It’s been almost a year since the last time I saw Ween. Honestly, the thought immediately puts me down in the dumps. But luckily, Maine is a weirdly good place to live if you’re into Ween. In a census done of Ween Fans (by Ween Fans), Portland Maine was named the 10th best city in the country for Ween fans per capita. I think there’s something about the ethos of the state that matches a little bit of the ethos of Ween – but with more pine needles and less pork roll.
The ticket read an 8 p.m. start time, and they meant it. I sort of meandered my way to the venue and by the time I got there the band was already 4 songs into a play-through of Ween’s 2000 album White Pepper. Before I had even gotten my ticket checked I received the greatest compliment of my entire life, which was that someone told me I looked “like 1973.”
The tribute group was dressed in bumble bee costumes, and was made up of two guitar players, a bassist, keyboard player, drummer, and (of all people) a Saxophone player. I thought that adding a real saxophone to the mix was a nice touch on the part of the band, since the instrument is featured sort of prominently on Ween’s albums but they don’t have an actual instrument during their live performances. They also found interesting places to stick the saxophone in songs that don’t usually feature the instrument, and it usually worked pretty well! I thought that the group used some good imagination on their arrangements.
Tribute shows are, I think, very hard to pull off. No matter what you’re still playing another band’s songs, and there’s a pretty good chance that you won’t do it as well as the people that actually wrote the songs. So how do you make it good?
This group worked their way around this idea by striking the perfect tone. There was an air of celebration to two sets of the night. We were celebrating the weird mythology that Ween creates with their song book, all of us knowing that Buckingham Green is our official anthem, all of us knowing that this tribute band playing “Back to Basom” might be the closest we get to a live performance since the band doesn’t really play that one live very often.
And the fans were just what I have come to expect from Ween fans. It seemed like there were three types of person there: women who were there by themselves, groups of dudes, and couples that were VERY into one another. One such couple danced and sang along so hard with the grand finale performance of “The Blarney Stone,” that nearly the entire audience had to move out of their way. One dude in the back of the venue kept shouting a request for “Big Fat Fuck,” all night long.
I had hoped that this event would feel like a Ween fan community pep rally, and that’s exactly what I got. It felt like a fan club meeting, with everyone getting together to be glad that Ween is in our lives — even if they aren’t here tonight.