Crystal Ballroom, Portland
Wednesday, January 26th, 2011
I know enough about writing reviews to understand the intro is where you grab the reader's attention. I'm going to break that rule and say this; I'm not a true Ween fan. I only own six of their albums, and I haven't dissected any of the six to the point of memorization. I also write more about the experience of being at a live show, than what actually happened on stage. Ween-heads, proceed with caution.
With that said, my first Ween show was 1996, opening with Jawbreaker for the Foo Fighters. There were 1,000 people there, all Nirvana fans. It was just Dean and Gene with a drum machine, and a bunch of weird shit. The crowd was booing between songs, and I was one of them. My fondness for the band began that night when Gene laughingly told the crowd between songs that they've sucked in front of arenas full of people. The nonchalant attitude of, "so you don't like me, I don't give a shit," is something I relate to. So yeah, I can at least say, "I saw Ween 15 years ago," just like the four year old girl emerging on the shoulders of a patron near the beginning of the show can say when she's 19. Without getting into a PC conversation about if little kids belong at concerts, how cool is that?
However, I'd like to give a big "What the fuck," to the Crystal Ballroom for not making this a 21+ show. There were at least 1,000 people there when I walked in (1,500 capacity), and 950 of them where packed into the over 21 section. Doesn't the venue make more money when everyone is buying beer? I respect the fact that people under 21 are allowed entrance to see such an amazing show, but there are other options. First, the Manu Chao show was over 21 on the floor, and all ages in the balcony. The 23 teenagers who attended would then still be allowed. Second, those plastic tubing dividers with the black cloth hanging down are easy to move. Isn't it just as easy to set up that divider fifteen feet closer to Burnside?
Because of the overcrowded drinking side, I was able to walk up directly in front of the stage, where I spent the first hour of show jumping up and down and dancing. For those of you putting your palm on your head wondering why I am giving away the secret for getting close, settle down. You and three other people are the only ones reading this.
Ween opened with "The HIV Song," which had everyone around me dancing to the cute little ditty before throwing their hands in the air screaming, "AIDS!" Yes, I realize how ridiculous this reads if you don't know Ween. A couple songs later, Dean lit up his first cigarette of the night. Knowing the Crystal Ballroom security are programmed idiots, I was waiting for them to tell Dean he wasn't allowed to smoke, which appeared to happen. Dean made a quick vest gesture with his hands, then gave a "yeah right," look. The expression spoke clearly, "try to fucking stop me, I'M DEAN WEEN"
"With My Own Bare Hands," was the next highlight. I'm not sure I've heard more people simultaneously scream, "FUCKING ME!" People love screaming profanities at shows. I already warned you Weeners I'm not one of you, so quit rolling your eyes at this being one of my favorites.
"Take Me Away," was soon after, a song that always makes me smile. Seeing Gene play the lounge singer role with a big grin on his face is one of the more memorable parts of seeing Ween live (well, come on, seeing Deaner rip on the guitar is the highlight, but anyway). It's the, dare I say, diva-ish spoof, of his subtle dance movements that really gets me. Call me crazy, but I prefer Gene singing without the guitar. He could just as well be emulating Marilyn Monroe singing "Happy Birthday." It's so confident, friendly, and funny.
After the first hour, I ended up braving the previously mentioned overcrowded beer side of the Ballroom. The setlist didn't suffer, because this was the epic fourteen minute (or so) version of Voodoo Lady, with Deaner shredding my face and mind and thoughts. Yeah, I didn't see most of it, but I was listening to it, so who cares? I can't stand in the same spot for 2.5 hours. It was still amazing.
While in line, I had my ear talked off by a dude dropping names and showing me his VIP wristband. He was wasted and told me all about how he was partying with Dean and Gene before the show, and how wasted they were. It was drunken speculation, so I took what he said with a grain of salt. We all know Ween are the epitome of professionalism, and those who saw the show in Vancouver two nights earlier are nodding their heads. Isn't that one of the reasons we like them?
The remaining highlights of the show included the scariest version of "Spinal Meningitus," I'll ever hear, and a couple covers, David Bowie's "Let's Dance," Nirvana's "Heart Shaped Box" (which they closed the encore with), and Neil Young's "Old Man," causing me to text my Neil Young superfan friend, "Ween is playing Old Man." Yeah, I'm that guy. I guess another highlight would be when I passed a dude near the beer line who caught my eye because he looked exactly like a younger version of a friend of mine from college. He fell down 60 seconds later, and was helped to his feet by a friend and security, before full on passing out ten seconds later. He was carried out. Man, I know you want to get fucked up for Ween, but really?
In closing, Ween fans are a different type of person. You might know an acquaintance who is basically just that, an acquaintance, but when you find out they are a Ween fan, it's instant friendship. If you are interested in a mate, and they end up being a Ween fan, it overrules almost any negative personality trait you noticed up to that point. "Oh, you don't like sex, it's okay, you like Ween."
Have you ever seen a big booty bitch and thought, "start sucking." Have you ever been heading to a dinner party and thought, "I hope they have tri-colored pasta." Have you ever heard a Boyz II Men reference, and thought, "They're still keeping up the beat." Have you ever been asked, "so how did it go," and replied, "I played it off legit." Furthermore, have you ever made a flan, and squished it in your hand? Tell me it IS so.