@shiftywhiteguy: In 2007, Zack was trying to talk me into going to Bonnaroo. The Flaming Lips, The White Stripes, and many others seemed like pretty good draws, but I wasn’t 100% convinced until he mentioned the band that he knew would catch me hook, line, and sinker: Ween. Ween is a one of a kind band, to say the least. Their music is technically proficient, rocks so incredibly hard, is hilarious, and is a lot of times, really biting commentary and satire on other genres.
As much as I liked Ween, I had not seen them live up to that point. Ladies and gentlemen, you are simply a Ween fan trainee until you see a show. There is no way of accurately appreciating this band until you’ve seen the living riot that is a group of Ween fans in the act of worshipping their band. At that ’07 show, Ween was preceded by Fountains of Wayne. Zack and I worked our way over to This Tent during FoW’s set to make sure we could get close for Gener and Deaner. I remember standing right behind a girl who looked at the mass of people huddling around This Tent, then mentioned to her friend, “Wow, Fountains of Wayne really drew a crowd!” Poor thing, she had no idea what was about to happen to her.
The very second Fountains of Wayne stopped playing, even as their handful of fans sat around cheering, the Ween fans started the mad rush. FoW couldn’t have possibly heard their own applause, as we immediately began the “Ween! Ween! Ween!” chant, and ran over any poor FoW fan that wasn’t smart enough to realize they were being overrun by a swarm of crazy fans of an even crazier band. The previously mentioned Fountains of Wayne fan* turned around with the most shocked, scared, and overwhelmed look on her face,** and frantically scurried out of the way.
Zack and I got as close as possible to the stage, and once we were within 40 feet, we found ourselves comfortable with our spot, and started to take a look at our surroundings. Zack was the first to notice that the girl next to us had a homemade Boognish*** belt buckle, which he complimented. The girl was really nice, said thanks, and then asked if we wanted to smoke some opium. Now, ladies and gentlemen, I’ve only been on the planet for about 26 years, but in my experience, there are not a whole lot of times in your life that a stranger will ask you to join them on a bowl of opium. But, these are Ween fans. Expect the unexpected, and know that all of the people around you are insane with joy.
Think about that phrase for a second, because I mean it very seriously – insane with joy. Everyone has their favorite bands, but Ween fans are unique. We don’t just have fun at Ween shows, we become entirely different people. You can spot us by our massive sing-alongs, never-ending request shouts**** and ear-to-ear smile rivaling the Boognish’s.
After that first show, I made sure I never, ever missed any Ween show I could possibly make it to. Later that year, I moved to Florida. But, right before I left, Ween announced they were playing a makeup show at the Bluebird in Bloomington, a venue they had cancelled on not long prior. I did what any self-respecting Ween fan would do. I drove my happy ass the 1000 miles back to Indiana, just weeks after the move to Florida. I sure don’t remember the drive, but you’re goddamn right I remember that show.
Bonnaroo 2010 was my 4th Ween show, not including a Gene Ween solo show,+ but my festival partner @andlaurasays, despite being a Ween fan, had not seen a show yet. As expected, she was overly excited, but I don’t know if she fully understood how over-the-top the experience was going to be. Luckily, Regina Spektor was on Which stage before Ween, so again, we could count on an audience that would pretty much clear out and leave us room to get close. Within 2 minutes of the end of Regina’s set, we were right up front, in front of Deaner’s spot on stage, and we were surrounded by our brethren and the “Ween!” chant. Boognish flags flew in several spots. The dude next to me had on a Boognish mask made from a pizza box. One guy had constructed a boognish out of a soccer ball, mounted to the end of the pole. It was superbly constructed. And, in a bit of déjà vu, a guy in front of us turned and asked if we wanted some free mushrooms. Again, I’ve been around for a while, and this is not something you’ll experience too often. He saw the expectedly confused expression on my face, and the following conversation ensued:
“It’s the last day, and we had a bunch left still, we figured we’d just give them out to the people around us at Ween,” he explained.
“Just give them away?” I asked.
“Yeah, good for the karma bank, you know?”
“Well, I um…”
He could see the concern on my face, and alleviated my concern before I could even ask. “I know what you’re thinking. I would also think it sounded too good to be true, but I’m a Ween fan. You know some shit like this is something only Ween fans would do.”++
Needless to say, the show was absolutely amazing, but unfortunately, they were on Which stage at 3:30 in the afternoon. The non-tented stages at Bonnaroo are unbearable dens of immense, unrelenting heat that are literally life-threatening if you’re pushing your limits. So, eventually, we ran out of water and had to leave our amazingly close spot to the stage. The second half was caught from a little farther back with less person density, and in the less-dedicated part of the crowd, but you could still hear the shouts and chants and excitement of our people in that mass, and they continued to contribute to the value of the show.
That’s the thing about Ween and their fans. Our relationship is fascinating. We egg each other on, we challenge each other. We watch Gene and Dene in varied states of disrepair. The days Gener looks like he just did a keg stand and a handful on Xanax, we cheer extra hard, because we want to pick him up. And then every couple of years, when you see a show where he looks put together and excited, you cheer extra hard to reward him. It’s a sick, codependent lifetime love affair. But, we love it, and we’ll rally around it forever. Our band kicks your band in the dick, then laughs and makes fun of it. And I’ve got a nation of insane, dedicated, ridiculous, hilarious, awesome people from all of the random walks of life you can imagine that all agree.
*I know. I’m shocked they exist as well.
** It was the same face I’d imagine someone would have if they had never seen a dick before and John Holmes dropped his pants in front of them.
***The Boognish is Ween’s most common logo, it looks something like this: http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/reverb/BoognishArmy.JPG If Ween Nation were a real thing, without a doubt the flag would feature a Boognish. And the guy in that picture would definitely be a high-ranking officer in our defense program.
****Which are always different, by the way. Ween has an enormous catalog, and you’ll never hear an audience shouting requests for the same song. It’s always a hysterically entertaining chorus of 30 different people shouting 30 hilarious song titles simultaneously. Example: “Mister won’t you Please Help my Pony!” “Piss up a Rope!” “Poop Ship!” “Flies on my Dick!” “Spinal Meningitis got me Down!” You can imagine how awesome it is to hear a bunch of people yelling these things in an extremely loud and gleeful cacophony.
+Earlier this year, Zack and I crashed a Gene Ween solo acoustic set at a very tiny venue called the Cactus Café in Austin. Gener was extremely responsive to the tiny, stuffed-in crowd, and even led an a cappella version of “Freedom of ’76” that the entire crowd sung along with. It was a tiny moment in history that I feel extremely fortunate to have been a part of. See successful crashes #27 & 28.
++ It was invincible logic. I think if I were ever a hitchhiker, I’d make a sign that said “Ween fan. Need a lift.” I’m sure I’d have a 750% better chance of being picked up. Because you know the very first Ween fan that comes by is going to be like “Oh, we can trust this guy. Let’s help him out.”