Ween @ the Fillmore AuditoriumBy Elana Ashanti Jefferson | July 20th, 2008 | 2 comments
Gene Ween, a.k.a. Aaron Freeman, smiles at the crowd at the Fillmore Auditorium on Wednesday night. Photos by Laurie Scavo
Fresh from their “Free MySpace Secret Show” at Hodi’s Half Note in Fort Collins on Tuesday, about which one fan blogged “MOST INSANE SHOW EVER! THANK YOU WEEN!,” vocalist Gene Ween (Aaron Freeman) and the recently Fender sponsored shred-man Dean Ween (Mickey Melchiondo), launched into a winding Denver performance just before 8:30 p.m.
This was a show that started with favorites played straight like “Exactly Where I’m At,” the alt-rock lullaby from the popular 2000 album “White Pepper,” and evolved into a spacey, psychedelic trip in which it was hard to tell who was higher, or on what — the Ween team, or the insatiable, sold-out house packed with fans known to dissect Ween singles, albums and live show history with the voracity of a dog set loose on the Thanksgiving table.
Like Satin’s fraternity, this raucous crowd dotted with dreadlock crowns and light-up afro wigs pumped fists and hollered for every familiar lyric carried off into unfamiliar territory, during two-and-a-half hours of music that oscillated between Black Sabbath-sounding heavy metal and wandering Zappa-esqe psychedelics.
The band, including bassist Dave Dreiwitz, drummer Claude Coleman Jr. and keyboardist Glenn McClelland, flaunted its country twang and characteristic satire during “The HIV Song.” Then Freeman’s comedic, adaptable lyricism took over for “The Stallion Part III” and “Voodoo Lady.”
But it was midway through the night, during “Your Party,” when a barefoot Melchiondo lit a cigarette and tucked it beneath the tuning peg strings of his guitar — a familiar live show move that these fans have surely seen him do a dozen times before — that this set became beguilingly loose.
Concertgoers posed for cameras with joints in hand during “Light Me Up,” a song that plays like a party romp but actually tells of the emotional foreboding that can accompany a binger. One of many tempo changes of the night happened during “The Argus,” which showcased trailing rhythms behind the song’s reflective and philosophical lyrics. Then, the pace promptly kicked up again with the cowbell-laden saloon tune “Waving My Dick in the Wind.”
Like Ween and its catalog, which goes back nearly two decades and features stylized punk, rhythm and blues, honky tonk and everything in between, this show could not be pinned down. It was at once nostalgic for the culture and music of 1960s and ’70s, and at the same time a rock ‘n’ roll caricature, which is exactly what Dean and Gene Ween have been trying to create since their early-’90s inception when the then teenage pair first attempted to elevate goofball basement rock to something more. To catch a Ween show now is to know that they have wildly succeeded.
Elana Ashanti Jefferson is the Room editor for The Denver Post.
Laurie Scavo is a Denver-based photographer and regular Reverb contributor.