Thursday, July 25, 2013

Cold and Wet

Phish: 2013-07-20 - FirstMerit Bank Pavilion at Northerly Island - Set 2 - Chicago, IL

Back on the Train
Mike's Song(6:32)
Theme From the Bottom(15:00)
Weekapaug Groove(23:00)
Golden Age(30:24)
Slave to the Traffic Light(1:00:12)

Pretty good set of rock n' roll right there.

Sunday, July 14, 2013




Quite simply, Ween is one of the greatest bands ever. Their genius cannot be overstated.  They were written off as a joke drug band by many, as if music is some sacred cow and Ween's music was blasphemous. Ween was the middle finger in the face of everyone's bad trip, and most people just can't handle their acid. But the truth is they were confusing as fuck, making brilliant music while satirizing rock stardom and singing about taboo topics such as sexual perversion and AIDS or joking about cheese stuffed pizza. Then they would hit you with a gorgeous ballad that was tender as fuck, or a guitar solo as sensual as a Calgon bath.

 Their brilliance was evident if inaccessible on their first three albums. You really do need to have a pretty good buzz going to digest those albums as a whole. By the time Chocolate and Cheese came out, they were still stylistically all over the board, but harnessing their pop sensibilities. 12 Golden Country Greats was a gimmick, but certainly a coalescing of their genius into a coherent medium. They could write great songs that your average Joe could comprehend from beginning to end. This was followed by their magnum opus, The Mollusk; a modern day Dark Side of the Moon if there ever was one. Their songwriting was further honed on the Beatles-esque White Pepper. Next up was my personal favorite, Quebec. Quebec was likely the artistic peak of Ween, a brilliant combination of grandiosity and insanity, evident in tracks like The Argus and If You Could Save Yourself, shortly after which the wheels came off the track and they descended into the cliche they had become so adept at satirizing. Luckily they were such proficient songwriters and producers, there is a seemingly endless treasure trove of studio outtakes and demos to be discovered on the internets. For a more comprehensive review of their discography, check here.

Live they were a whole other animal. I probably didn't see them until about 1998, so I can't speak to their shows as a duo with the DAT, which seem to reflect the deranged brilliance of the early albums. With the full band, they were a powerhouse. Claude is one of the greatest drummers I've seen live - pure rock n' roll, fluid and laying it down heavy. Dave is like the third Ween brother. Glen's brilliance became even more obvious when he left the band for a while and they got some short-lived replacement who pretty much sucked. Tasteful, psychedelic, and endlessly creative with his various keyboard sounds. Deaner is a guitar god. Gene was a man possessed on stage, transforming himself into some kind of mushroom elf speaking in tongues. In the tradition of lead singers like Robert Plant, he fully embraced and threw himself into the role, all the while sending it up.

All together it was a band embracing chaos and insanity night after night, pushing the limits, and breaking through to what can best be described as the transcendent experience fans crave. The shows might start out straightforward enough with some high energy rock, take a turn in psychedelia with Voodoo Lady, I Can't Put My Finger On It, or Happy Colored Marbles. Fully entranced, going deeper with Captain or Mutilated Lips, the room engulfed in fog. Coming out of the haze to Ween's weird world with Touch My Tooter, Booze Me Up and Get Me High, Don't Laugh I Love You, Ocean Man. Every show was an epic 3 hour plus affair, the band seeking the same transcendence, and knowing that it had to be earned, you couldn't just package and deliver it from go. Take for example a 2008 show in Hawaii that a few friends of mine were lucky enough to attend. 44 songs, 16 song encore. The last song was almost 15 minutes long. Dark Star. What the fuck? It wasn't necessary, just typical insanity. They've released a few live albums over the years, but what best captures my Ween experience is the Live in Chicago DVD.

As a side note, let me circle back to the idea that drug use somehow devalues music, or the belief that if you need to be high to appreciate a band, then they must suck. First of all, you don't need to be in an altered state to enjoy Ween, but it sure doesn't hurt. Second, without getting into the reasons why, because either you get it or you won't no matter how simply I break it down for you, for your average human the depth and brilliance of some music only becomes clear when accompanied by a shift in consciousness. People that don't understand this fail at music, drugs, life, and so many other things. If you are one of those people, stop reading this, and go stick your head in the oven. Right now.

