Welcome to Texas. It was a surprisingly early show, doors opened at 7pm, with the show set to start sometime around 8:30pm.

Stubb’s is about two and a half to three miles away from my apartment, and due to my hatred for all things exercise related, I’ve taken to walking any place within a few miles in an effort to get some kind of exercise. Since the show was so early, my three mile walk was done while the sun was up and the temperature was pushing 100 degrees, maybe not the best idea to walk there, but I did it anyways. Basically before the show even started, I was tired, sweaty, and hot as all hell. Oh well. I downed a bunch of water before switching to beer for the show.

Now, I don’t know what kind of people I’ve become friends with, but upon asking around to find someone to go to the show with, the conversation usually went something like:

Friend: “Who are you going to see?”

Me: “Ween”

Friend: “I’ve never heard of them…” then either “Who are they?” or “What do they sing?”

Me: “Well, uh… If you don’t know the name, I seriously doubt they’ve had anything like a radio hit. Maybe ‘Voodoo Lady’”

Friend: “Well, what kind of music do they play?”

Me: “Um… they basically play every kind of music, except for maybe rap…”

Friend: “Oh, how much is it?”

Me: “$25”

Friend: “Thanks, but I’ll pass”

So I ended up going alone, which is fine. Concerts aren’t really events that require a whole lot of small talk and chitchat. It allowed me time to do some people watching, and if you’ve never been to a Ween concert, there is no finer place to people watch. Just about every race, age, subculture, and combination thereof were in attendance. Hippies, punks, metalheads, hipsters, frat guys, sorority girls, office-jockeys, and just plain skeezy weirdoes were all around. Ages ranged anywhere from 8 years old to 50-somethings.

But I was pleasantly surprised to run into a fellow grad student named Tyler and his girlfriend. We basically talked about how kick-ass Ween is and how shitty Philadelphia is (I was a little out of the loop on that second topic, but I’ve been there once, and it was pretty dirty). We talked shop for a little bit, nerdy grad student yammering, then the concert started.

Ween came out in a haze of artificial smoke and started the show off with a rabble-rousing rendition of “the H.I.V. Song”. From then on out, it became a non-stop flood of Ween. I can’t remember the exact set list. I started out trying to remember all the songs in order, but that soon turned into just trying to remember all the songs, which then turned into just trying to remember some of the songs. I know they played such fan favorites as “Ocean Man”, “Voodoo Lady”, and “Baby Bitch”. They also played some personal favorites like “I Can’t Put My Finger On It”, “Transdermal Celebration”, and “I’ll be Your Johnny on the Spot”. It’d probably be easier just to say that the only songs I wanted to hear and didn’t were “It’s Gonna Be a Long Night” and “Hey There, Fancy Pants”. I must say, I have four of their albums, and I still didn’t recognize almost half the songs they played. Their catalogue is a lot deeper than I gave them credit for.

Their set tended toward their more rock’n’roll songs. Even the songs that are not exactly solid “rock” songs (e.g. “Spinal Meningitis (Got Me Down)”, “Zoloft”) were twisted into rollicking garage rock anthems. Loud guitars with yelled lyrics. Hearing an amphitheater of people all scream the lyrics to a song like “the Zoloft Song” is a pretty incredible experience. Even their songs that started out as pretty rock or pop oriented (e.g. “Voodoo Lady”) were extended into ten minute long hard rock jam sessions. Now, I abhor jam bands, but goddamn, those Ween boys can jam on a song for as long as they damn well please, and I will stand in awe, loving every drawn out minute of it. It didn’t matter if they were rocking out a ballad or grooving on a metal slowjam, those boys know how to put on a show.

As I mentioned, it was pushing 100 degrees outside when I got to the venue. The sunset did little to lower the temperature, and by the time the show started the venue was packed practically shoulder-to-shoulder, chest-to-back. This only pushed the temperature up, I’d estimate somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000,000 degrees, give or take. With this amazing show going, I couldn’t not dance the night away, sweating every drop of fluid out of my body. By the end, I found it to be a personal challenge to outlast the band. I refused to give up as long as they were playing. When the end of the show finally came I’m pretty sure I wasn’t so much dancing as I was swaying in some kind of heatstroke induced seizure. I made it, though. First thing I did to celebrate this amazing feat was to run to the bathroom. I’m not sure how I managed to sweat out half my body weight and still have a full bladder, but I did it. A small victory in its own right, I guess.

Ultimately, Ween put on a show so good, that it managed to surpass my already unreasonably high expectations. I would say that it may have been even better than being born. If you learn anything in life, ever, it’s that Ween kicks ass.