Where were you on September 11, 2001? I was bowling with friends in Asahikawa, Japan – way up north, a stone’s throw from Russia. I had told the man at the counter my name was Gary, and that was the name up on the score-tracking screen over our lane. Gary sounds about the same as “下痢 (geri),” or diarrhea in Japanese. At the time, I found it hilarious to tell bowling lane employees that my name was “Loose Stools.” I’m a Ween fan, you see.
News started coming in that something had happened to the World Trade Center. We cut our game short and headed to the local pub to watch CNN and get the whole story. By the time the towers had fallen and it became clear that the U.S. was under attack, the pub was filled with many of the city’s foreign residents. Shock, anger and sadness swept in waves through the room as the horror of the situation continued to mount. Then, as the night wore on, the atmosphere changed. We got roaring drunk. We danced and shouted. We cried and laughed and hugged one another. It felt like the last party.
Ween captures the desperate, unhinged and strangely celebratory feeling of those first days following 9/11 on their sixth live album, GodWeenSatan Live. Recorded on 24-track at the band’s local bar in New Hope, Pa. on Sept. 14, 2001, the performance is a high-energy, no-filler march through Ween’s first major label release – GodWeenSatan: The Oneness (1990). The show was meant to promote the album’s re-issue on Sept. 11, 2001.
The band “didn’t know whether to cancel the gig or not, but ultimately decided that we shouldn’t let the tragedy affect our plans,” said Ween guitarist and co-founder Mickey Melchiondo, aka Dean Ween. “[W]e were able to conjure up the spirit we had when we originally wrote these songs – some dating back to 1985,” Melchiondo added.
The spirit Deaner was talking about is the raw, funny and offhandedly tuneful juvenilia of the original GodWeenSatan – from the spurned prom date metal blast of “You Fucked Up” to the mellow acoustic bong fog of “Puffy Cloud” – delivered by a tight and talented live act at the top of their game. It’s a little weird to hear a decidedly grown-up Ween blast out a note-perfect rendition of their adolescent greatest hits, but no weirder, I suppose, than Metallica trotting out the pimply thrashers they wrote as high schoolers at every live show.
While many of the songs on GodWeenSatan are entertaining just as pure suburban teen balderdash, there are standouts that hint at great things to come. “(Don’t Laugh) I Love You” is a pretty love song – no matter that it was preceded by the agonized bawling of “Bumblebee” or followed by the low-rent lifestyle coaching of “Never Squeal.” I don’t think there’s another band under the sun that could deliver the definitive parody of the Springsteen/Seger brand of over-emoted ballad like Ween does in just 30 seconds with “Old Man Thunder.” And tracks like “Marble Tulip Juicy Tree” and “Squelch the Weasel” showcase the psychedelic songcraft that underpins some of their best work, including The Mollusk (1997) and Quebec (2003).
Besides founding members Dean and Gene (Aaron Freeman) Ween, the lineup for the cathartic Sept. 14 show includes Claude Coleman (drums), Dave Dreiwtiz (bass), as well as Rollins Band alumnus and longtime Ween collaborator Andrew Weiss (bass, keyboards, sound effects). The band showcases the simple reason why they have remained a beloved live act for decades – they are world-class performers. It’s the inside joke at the heart of all the irreverence, experimentation and 10-minute funk odes to oral sex. They are funny and unconventional, but are also dead serious about making good music and delivering a memorable live show.
I usually direct newbies to the polished and accessible White Pepper (2000) as a starting point to Ween appreciation, but the GWS 2001 reissue with the live album as a companion piece would work just as well.
If you’re a Ween fan, you either own this already or have it on your Christmas list, so I’m just telling you what you already know: GWS Live is a solid addition to the Ween discography that showcases the band’s early songwriting chops, evolution as a live act and commitment to its fans.