Wiltern – Los Angeles, CA
Words/Photos by Reverend Justito/concertconfessions.com
Before we discuss the final night of Ween’s winter west coast run at the Wiltern; we need to discuss Virgin America flight 150 from SFO to LAX (or as we re-named it AIR BOOGNISH). The party started at the Firewood Cafe (ok, perhaps the party started in the TSA scanner where I did my best Ravishing Rick Rude crotch thrust as photos of my junk were willingly taken) where over-priced cocktails were downed with great enthusiasm. It was pretty quick that my two friends (Papa Funk and South City) and I realized that the entire bar was made up of Ween fans that would be joining us aboard Richard Branson’s Poopship!
Once on the plane, things got straight up rowdy. One of the joys of flying Virgin America is the TV monitor in the seat directly in front of you. Papa Funk had the grand idea to initiate the seat to seat chatroom. For the final half of our sauced up flight, we violated the airline chats code of conduct with invites for Tooter Touching, multiple inquiries into getting ones dick sucked under the promenade and of course the request into seeing why my fucking Pony is coughing up snot in the driveway (verdict – his lung is fucked up). There is truly something beautiful to have a plane in complete silence, only to have multiple rows across the plane begin laughing at the same time. Now if only FAA rules would have allowed the flight attendance to announce over the PA that this was Boognish Air with non-stop service to the fucking Wiltern. Hey, at least we scared a lot of random passengers, right?
Speaking of the Wiltern, what was up with the line? I have now lived in Southern California for a decade, and never have I seen such a long line to enter the historic Art-Deco Theater. Instead of waiting outside, we hit some bar between the landmark and Denny’s. We of course ran into some pals from our flight in the cramped bar. Fact is, whenever Papa Funk and I get together, shit is legendary and this particular weekend was no exception. So now that you are caught up on a triumphant day of travel, let’s discuss the show.
After dropping $60 on the first round of beers, we found a solid spot on the floor Deaner side. Having been lost in the sauce for a few days at this point, I couldn’t tell you when Ween hit the stage. I can tell you they opened with “Exactly Where I’m At.” I love this one as an opener (I had called it as an opener for Oakland actually) as it has that magical Ween feel that always brings us back for more. I believe it was the second song “Don’t Get To Close (To My Fantasy)” where we ran into some pals who we met on the floor in Oakland. I am telling you, the Boognish family is strong in California, and it’s moments like these that just make the night that much more amazing. I also believe it was during Fantasy that I watched venue staff help a guy who had already partied too hard to safety. Another Pure Guava classic “Touch My Tooter” quickly followed and I knew we were truly off to a great start.
For the next 20 minutes, Ween did a great job bouncing around their massive catalogue. “Transdermal Celebration,” “Spinal Meningitis,” and “Bananas & Blow,” all owned the crowd. The Philadelphia inspired “Freedom of ‘76” felt even cooler when you watched Dean Ween tear shit up on his strat while wearing a beat up Flyers T-shirt. However, it was after Deaner laid down some serious ass kickin’ on “With My Own Bare Hands” that shit went from Saturday night rock show to dirty, dirty brown.
When I first heard the Quebec record, I was not really feeling it. However over the years it has grown on me and “The Argus” has become one of my favorite songs. The placement gave the crowd a chance to catch their breaths before bringing things back up. “Gabrielle” – a song that begs for forgiveness was an unexpected yet tasty treat. Speaking of tasty treats, the fact Gabby flowed nicely into my all time favorite Ween B-side “Puerto Rican Power” caused me to loose my shit. While mainstream media may feel the song was the evening only loud and boring misstep, I feel bad about spilling a ¼ of my beer on the guy next to me. What can I say, I was rocking that hard. The momentum out of PR Power was massive and presented the band with the perfect launching point for the musical highlight of the evening. On record, “Johnny on the Spot” is a 1980’s Casio keyboard tinged punk jam. Yet on the last night of an epic west coast run, Johnny featured an extended jam that gave Deaner the perfect chance to wank off into our ears. This is arguably the most massive mama-jamba Johnny I have ever heard and it brought the sold out theater to our collective knees.
