BOSTON, Mass. -- For a city known for its famous tea party and baked beans, things were sure smelling like cheese when Ween came to town recently.
"This is our last show," yelled Gene Ween from the stage to open this Boston cheesefest. And with that end-of-tour cry began one of the most tasteless, yet entertaining evenings of music in years.
And it was all thanks to the lovable, laughable duo known as Ween.
Guitarists and Gen-X masters of irreverence, Dean and Gene Ween, backed by keyboardist Glenn McLelland, drummer Claude Coleman Jr. and bassist Dave Dreiwitz, gave it all they had -- from smoke machines to psychedelic lighting to adolescent song lyrics -- when they proudly played to the packed crowd of 18-and-over fans gathered at the Roxy on Jan. 31. (Ween will do a SonicNet chat Thursday at 8 p.m., followed by a live cybercast at 9 p.m.)
I thought the smiling, chain-smoking and beer-swiggin' Dean and Gene Ween seemed particularly energized for this event, though they had spoken of eating only Dunkin' Donuts and whiskey on the way to the show. Then again, it seemed like the perfect diet for the show ahead.
The performance took off subtly enough, however, with one of Ween's newest offerings, "I'm Dancing In The Show Tonight," a cute, vaudeville-type song from their latest, The Mollusk. Sung by Gene (a.k.a. Gener), it quickly segued into the more curiously titled "What Deaner Was Talking About?" And that's when things got hairy.
The mood was set perfectly with "Spinal Meningitis (Got Me Down)," as puffs of white fog billowed from the smoke machine. Then came the pink, magenta and purple lights flashing haphazardly around the stage. "The Golden Eel" followed, bringing up the decibels, with lyrics that even '70s flute-blowing, Shakespeare-clad rocker Jethro Tull would have delighted in: "Burrows his head in the sand/ Daylight has come/ There shall be rest in the wild/ Daylight is come." On a more musical note, the song featured a reverberating, sonic guitar-solo from Dean (a.k.a. Deaner), the first of several.
But it was the songs -- their titles in particular -- that stood out.
"Piss Up A Rope," a down-home, country-fried tune from their CD, Country Greats, about being fed up with your woman, drew so much raucous energy that it even inspired many in the crowd to start pumping their fists in the air. It was pure cheeseball magic. If that weren't enough to get the crowd into the mood, "Waving My Dick in the Wind" found Gene gesturing like a cabaret singer, as if provoking the audience into further fits of adolescence.
Apparently feeling way too daring for anyone's good, Ween and everyone onstage did a special a cappella rendition of "Don't Get 2 Close (2 My Fantasy)." The '70s, Brit-inspired dandy included a goofy soprano ending: "Don't get 2 close (2 my fantasy)/ Don't be afraid to clutch the hand of your creator/ Stare into the Lion's eyes and if you taste the candy, you'll get to the surprise."
Did someone mention Spinal Tap?
The "HIV Song," in all its political incorrectness reminded me of Frank Zappa at his most rebellious. And as I looked around at the many "Phish-heads" swirling like dervishes in baggy clothes or maxi skirts, it became increasingly obvious that Ween had definitely crossed the alt-rock boundaries into something far more severe, and, yes, more entertaining.
Into the show's second hour, "Voodoo Lady" found each bandmember taking solos, seeming a bit drawn out as they held the audience captive in the grooviness of it all. The sad guitar ballad "A Tear for Eddie" broke things down even more, focusing on Dean's emotive playing, intense with reverb, effects and a bit of noise. "That was excellent," said a guy next to me who was obviously a prisoner of this performance.
More cheddar-cheese highlights included a bathroom-humor inspired story to launch "The Staillion Pt. 3" from Pure Guava and a song about a trashy pervert called "Mr. Richard Smoker." Whatever it was, Gene's singer-showmanship showed incredible diversity as he sang a Mid-Eastern-style chant that perfectly offset Van Halen's "Hot For Teacher," as sung by drummer Coleman. And just when you thought you'd heard everything, Ween offered up an off-color Irish drinking-song titled, what else, "Blarney Stone," from The Mollusk, which roused the band and audience into a swashbuckling frenzy. The song had an added X-rated verse courtesy of Dean and featuring special guest Mean Ween.
And just to show they had lots more where that came from, the first encore -- "You F**ked Up" -- led to, um, the funky, groovin' "Let Me Lick Your P***y" ("L.M.L.Y.P.") and a cry from the band of "Bring us drugs."
Despite it all, Ween ended things on a dignified note.
As they hugged the many fans who had climbed onstage to bid the band goodbye, Dean and Gene let out a classic arena-rock farewell to Beantown: "We love you all, Boston!" they shouted to wild cheers.
It was excellent. It was magical. It was pure cheese. [Tues., Feb. 10, 1998, 9 a.m. PST]