Over the weekend: Gene Ween at the Walnut Room and b.side in Boulder

Over the weekend: Gene Ween at the Walnut Room and b.side in Boulder
Walnut Room set shot by Jon Solomon (click to enlarge)

Gene Ween
Saturday, May 10, The Walnut Room
Sunday, May 11, The b.side lounge
Better than:
Hearing Gene Ween play a bunch of solo songs you don't recognize.

Gene Ween (aka Aaron Freeman) perhaps best summarized the dynamic of his trio of Colorado shows early on during his first performance at the Walnut Room in Denver on Saturday. "You're listening to the roots of the song," he told the capacity crowd at the cramped venue, after a stripped-down, bare bones acoustic version of "Friends." This assessment proved an entirely apt description for the small scale shows, which will culminate in a second performance at the b.side lounge in Boulder tonight.

Over the weekend: Gene Ween at the Walnut Room and b.side in Boulder
Walnut Room set shot by Jon Solomon (click to enlarge)

Overall, the shows seemed designed for hard-core Ween fans -- both nights boasted loud rounds of sing alongs from the crowds, and both audience displayed patience as Gene paused during certain songs. The Ween faithful can be simultaneously engaging and exasperating. This past weekend, we witnessed the best and worst parts of a rowdy Ween crowd in the microcosm of two very small venues. Although the crowd's synchronized chorus of voices and pumping fists during the first night's performance of "Don't Get 2 Close (2 My Fantasy) and during the finale of "The Blarney Stone" was truly stirring, for instance, the slovenly slattern who clung to the edge of the stage and screamed the length of the second show was truly irritating.

Just the same, the energy and enthusiasm of the crowds added to the impact of the performances. Both venues were packed to capacity with fans who knew all the lyrics, who hummed along with Freeman for the solos, and who forgave him his slight missteps. This communal fervor made for an effective ambience, and seemed to help buoy Freeman through the more difficult tunes.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
"Baby Bitch" and "Birthday Boy" have a particular resonance for me in terms of personal experience, so hearing the songs played back-to-back on the first night was definitely a high point.
Random Detail: I met a local tattoo artist who had drawn impressive watercolor portraits of both of the band's eponymous members. She had run into Freeman outside the Walnut Room on the first night and promised him the portraits -- in return, he gave her free access for both of the shows.
By the Way: The song "Friends," which received a techno treatment on the album La Cucaracha, makes a damn fine acoustic ballad.

Gene Ween
Set List, Night One - the Walnut Room

"Your Party"
"Stay Forever"
"The Grobe"
"Mutilated Lips"
"Back to Basom"
"Push the Little Daisies"
"Even If You Don't"
"Happy Colored Marbles"
"Mountains and Buffalo"
"Spinal Meningitis (Got Me Down)"
"Loving U Thru It All"
"Birthday Boy"
"Baby Bitch"
"Tried and True"
"Chocolate Town"
"Little Birdy"
"Don't Get 2 Close (2 My Fantasy)"
"Don't Laugh (I Love You)"
"El Camino"
"What Deaner Was Talking About"
"Blarney Stone"
Night Two - b.side lounge
"Golden Eel"
"Don't Shit Where You Eat"
"Marble to the Juicy Tree"
"Stay Forever"
"Buckingham Green"
"Flutes of the Chi"
"Voodoo Lady"
"You Were the Fool"
"Spirit Walker"
"Tried and True"
"What Deaner Was Talking About"
"Even If You Don't"
"Now I'm Freaking Out"
"Bananas and Blow"
"Stallion Part 3"
"She's Your Baby"
"Ooh vah la"
"It's Gonna Be All Right"
"Squelch the Little Weasel
"She Wanted to Leave"
"Someday" (acappella)

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