The brothers brown never achieved the success of the Rolling Stones, and after that initial wave of rock stardom, it's hard to imagine anyone attaining that level of popular and artistic success. But if there is an archetypal path they followed in, it is that of the Glimmer Twins. A lead singer and lyricist in pursuit of his own eccentricities, and a rock guitarist in the purest sense of the term, seemingly impervious to any danger, with nothing but contempt for vanity. Their development and identities were intertwined, defining each other as much as they defined themselves. Brothers from the beginning, and brothers to the end, they held the fragile dynamic together as long as they could.

My personal experience with Ween, how can I describe it? The night at the Fillmore in San Francisco with  30 girls on stage for Let Me Lick Your Pussy, some flashing their breasts in every young boys rock n' roll fantasy. Or after the show the following night, with the Frenchman flying through the streets of San Francisco in a Chrysler Lebaron on a cold night with the top down, every stop sign invisible, a downhill path to the bowels of hell. A few years later at the Wiltern in Los Angeles, shirtless, wearing a gold sport jacket and one red Chuck Taylor, engulfed by the fog, a fellow concert-goer bleeding profusely, did that guy just get stabbed? Captain, Zoloft, Happy Colored Marbles. Insanity. The next morning Guy passed out on the plane before takeoff at LAX. The flight attendant had to wake him up after the flight landed in Paris and everyone else had left the plane. I'll let Dr. Thompson describe the rest:

“Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era—the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run . . . but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant. . . .

History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of “history” it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time—and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.

My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe forty nights—or very early mornings—when I left the Fillmore half-crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour wearing L. L. Bean shorts and a Butte sheepherder's jacket . . . booming through the Treasure Island tunnel at the lights of Oakland and Berkeley and Richmond, not quite sure which turn-off to take when I got to the other end (always stalling at the toll-gate, too twisted to find neutral while I fumbled for change) . . . but being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was: No doubt at all about that. . . .

There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda. . . . You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. . . .

And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.”

And so the story goes for now. It's hard to imagine that we'll never hear from Ween again, but who knows? Their cosmic brethren Mick and Keef had a falling out and toured and recorded sporadically in the 80's due to similar interpersonal strain. Hopefully there will be a Poopship on the horizon, until then, we'll still have those hazy memories, quite sure we had the greatest nights of our lives, but unable to cite any specific reason why.

A quote from the previously referenced Stereogum piece to finish things off:

“What Aaron and I created together was something so special that everyone that was even close to it for even one evening was affected forever,”   Melchiondo wrote in the Ween forum this past September. “Nothing can ever change that.”


If you've read this far, clearly you're a fan of the Ween. Since Ween ended, Claude Coleman has been relatively underemployed, and could use some helping producing a new album. If you're so inclined to help out, go here.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Geronimo's Cadillac

Cosmic Cowboys

There's a great article in Texas Monthly (not a subscriber) on the Austin music scene and the rise of the "outlaw" country scene throughout the 70's. An exhaustive analysis done via interviews with the major players in the scene, I've included some choice quotes below. What I found particularly interesting was the crossover and influence by the San Francisco psychedelic music scene, in particular the Grateful Dead. Nice to know that wherever you may roam, there are sure to be some freaks out there on the horizon.  

BILLY JOE SHAVER I got into that dang peyote and got to thinking I was Jesus. I was just walking around, healing people. I baptized a bunch of them.

BILLY JOE SHAVER I was booked to play the ’Dillo in front of the Grateful Dead but got there a day late. Eddie was ticked but didn’t make a big deal of it. Actually, he chased me down in the parking lot and said, “Billy Joe, the Dead left you something,” and handed me this roll of toilet paper that had a hit of acid on every square. For about two years, I walked around with that toilet paper in my pocket. I couldn’t hit it every day. I would hit it every other day.

 HERB STEINER Some of us took acid one day and then worked up “Wheel.” “Wheel” is us on LSD.

WILLIE NELSON A lot of acts were pissed because what’s-his-name, Kung Fu, got to go on—David Carradine. What was funny too was that Kung Fu, David, was out there barefooted. So I said, “If he can go out there barefooted, I’m going out there barefooted,” and took my shoes off. In the meantime, people had thrown a bunch of roses with thorns onstage; I walked right over the goddamn things. I thought, “Maybe I’m not as tough as Kung Fu.”

