Ween 8.3.23

Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre
Morrison, CO

Words & Photos by Nicholas Stock

Ween, a band synonymous with the surreal, rolled into town for a Thursday night soiree at The Happiest Place on Earth, Red Rocks Amphitheatre. From their early days with a DAT machine and a sense for the obnoxious until their sell out show at the most famous venue in the country, Ween has never backed down from their vision. Now in their elder years they can sit back and relish in what must have started as one of the more elaborate inside jokes that ever transpired between two junior high school kids. They were a psych rock band doing their thing long before King Gizzard made it look cool. As I made my way through the parking lot it became pretty obvious that Ween is the one band that it’s okay to wear the shirt to the show.

The Front Range of Colorado has been blasted by precipitation for most of the spring and summer. The result is a very green Red Rocks and a lot of unfinished shows. However, as rain poured both north and south of us we found ourselves in a bubble of pleasantness. When the band walked on the famed stage just before 8 PM their eyes darted upward and a smile grew on their faces. This is the peak of the mountain. Their 37 song show was a veritable tour through their incredibly diverse catalog. “Pork Roll Egg and Cheese” was a delicious start to the show. The eclectic crowd locked in early and arms flailed wildly most of the night. Dean sang their first country throw back, “Piss Up A Rope.” It was during “I Wuz Nothing” that I first noticed the stagehand pushing a smoke machine around the stage at a pretty alarming pace. As the solos got flowing so did the haze. I found myself cheering for the smoke machine guy more than a few times.

“When the going gets brown, the sun goes down.” - Gene Ween

“Roses Are Free” was the gateway drug to Ween for many including myself. Thanks Phish for introducing me to yet another weird band something like 24 years ago. The mix on this show was loud and I think that was purposeful. This show was a literal attack on the senses. “Gabrielle” rocked and saw Gener bouncing around the stage like a kid on new trampoline. The bullhorn made an appearance on “Stroker Ace” before they proceeded with classy “Touch My Tooter.” Ween has one of the best backing bands on the planet consisting of Claude Coleman Jr. on drums, Glenn McClelland on keys and Dave Dreiwitz who absolutely crushed the bass on an epic “Frank.” McClelland stole the show on “Mollusk” with his fluttery keyboard work.

“Chocolate Town” had a false start and never quite got on track. They took it down a notch with the sweet “Stay Forever” and the abstract “I Don’t Want It.” “Ice Castles” built into a beautiful crescendo before they ripped into “The Final Alarm” which featured a brief vocal section from Mr. Coleman behind the kit. “Happy Colored Marbles” got us back to the weird. I have a slight problem dancing to “Spinal Meningitis,” but apparently the twenty-somethings to my left took no issue. “Voodoo Lady” went dark and deep but “Bananas and Blow” kept it airy and light. The machine gun drums of “Take Me Away” inspired the audience to get down. Gene tried to coax a sing along on “I Don’t Wanna Leave You on the Farm” but the crowd may have been a bit too inebriated at this point.

“Mister Would You Please Help My Pony” is classic Ween and inexplicably no one helped his pony. This single set show was already over two hours straight when the lights splashed a dark emerald before they blasted off on “Buckingham Green.” Smoke guy was flying. “Tender Situation” was transformed from the drum machine backed silliness on Pure Guava to a full blown rock tune that actually sounded fantastic. Dean informed the crowd, “We got something special for you,” as Gene produced a few sheets of paper and stool. Then “Pollo Asado” happened. Not sure how often that one is performed live, but I have to give the boys credit on this one. Spot on. Dean then broke the ice with a rousing version of “Suckin the Blood From the Devil’s Dick.” They closed the massive set of music with a smooth “Your Party.” Ween is known for chunky encores and tonight was no different starting with a quick “Wavin’ My Dick in the Wind.” “Don’t Get 2 Close” is a spacey psych rock tune Ala Muse or King Crimson. “Ode to Rene” is sung in French which was another example of how far this band will go to entertain. “Fluffy,” a song about a pleasant afternoon on the porch with the lady and the dog, grew into a massive cacophony of sound before it was all over.

Ween is the same and yet always different every time. At this point they have 9 studio albums under their belt so they have a wide catalog to pull from. It feels like they are having fun reworking old songs and creating interesting setlists. The staples all came out but we were still left wanting more. As I walked down the ramp towards my car I came to a realization that I must just like weird bands. Primus, King Gizzard and Phish can all fall into that category, but none go as far and are as irreverently bold as Ween. They always have been and they always will be pushing it to the absolute edge of decency and sensibility. And for that I love them - long live the Boognish!

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