As the crowd waited in front for Ween to take the stage at Toads Place last Thursday, it warmed me to see a definitive cross section of the population. Then, about 90 seconds before Ween took the stage, it occurred to me that we were surrounded by crazy people, and that the potential mix of patchouli groovers and PCP freaks could get interesting, quickly. However, all my fears subsided when Ween took the foggy stage, and all the crazies giddily bobbed up and down to "The HIV Song," an irreverent ditty whose lyrics simply consist of "HIV" and "AIDS."
Characteristic of most of their music, this detachment from tact has allowed Ween to reach polarizing creative zones that the likes of Camper Van Beethoven and Primus balked at. As a demented duo almost 25 years in the making, Gene and Dean Ween belted out one crowd favorite jam after another, paying no favoritism to any particular album.
During "Take Me Away" from the album Chocolate and Cheese, Gene sang and swayed through the fog like Elvis (well, the sleazy version of Elvis in his later years), while Dean's smoking classic guitar solos during La Cucaracha's "With My Own Bare Hands" kept the crowd fired up, devil horns and all. The remainder of the two-and-a-half hour set consisted of songs strewn throughout their 18-year catalog. Although there was a small amount of self-indulgent guitar jamming (hence the patchouli), the show moved along with seamless momentum. There was only a minimal amount of banter as Gene carried himself with Sinatra-esque comments between songs, and Dean's coolness could have gained him dude status had he worn a bathrobe and sipped Caucasians all night.
The evening's twisted highlight came when they broke out "Spinal Meningitis (Got Me Down)," a bizarre crowd sing-along about a child, with a creepy voice effect asking about her own mortality. Although it's likely considered tasteless in most social circles, this type of humor personifies Ween's gift for satiric gold.
In the end, the set was a smash. Ween is its audience, and that evening, as scary as it sounds, that sold-out audience was Ween. The good nature of this band revolves around letting yourself go, and not taking your self, or anything for that matter, too seriously.