Gene Ween Strikes Just the Right Note

December 5th, 2011

Gene Ween and Dave Dreiwitz – Brooklyn Bowl – December 3, 2011

How is it possible to leave a Gene Ween show with a tear in your eye? Don’t worry, it isn’t because Dean broke up the band, but it might have been the soothing sounds of an acoustic three-piece under multicolor lasers or the gentle crashing of strikes at the nearby lanes at Brooklyn Bowl that transformed Ween’s wacky genre-hopping material into sincere tearjerkers on Saturday night. He seemed to literally become a new character on each track, wide eyed, his face transforming, singing in the upper-register earnest falsetto about “…blood from the stallion.”

Moving from this progressive jam into an Irish sea shanty, Gene told the audience it was a cover of an old song they’d tracked down in the Smithsonian archives, which might actually be true. But even the most hardcore Ween fans aren’t possibly going to know all of the band’s material, especially if what’s coming next is a cover of Neil Young’s “The Needle and the Damage Done.” Ween has succeeded at creating a devoted fan following willing to follow them down any musical rabbit hole, including this epic, sit-down acoustic “An Evening With” session.

But maybe that’s where the tongue in cheek turned sentimental because, after all, the guys in Ween are great songwriters, and stripped of the genre irony, songs like “Little Birdy” can be touching. At times the show felt like a children’s sing-along party with hidden layers of dual meaning, especially when Gene pounded out “Demon Sweat” in front of the velvet curtain like a possessed Billy Joel. Sure, it was a license to cheese, but when Gene brought his daughter Ana onstage to nervously sing “Happy Colored Marbles,” it was just what we needed: a little dose of sincerity. —Jason Dean