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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Last Night: Gene Ween at the Independent

Posted By on Thu, Jun 18, 2009 at 7:22 AM

Gene Ween

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Independent

Better Than:
A somber singer-songwriter open mic night.

An oddity amongst an already odd catalog, Ween's 1996 release, 12 Golden Country Greats (actually a 10-song record), is one of my favorite albums. Even for a drug-addled, practically unclassifiable duo known for their pop eccentricity, genre shifts, taboos, and satire, a rootsy, western-themed album recorded with esteemed Nashville studio musicians was a surprising and potentially alienating endeavor. While fans and critics alike had already been raving about Ween's songwriting aptitude by the time Country Greats came out, the band's ability to produce a hilarious, but masterful contemporary country record proved that these two freak shows had serious songwriting chops. I bought the joint on cassette and played it to its death.

A decade plus after that record first came out, Gene Ween performed at The Independent on a dreary San Francisco night. Unfamiliar with his solo work, I found myself wondering whether he'd try to translate Ween's characteristic abnormalities into solo form, or simply focus on
subdued pop minimalism.

An adrogynous, and quite rolly-polly Gene took the stage last night in

front of a sold out room dense with weed smoke. It's a strange thing

when one man with an acoustic guitar opens a set with a song about

homosexual pedophilia ("The Mollusk") and a seemingly non-judgemental

crowd (of a diverse age range) cheers along.

As the night went

on, Gene went through many of Ween's hits. Clad in an triple XL T-shirt

and what may very well have been sweat pants, things were weird indeed. At

one moment he'd perform ironic slow jams that no one seemed to get,

only to follow them up with psychedelic, flanger-coated mumble jumble.


lurked in the back, waiting for a little taste of the old Golden

Country. Finally, Gene delivered "Help Me Scrape The Mucus Off My

Brain." I sang along, erratically pounding my fists on the bar. After

that one, Gene returned to satirical love songs, along with various

troll-voiced, paint-huffing oddities. The set was stripped down,

strange, kinda cheesy, and kinda fun. However, at the night's

conclusion, being the aging, nostalgic fucker that I am, I stumbled

home wondering if my old Golden Country tape-- tossed out the window of

a van years ago by a traveling companion who grew to hate it--still had

a little life left in it; smothered in dust and weather on the side of

a vacant freeway somewhere in the middle of nowhere.

Critic's Notebook 

Personal Bias:
"Japanese Cowboy" is my jam, yo.

By the way: Sometimes it's refreshing to see people cheer for an overweight, out of fashion, old person with a little charisma. All is not lost.

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About The Author

Brian Moss


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