RAY WYLIE HUBBARD We recorded an album for Warner/Reprise, but then while we were on the road, somebody at the label said, “This is a folk-rock record. Country radio is not going to play this.” So they put girl singers and steel guitars on every track and just broke our hearts. I called my lawyer and said, “They put rope letters on the cover of the album. What can I do?” He said, “I suggest you start drinking.” So I did, for about the next twenty years.

WILLIE NELSON I never liked it. Eventually I told everybody, “You’re wired, you’re fired.” If you’re going to play music, you better all be on the same drug. You can’t have a guy up here wailing away on cocaine while you’re laid back on a little pot. It just don’t work.

JOE NICK PATOSKI The Summer of Love in San Francisco in 1967 marked a huge cultural shift. But when you look back on it now, the psychedelic music that came out of it had a pretty brief run. What started in Austin in that fuzzy 1970 to 1973 period is still playing out. There’s a continuity that you can’t say about any other regional music explosions in the United States in the latter half of the twentieth century. And that ain’t blowing smoke.

Thursday, July 4, 2013


Happy Birthday America!

Leaving Texas, fourth day of July
Sun so hot, the clouds so low, the eagles filled the sky
Catch the Detroit Lightning out of Santa Fe
The Great Northern out of Cheyenne, from sea to shining sea

To celebrate an American Beauty, Fader has a great article on Jerry, featuring interviews with many of his closest companions, as well as a younger generation of musicians who are admirers. Some fascinating insights. They also have this psychedelic family tree thing:

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Wilco gets Weir'd

Bob Weir joined the unfortunately named Americanarama tour for the first 4 dates, opening the shows with a short acoustic set. While much collaboration among the bands was hoped for on this tour, thus far only Weir has interacted with both Wilco and My Morning Jacket. It should be no surprise that Mr. Dylan has kept to himself, although one can dream. 

For the first two Wilco guest spots, things started out fairly simple with acoustic numbers like Ripple and Dead Flowers, both of which Wilco had just covered a few days prior during their all request show, and classic Americana numbers like Friend of the Devil and California Stars. I should note that the three most frequently performed bedtime songs for my two daughters are Ripple, Friend of the Devil, and California Stars. A little hesitant to start singing them Dead Flowers. Maybe in a few years.

After the second show, I sent out the following tweet:

To my surprise, it got "favorited" by both Mikael and John of Wilco. I had some hope that things could get weird, but I don't think anyone could imagine what would transpire over the final two shows. Nels has expressed enjoying early Dead up until around 1970. John seems to be a fan based on some tweets he's sent out over the years, though certainly not a Deadhead. Jeff Tweedy has commented a few times that Wilco does not jam, and I have a solo recording of him from about 10 years ago in which he says some fairly ambivalent if not negative things about the Grateful Dead and their fans. Well, seems he's warming up to the idea, as on the third show, Weir joined Wilco for a jammed out version of the Dead's signature 60's tune Dark Star, flowing into Wilco's California Stars, before ending up back in Dark Star to finish it off. Maybe not as weird as what I hoped for in my tweet, but to take on the ultimate psychedelic anthem that has come to be seen as cliched by Dead haters is as bold of a statement as can be made. You can listen to Dark California Stars here:


After stunning us on the third night, you had to wonder how they would finish things off on Weir's final night of the tour. They stuck to the jams with a stunning rendition of the country jazz of Birdsong, into the Beatles psychedelic masterpiece Tomorrow Never Knows. Wilco is likely a bit more familiar with Tomorrow Never Knows, and it really fit their strong suit of noise jams they've perfected on songs like Via Chicago and I Am Trying to Break Your Heart. It also allowed Glen to go absolutely apeshit on one of the most iconic drum beats of all time, along with Nels and the rest of the band. Too bad Weir isn't sticking around for the rest of the tour. You can only imagine what they'd come up with next - Barbed Wire Whipping Party into Misunderstood?

Weir also joined My Morning Jacket for Dear Prudence, I Know You Rider, and Brown-Eyed Women over the course of 3 nights.

Bonus Jonas, here's Wilco doing Daft Punk's Get Lucky from their all request show:

And because why the fuck not, here's an unreleased Neil Young song.