The Dean Ween Group prove they're far more than mere consolation
We may never see Ween in Australia again.
Ten years on from their most recent Australian tour, things have changed. The band broke up, and got back together. Gene Ween (Aaron Freeman) is now sober, and that makes touring in a rock band a difficult scenario.
Since reforming, they’ve played around 60 shows, but all of them have been in the US (bar one Canadian date) and there’s no sign of new music coming any time soon. They’re beloved in Australia, but it just probably isn’t a priority right now.
It almost felt like a Ween show, just on a far more intimate scale.
For Ween fans, it felt like something of a consolation to hear that the Dean Ween Group – helmed by guitarist, occasional vocalist, and equal stakes creative force behind Ween, Mickey Melchiondo (aka Dean Ween) – would tour Australia in support of Primus.
But it felt like far more than mere consolation when the band smashed through a largely brilliant 45-minute set at Brisbane’s Eatons Hill Hotel on Sunday night.
Firstly, 60 percent of Ween were on the stage for this show; Melchiondo, bassist Dave Dreiwitz and drummer Claude Coleman Jr were joined by guitarist Joe Kramer. It almost felt like a Ween show, just on a far more intimate scale.
Secondly, those musicians are astoundingly good. Coleman especially is one of the best drummers around, proficient but not pretentious, and drives these songs better than anyone else.
The songs, which I’ll get to, are easily done justice, but the long, psyched-out moments are completely transcendent. Melchiondo’s peerless guitar work perfectly backed by a band of brothers who know exactly the best way to support him.
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Then there’s the songs. 12 Golden Country Greats favourite ‘Piss Up A Rope’ was as gleeful and offensive in this setting as a regular Ween show. ‘It’s Gonna Be A Long Night’ felt like an all-out assault.
‘I’ll Be Your Johnny On The Spot’ was taut and frenetic as ever, and their rendition of ‘Frank’, from 1991’s brilliantly ghastly The Pod was, as the band and their devotees would say, brown as hell. Dirty, messy, anarchic and strange; the kind of performance that makes you feel kinda like you need to take a shower.
Dean’s latest material is hit and miss and that’s no more evident than when he rolls out songs like ‘Fingerbangin’’ from this year’s Rock2 album, and ‘Exercise Man’ from his The Deaner Album of last year. Songs that would (and should) have been relegated to rarities compilations when working in tandem with Gene get far more credence in this new group. They don’t deserve it.
But his show also reminds us that there is plenty of pure genius remaining in his songwriting.
‘Waste Station 9’ sounds like a long lost 60s British psych classic and ‘Love Theme From “Skinheads Kicking Your Ass”’ is the kind of weird instrumental jam that you truly couldn’t imagine any other guitarist writing.
Melchiondo and Freeman are best when they’re together. That has become blindingly obvious in the past half-decade. They balance each other out and lift each other to new highs. But that’s not to say there aren’t significant charms for each of them as solo artists.
On their first Australian tour, the Dean Ween Group prove that they have so much to offer without their long time collaborative partner. They bring something a little different to go along with a whole lot of the very things we know and love about Ween.
The greatest shame of this tour is that they’re forced to mere 45-minute sets as an opening act. The band deserves their own tour, longer sets with more in-depth psychedelic guitar explorations and warped pop songs. They deserve to be a headline act in their own right.
Hopefully fans of the band can respect the importance of Freeman’s health and wellbeing. If long-haul touring is a danger to his sobriety, then we must come to terms with a future without Ween shows.
But this absolutely must not be the last we see of the Dean Ween Group.