MUSIC | Gene Ween digs deep and delights fans at the Triple Rock and the Turf Club

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Disclaimer: Ween are my favorite band. There was pretty much no way this review was going to be negative. If you have a problem with that—and if you do, I can’t blame you—then you might want to stop reading here.

With his “brother” and Ween co-founder Dean Ween occupied with nautical endeavors, Gene Ween (real name Aaron Freeman) has been keeping busy between Ween tours by playing smaller, more intimate shows on his own or with a friend or two to back him up.

He pulled off his second two-night tour of the Twin Cities in about 26 months, playing sold-out shows on June 17 at the Triple Rock Social Club and on June 18 at the Turf Club, each with a capacity less than one-tenth than that of the Roy Wilkins Auditorium, where Ween has played the last two times they came to the Twin Cities.

Unlike his visit two years ago when he played solo, this time Gene brought along Ween bassist Dave Dreiwitz to back him up. Dave was a very nice addition to the show; Gene appeared to be much more comfortable with a buddy on stage with him, and he also provided one of the highlights of the two shows when he tore through a cover of Motörhead’s “Ace of Spades” (a song Ween covers frequently, with Dreiwitz singing), after someone in the audience requested the song.

Each show lasted approximately 90 minutes, with 49 total songs being played between the two nights and only 3 songs being played on both nights. Gene mixed in some rarities, b-sides and older songs, with a few newer songs and covers sprinkled in. Highlights of the first night include the aforementioned “Ace of Spades” cover as well as “Loop De Loop”, a song about tying shoes that Ween made for SpongeBob SquarePants.

On the second night, Gene traded in his guitar for a keyboard for a few songs, delivering a great version of “Demon Sweat” as well as a “far out” jam that confused the keyboard’s owner, who was standing next to me. He said he wasn’t sure how Gene was making the sounds he was making.

Another highlight of the night was when a saxophone player joined Dave and Gene for the soft rock song about tri-colored pastas “Your Party.” Surely any saxophone player’s dream is to play a part originally recorded by the eternally-smooth David Sanborn, and he made the most of it by absolutely nailing Sanborn’s part, receiving the largest cheers of the night and possibly the whole weekend. Unfortunately I did not catch the sax player’s name; he appeared to be a fan, as he emerged from the crowd to play this song as if he’d been born for that moment.

As Jim Walsh wrote over 20 years ago, “Clearly, Ween isn’t for everyone.” He was not kidding, but the people who get it really get it. The crowd both nights was extremely passionate and appreciative, singing along to nearly every song, including rarely played B-sides, and showering Gene and Dave with loud applause after every song. Like Ween, the crowd had a good sense of humor. Someone in the audience on the first night requested Joni Mitchell before they got lucky with the “Ace of Spades” request. The crowd was very diverse and on the second night I recognized several people who were there the first night as well. I also spotted local hip hop producers, musicians, and radio DJs amongst the crowds, and I chatted with Walsh for quite a while on the second night before I realized who I was talking to.

I left both nights extremely satisfied and if the singalongs, applause, and smiles of the rest of the audience are any indication, most of them felt the same way I did.