The band had no choice but to slow things down for the next few numbers. Just because the songs are slower, it doesn’t mean they are not mind tingling. “Object”, “Did You See Me” and “Your Party” brought the loyal crowd up from the knees and onto our tippy-toes. Name one other band that could make 2,300 freaks smile when singing about Tri-colored pastas? Much like rhyming the word orange, it’s fucking impossible and that’s why Ween own your fucking soul!
As brown as it got for “Argus/Gabrielle/Puerto Rican Power the next run of songs was the highlight of the night. Papa Gene Ween took to the mic and announced that a special guest by the name of David Bowie would grace the band with his presence. After a few moments of “confusion” Gener informed Bowie that it was ok for the white duke to watch from the sidelines as he could handle the vocals on ‘Let’s Dance.” With the hearts and hopes of Silver Lake hipsters crushed, the band managed to destroy the Oakland version of “Let’s Dance” with this particular take. Thrilled from the response it appears that Deaner decided it was time to play quarterback and start calling audibles. The first jam called out was the rare (and highly debated) “Slow Down Boy.” I am on the side of the debate where I argue it’s a bit slow and dull; yet I was still grateful to catch it live. I was even more grateful after Deaner mentioned some love for Lenny in introducing the Motorhead classic “Ace of Spades.” Truth be told, I am kicking myself for not snagging video of this as the passion and intensity of Ween’s cover trumped the epic version God himself performed with Slash & Dave Grohl at the 2010 Revolver Golden Gods Awards.
With the Southern California crowd now deep in the palm of their hands, the band rewarded the casual fans with a string of “hits.” You don’t need me to mention what cartoon duo made “Push Th’ Little Daisies” famous, nor do you need me to mention which jam band made “Roses Are Free” famous. Yet with those songs sandwiching a raging “What Deaner Was Talking About” folks started dropping like flies keeping Wiltern staff very busy. You read that right folks; Ween are so powerful and brought Blake Griffin-esque excitement to the point of sending their fans to the hospital. Knowing just how hard they were killing it (and how hard LA was partying) Deaner did the unthinkable. He called for “Put The Coke On My Dick.” Yep, Korea town got to witness the band break out the Craters From The Sac classic. With drummer Claude Coleman handling vocal duties, the band nailed it. That right there was worth the price of admission alone.
After closing the main set with two jams from The Mollusk the Wiltern was shaking from the thunderous crowd noise. The band came back and kicked off the four song encore with the Latin-inspired instrumental “Fiesta” (which was sweet since we missed it in Oaktown). “Take Me Away” kept the crowd rocking and the ode to rich gay men “Mr. Richard Smoker” delighted everyone. The show came to a close with what I believe is the second ever of the ELP classic “Lucky Man.” Where “Lucky Man” was part of the acoustic set in Oakland, for the Wiltern the song was full electric. Keyboardist Glenn McClelland’s confidence seemed to grow by leaps and bounds on the 400 mile trip from the Bay Area as he truly owned the cover. With members of the five piece band slowly ducking out one by one to end the night, it was hard to come to terms that our two night Ween run had come to a close.
As I said in my Oakland review, I knew I had to hit the Fox to see my boys Dean and Gene graduate to the next level. What I didn’t expect on this mini-run was for Ween to truly conquer Southern California. I have seen Ween a few times at the Wiltern, and the crowds’ reaction has been typical LA dickwads. A lack of energy from the crowd has a less than stellar effect on the band and when it comes down to it 99 out of 100 times Los Angeles crowds act too cool to rage. This was not the case as for the first time that I am aware of, Ween sold out the Wiltern in advance. This is also the first time I have truly seen a So-Cal show go off as Ween deserves. You couldn’t help but feel proud for the boys as they have finally hit the next level in Southern California. It was truly rewarding to see the smiles on their faces so a big round of applause to the boys from New Hope, PA We are already begging you to come back to the left coast!