By Jena Ardell
By Brian McManus
By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
By Katherine Turman
By Chris Kornelis
By Brian McManus
Blow past antique shop after antique shop toward the former industrial glory of Allentown. Outside the Sterling Hotel, a white sign declares, "WEEN TONIGHT SOLD OUT." The guy working the door peers out and sympathetically confirms, "We'll have to tell them to come back and play again soon. After all, [Aaron's] my son-in-law."
Dejected in the Allentown rain. Walk back for last-ditch effort. You see, I'm doing this story on Ween. I've been driving around PA all day. Village Voice, you say? How many tickets? Just two? You're a lucky girl. I give him 20 bucks, thinking PA rocks. Friendliest people I've met in a long while. Cheap-ass beer and cigs, too.
Tonight, Sterling Hotel's filled with Phishheads. (One fratboy to his girlfriend: "Ween gets a middle-aged crowd, mid twenties I'd say. Not like Dave Matthews; now, that's the college set.") The band storm the stage at 10, promise to play all night. Launch into the hard stuff and then cut to the stoner-rock vocal distortion of "The Grobe," a new one. Dean's doing acrobatic guitar feats, his face twisted in orgiastic ecstasy. Gene's swinging happy-go-lucky like a modern-day Sinatra. Ween attempt "Allentown" by Billy Joel several times, but don't know the words. Most of the new stuff's from the weird middle of White Pepper: "Pandy Fackler," a hilarious Steely Dan-ish ditty about a groupie; the Parrot-head steel drums of "Bananas and Blow"; the medieval Yes-style poetry of "Back to Basom" ("Just like the damsel who has lost her leg . . . creeping, weeping"). They proceed to play for three-plus hours straight, cut short only by the fact that Dean dislocates his finger during "Buenos Tardes Amigo." Best show I've seen since Kid Rock.
So why deny weenness? Is it the lewd connotation of their name (supposedly a cross between "wuss" and "peen") or that grosser-than-gross humor has no place in the rock canon? Let's squash that pretense once and for all: In the Nasdaq age, rock isn't an intellectual endeavor. Blame the music industry, maybe. You can protest the WTO or police brutality or throw out your TV, but chances are your music will end up with a big stick up its ass. That's why it's the morons who riff the most badass. Rock is obsessed with nether organs: aching-testicle drumming, masturbatory guitar screams, shit-grimace grunts. What's grosser than that? Add drug use, and you've got an all-day marathon of Behind the Music. Add a narrative as ridiculous as an El Taco Loco to-go order, and you've got a marathon of weenness.
Ween play Irving Plaza May 25 and 26.