If it weren’t for the skyscrapers looming overhead and sausage carts blowing fatty steam into the night air, you’d have sworn you were at some kind of woodsy, hippie spiritual summit, just slightly skewed by a hint of otherworldly danger and the promise of nonsense. It was moments before the second of three Ween concerts at Terminal 5 in New York City, and love was in the air. A twisted, unnatural, undying love, but love nonetheless. Four long years of a band hiatus had passed, and the followers of Boognish were gathered once more at the altar of their unforgotten heroes, Gene and Dean Ween.
Adam, 22, from Wallington, New Jersey, discovered the band last year, when their future was uncertain and the chances of him ever seeing them on stage unlikely.
“What do you love about them, Adam?”
“No f—s given. That’s the first thing.”
A man in velour pajamas and a pair of ratty slippers interrupted to hand out some homemade Boognish buttons. Adam thanked him and continued.
“They play every kind of music. That’s how they bring us all together. They play everything.”
And if the first two nights of this unholy trinity of Ween shows were any indication, they actually are playing everything. No track was too onerous, no fan request too obscure. “We got all different songs every night,” Dean informed the crowd after the second tune, the psychedelic Vegas nightmare “Take Me Away.” “Tonight we got 36, but don’t count ’em.”
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For two and a half hours, the throng stood enraptured while Dean, Gene, and their crackerjack band of cohorts ripped through a catalog that reached back more than three decades. There were crowd-pleasing staples of yesteryear like “Buckingham Green” and “Voodoo Lady,” mixed in with cuts so deep (“I Play It Off Legit”) you could instantly sniff out the diehards in the room. A country stunner like “Piss Up a Rope” or “I Don’t Want to Leave You on the Farm” would give way to an acid-tongued diatribe put to music (“Nan”) or a slippery piece of nautical psychedelia (“Mutilated Lips”). It was almost as if the band were acknowledging their absence and near-extinction by rewarding the audience with every musical vein they’d ever tapped.
“I love this, this is my favorite part. We’re taking requests. What do you wanna hear?”
Dean strapped on an acoustic guitar and handed another to Gene, and in an instant the crowd was transported from a top-tier rock & roll show to a stoner’s living room couch. The players took their time sifting through suggestions and boning up on chord changes from long ago. “You got it?” Gene asked before “Don’t S— Where You Eat.” “Not really,” replied Dean, lying. More than once he’d say something to the effect of “We haven’t played this in 20 years,” or even “This is the first time we’ve ever done this one.”
To be sure, it was a celebration of Ween’s far-reaching catalog and renewed onstage verve. But as raucous as the evening was, there was also a gentle sense of gratitude hanging in the air. Whether it came from the band or the audience didn’t matter. Ween were missed, and they were determined to make up for lost time.
They encored with only one song, but no one complained. The send-off was just too perfect:
“Buenas tardes, amigo
Hola, my good friend
Cinco de Mayo’s on Tuesday
And I hoped we’d see each other again.”