Push th' little daisies and make them come out!!

In this world where a band can easily become stuck in a musical rut, producing the same uninspired boring garbage (and you know which groups I'm talking about here---all the clones) again and again, Ween stands out as a beacon offering hope to the eclectic sailor engulfed by the mostly-unimaginative musical sea.

When I was waiting for Ween to come back for their encore at the 9:30 club in DC, I was contemplating how exactly I would describe their music in this concert review. Well, they came back and played this tune (must've been from God Ween Satan---The Oneness (their first release)) and suddenly you could hear the familiar bass riff from White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane. As it is, the crowd, most of them very young and acquainted only with the newer Ween, in particular the song with the same name as the subject of this message, were a bit lost when they played this song. But when they actually switched to White Rabbit and the people around me saw me singing along merrily, they looked at me as though I were some alien from outer-space. At this point I had a good handle on how to describe their music.

"One pill makes you larger and one pill makes you small.
 And the ones that mother gives you don't do anything at all. 
 Call Alice, when she's ten feet tall."
                          ---White Rabbit, Jefferson Airplane

Picture that song with images of hallucinogen-induced composition in your mind. Now, throw in a good mixture of Pink Floyd from their hazy days (Piper, Saucerful of Secrets, Ummagumma, etc.), and add in the weirdness seen in groups like Primus and The Residents. Spice with a great deal of self-indulgence, and distortion and studio affects afforded by a portastudio. You have Ween. For the ones who are more hip, you might be familiar with Beck (not Jeff). In my opinion, Beck is a Ween rip-off.

In their latest album Pure Guava, Ween rely heavily on studio effects to get the weirdness that is manifested there. Stripped of the studio, on stage, Ween seems almost normal and if you weren't familiar with their stuff and weren't paying attention to particular parts where tapes are used in the concert, and if you ignored the group's crazy antics on stage, you'd think they were a rather mediocre rock 'n' roll band. But fortunately, this wasn't the case: even though Gene Ween (Aaron Freeman) constantly complained about (losing) his voice, it was clear, even with a rasta-braided-drummer and a bassist, from the unintelligible lyrics and varying musical styles that Ween is a cut apart from most other groups.

Ween's sounds range from the very melodic (Don't Get 2 Close, Sarah) to bouncy (Big Jilm, Going gets Tough) to "hard-skankin' reggae" (Reggaejunkiejew) to abrasive (You Fucked Up, Fat Boy) to downright obnoxious (Push th' Little Daisies, which, unfortunately, wasn't played). The song Loving You Thru it All sounds like the song House of the Rising Sun (the guitar at least). I am not familiar with all their stuff: I need to get a hold of their second album, Pod.

The opening band was a group called False Front who were quite good, even though the singer was very drunk and flopped on the audience several times. They played decent hard rock for about a half-hour. The 9:30 club, located in a somewhat seedy section of DC, is rather dingy and resembles a dungeon. But the people there are relatively nice (compared to most metal concerts I've been to) and there was no unruly behaviour in any way (people apologised if they knocked into me---surprising). I was right up in the front and while there was some moshing for a few of the Ween tunes, I managed to avoid it (I think moshing in and of itself is okay, but I don't think you pay attention to the music when you are crowd-surfing). The area is heavily patrolled by cops so it's safe. The club itself is small and so you have a choice of standing in the back or being right in the front. I chose the latter.

Back to Ween: one reviewer commented "Pure Guava is pure genius." The same reviewer (Karl Coryat in Bass Player magazine) also commented that "And if you live for the weird, the wild, and the wacky, Gene and Dean Ween maybe become your next heroes." In the concert, Dean Ween (Mickey Malchiondo), though no virtuoso on the guitar, made up for it by crazy facial expressions as he strutted his stuff and Gene Ween's twitching put the Flintstones to shame---they interacted a lot with the audience and had me laughing. I will assert that Ween is not only the weirdest, the wildest, and the wackiest group to come out of this year, but also the funniest.

Music ram-blings || Ram Samudrala || me@ram.org || July 1, 1994