When the first song that comes blaring off the stage at a rock show is called "Don't Shit Where You Eat," you know you're in for a good night. And so it was last night: No waiting out the opening act, no diluted concert experience, just a blown-vein shot in the arm of pure Ween from the moment the alt-rock Muzak cut off and the main lights blacked out.
As the only artist on the bill for the City Hall show last night, the deconstructionist duo who've created a massive cult following for their perverse lampooning of every musical genre imaginable had license to cram as many songs as possible into a two-and-a-half-hour set.
And, as far as half-drunk, sweaty crowds go, you'd be hard pressed to find a more appreciative audience. Not only was the show utterly sold out—leaving straggling crowds of sullen vagrants disappointed after hitting up the will-call line for extra tickets—but the majority of the crowd kept step for step with the band's prolific dip into as much early, lesser-known material as more recent favorites from last year's La Cucaracha. For a band largely spurned by radio who gained their reputation off hard-earned street cred, it was rare to see such a diverse crowd—shaggy D&D shut-ins and sun-dressed gals alike—singing along to practically every word.
As likely to shred a guitar with pseudo-acid metal face-melters as tread the ether with New Age keyboard solos and two-step cowpunk, the lion's share of Ween's setlist was culled from at least half of their records, with cherry-picked oldies going back to when the pair were just 20-year-old misfits.
They stomped out last year's "Learnin' to Love" as gleefully as "Sorry Charlie," a nod to their '91 album The Pod. Their mid-set rendition of "My Own Bare Hands," a mic-swallowing power-chord anthem that satirizes the raunch of cock-rock misogyny, was a sure high point. "I'm gonna be your lawnmower and cut your fuckin' grass!" howled Dean as spittle sprayed the mic for one of Ween's most hilarious, if not altogether greatest, one-liners in their catalog.
Of note was a special appearance from Nashville session artist Bobby Ogdin, who backed Ween in '96 for 12 Golden Country Greats (recorded in Music City) and joined the duo for a pair of honky tonk wood-buffers that turned City Hall into one overheated but perky crowd. As the band took an encore, a few front-row women even jumped the stage and danced in the background for the remainder of the show. Though their suggestive fondling and Dirty Dancing lift-offs stole a little of the spotlight, nothing could detract from an extended "Buenas Tardes Amigo" to close out the night, complete with Gene's faux Spanish accent and improv guitar solo.
If, by the close of '08, this show doesn't stand out as one of Nashville's best moments in music for the year, it would be a harsh snub, indeed. But then again, 1,500 Ween fans have all the assurance they need already.