San Francisco Bathhouse
February 27 | Reviewed by Brannavan Gnanalingam

I HAVE rarely seen Wellington so animalistic. The first encore chant was something primordial, a desperate cry by an audience baying for more primitive rock n roll, more scalding guitarwork, more schizophrenic vocal stylings. Grunts, chants of “Ween” resounded with polyphonic clapping, hooting and stamping, bringing the band back triumphantly to face the adoration of a swollen San Fran. The second encore call-back was a little more sedate, like a beast that had gorged too much but was still pawing, hoping, to catch something in its half-hearted movements. The sweat-drenched audience wanted more violence, more carnage. When the band played their Irish drinking song ‘Blarney Stone’ with its Tourettes lyrics and casual violence it seemed a much more fitting end to the show compared to the first encore closer ‘Buenas Tardes Amigo’ with its lyrics of violence and revenge. The audience weren’t after sweet sentimentality. Ween had touched them somewhere else, somewhere darker, in their spirit. I suppose that’s what happens when people resist the dulling, interminable Dancing With the Stars.

But looking at Ween, you wouldn’t have expected such mild-mannered people to be so vicious sounding. I hadn’t heard explosive sound like that from people you’d pass on the street and assume they were accountants or some other respectable profession. Albeit cool accountants. But the Ween “brothers” who famously met in a typing class in the early 80s ran through their extensive back catalogue, and were lapped by the all-ages crowd (nary an indie kid in sight, these were rock n roll veterans in there). Ween’s music goes everywhere, psychedelic jams, country, summery-pop, lo-fi indie, gigantic riffs, all played together by people who have played together for over twenty years, and possess that ease of familiarity with each other that set-lists can be improvised, yet still sound tight as anything. They played for almost three hours. Three hours.

They were loud – people would walk in and cower, wide-eyed, terrified, from their onslaught. Perhaps that would explain why the crowd were frozen during the performances, like animals caught by torches, only to whoop, bellow, howl to the moon during song breaks. Or yell back the potty-mouthed words, the more offensive lyrics, when apt. I figured ‘Baby Bitch’ (with its ‘fuck you you stinkin’ ass ho’ climax) would go down particularly well in that respect. Their lyrics sounded even more surreal live, with their drug-heavy imagery and satirical/offensive barbs sounding more pointed when blasted along by the band. The guitar-work was impressive too – the type of playing that required post-coital cigarettes afterwards. I’ve rarely seen such an insanely happy crowd. Ween brought out the animals in that crowd, and the crowd willingly drank from their blood.