Staying Brown: Gene and Dean Ween in the 21st Century (Relix Revisited)
With all the latest news regarding the future of Ween, we’ve decided to revisit this piece from our Feb-March 2008 issue.
One way to New Hope, Pennsylvania, is to leave New York City and head west, past the shipping containers of middle New Jersey, the truck yards, the swamps and the bridges, until the country looks agreeable again, through button-cute towns like Lambertville, and—finally—over the burbling Delaware River and across the state line. Another way is to simply materialize there.
It was the latter method of conveyance chosen by a teeth-bearing demon-head who appeared in the hallways of New Hope’s junior high school in 1984. Perhaps it was lured by the Chamber of Commerce’s promises of a “sophisticated yet country-casual town [that] provides a much needed break from today’s hectic lifestyle.” Perhaps it was baked.
Whether by design or chance, the head—who called itself the Boognish—arrived in exactly the right time and place to find the perfect vessels: a pair of eighth graders named Aaron Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo Jr. who lingered outside Mrs. Slack’s typing class. Whether Ween saw the Boognish or just mutually decided to start telling people about it, they started recording and didn’t stop.
By the time the duo—who’d renamed themselves Gene and Dean Ween, respectively—hit the cult-success big-time, they may have been the most dangerous guys with guitars on the planet. Parents never really had to worry about their kids imitating Led Zeppelin, after all. Where would the impressionable youth have access to groupies and red snappers, anyway? Ween, on the other hand, practically distributed blueprints: album art depicting a gas mask labeled as a “Scotchgard bong.”
In the age before Wikifiable hearsay, it was whispered—in dorm rooms and high school hallways—that every Ween album was a concept LP based on a given substance: 1999’s White Pepper for cocaine, 1996’s 12 Golden Country Greats for whiskey (or maybe beer), 1991’s The Pod for (duh) Scotchgard. They sounded it, too. But what was really dangerous about Ween was how productive they were, those two stoners who just wanted to screw with poor Mrs. Slack.
But something funny happened to Ween in the course of being funny: they transformed into an enduring rock band. Turning the Boognish into a highly marketable logo, they earned one wave of fans when MTV embraced “Push th’ Little Daisies” in 1992 (which got as high as #23 on the Modern Rock Chart) and another wave in 1997, when Phish began to cover “Roses Are Free.” Their catalogue has embraced unlistenable noise, surprisingly soulful sessions with Nashville vets, and (most recently) lite jazz figurehead David Sanborn. Meanwhile, their public face developed into a durable road quintet.
It helps that their songs are pitch-perfect 20-something anthems, as immaculately written as they are fun to drunkalong with. Go to a Ween show and it’ll be accompanied by two or three hours of monster guitar action. And there is every reason in the world to laugh with nu-canon classics like “Piss Up A Rope” and “Bananas and Blow,” just as there is to giggle at Gene Ween’s retarded kid voices, the screamed tape experiments of their teenage years, and everything else. But it is not novelty that makes them unique. After all, they’ve been around for 24 years.
Like Phish or Frank Zappa, Ween present a release valve for a very specific type of misfit. Drugs are frequently involved, and—subsequently— silliness. But the amount of naked emotion laid out in Ween songs can also be kind of startling. Collaborating infrequently, rarely touring with opening acts, recording with their own money and licensing to a label later, and managed in a low-key way by a former roadie/engineer, Ween are also fiercely independent from any type of scene, save what happens at John and Peter’s, a New Hope bar.
Despite a host of influences and the colliding subcultures of hippies, frat boys, prog-dorks, and those who don’t identify with anybody but Dean and Gene, Ween operate alone, serving a function they are—in some sense—semi-willing slaves to.
More popular than they’ve ever been, they’re now regularly playing theaters for the first time. “I simply don’t like it,” Melchiondo wrote on his BrownieTroop666 blog of playing at seated venues. “It’s not really right for Ween.” The band played for 5,000 at Chicago’s Aragon Ballroom, and two sold-out nights at New York’s 3,000-capacity Terminal 5. La Cucaracha, released last year, also represents Ween’s highest Billboard showing to date, peaking (appropriately, perhaps) at #69 on the Top 200.
Lotta strands in ol’ Gener’s head.
Dame shares a song from her new EP Preventions of Heartbreak.
Golden Bloom stopped by Relix to perform a tune from their latest EP No Day Like Today.
The Chapin Sisters share an tune from their new album A Date With the Everly Brothers.
Minneapolis-based Night Moves share a song from their record, Colored Emotions, live at Relix.
Cloud Cult share a song from their latest album live at Relix.
The Giving Tree Band enjoy a spring day on the Relix rooftop, while performing a classic Grateful Dead tune.
Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden performs a duet with his sister-in-law Lou Canon. The song appears on Us Alone his first record on Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts Productions.
The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
Ron Sexsmith visits the Relix office to perform a tune from his latest record Forever Endeavor.
- The Facebook Photo Contest Top 10
- Welcome to moe.town (Relix Revisited)
- Visions of the Hangout Music Festival 2013 (A Gallery)
- Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros Share "Better Days"
- Jim Weider’s Project Percolator at the Inn On The Blues
- Electric Daisy Carnival New York (A Gallery)
- Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers "Friend of The Devil" at the Beacon
- Dame "Sugar Muffin"
- Interlocken Festival to Feature Neil Young, Furthur, String Cheese Incident, Black Crowes, Zac Brown and More
- The Salvation of Page McConnell (Relix Revisited)
- Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers "Friend of The Devil" at the Beacon
- Interlocken Adds Widespread Panic and John Fogerty, Furthur to Play Workingman’s Dead
- Warren Haynes and Joe Bonamassa "If Heartaches Were Nickels"
- The Final Ingredient in Dogfish Head’s Grateful Dead Tribute Ale Is…
- Stone Gossard Readies His Moonlander
- Trey Anastasio Band at The Hangout (Video Stream)
- Doctor’s Orders: So what should we call the Super Ball IX Newspaper?
- John Kadlecik Posts Statement on Bob Weir’s Collapse
- "I Wanne Be In moe.": The Latest Volunteers
- Bob Weir Escorted Off Stage During Furthur Show
- Furthur Cancels BottleRock Show as Bob Weir Is Out Of Commision
- Vote for Your Favorite "I Wanne Be In moe." Contestant
- Doctor’s Orders: What’s Your Favorite Furthur Song? (Win Copy of Relix Signed by Phil and Bobby)
- On The Verge Poll