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Band Ween and its cult-like following to The Lyric Theatre provide an insider’s look at who a musician’s true fans are

BY LANCE INGRAM | Feature Writer

What do you get when you have a concert hall full of diehard fans who worship the band on stage?

Contrary to what you might think, it’s not a Grateful Dead show: it’s a Ween show.

Ween brought an alternative neo-psychedelic punk show to The Lyric Theatre Thursday, Oct. 29 and the Ween fans made the expedition to see the band they adore; one fan even made the 19-hour drive from Colorado just for the Oxford show.

The relationship between Ween and its fans has the magnitude to be registered on the scale of the passionate Deadheads.

Ween draws strong similarities from the Grateful Dead, not so much in its music but in consideration of culture behind the band.

After one brief improvisational jam, guitarist Dean Ween took the microphone and said, “That was our Grateful Dead jam.”

The band has many followers and each took part in a strong sense of community and togetherness. While they waited outside The Lyric, they spoke of previous shows and good times.

Several of the fans had followed the entire Ween tour and for an attendee to have this be their first Ween show was a rare find.

A large gathering assembled outside of the doors before the show. They patiently waited before the anticipation overtook concert-goers and talk of “gate crashing” became a topic of conversation. Jokingly, of course.

Once the doors opened, the band came on and the crowd tried to guess what the band’s opening song would be.

The show had a relatively small crowd in attendance, but that crowd was composed of dedicated, loyal fans who were there to celebrate their band.

The fans knew the songs word-for-word and sang as if they were the choir and the band was the congregation at a Sunday morning church service.

Ween, who has played together since 1984, displayed a strong unity and musical tightness on stage that can only be seen in a band that understands each other and realizes each other’s musical abilities.

The band’s music is largely alternative rock but can also fall into grunge, alternative rock and a splice of Latin and circus-style merry-go-round, with searing guitar solos.

Upon first listen, it could be easy to call them punk but -- it just doesn’t seem to do the band any justice because their musical abilities far exceed any other punk-labeled band.

The show consisted mostly of Ween’s older catalogue with a couple of tunes from their 2007 release, “La Cucaracha,” including “Learnin’ to Love,” which had the entire crowd dancing and singing along.

While the majority of Ween’s catalogue consists of rock songs, they still played songs such as “Your Party” and “I Don’t Want It” that showcase the band’s taste of jazz and the beauty of music.

Slow songs aside, the band hit its peak with “Buckingham Green,” which showcased an incredibly powerful outro as drummer Claude Coleman took the rhythm section to a new level.

From there the band went directly into the spaced out song “Zoloft,” which had an extended sleepy-time jam that resembled the pill the song refers to.

To the crowd’s delight, the band launched into its biggest song “Roses Are Free,” though there was a strong sense that Ween was only playing for the crowd and
would honestly never care to play it again.

Despite “Roses Are Free,” Ween seemed in good spirits and having a wonderful time on stage performing.

The encore made the show worth admission alone.

The encore began with a cover of the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young hit “Ohio,” that was spot on with the original.

After that lead singer Gene Ween looked to Dean and said, “Let’s play ‘Fluffy,’” and everyone who was close enough to hear that went berserk.

The lyrics describe a dog who has chewed his leg off and upon first hearing it was easy to question the significance of this song that made everyone so crazy but then there was the guitar solo.

Dean Ween had shined all night long with technically exquisite solos and lightning precision but his defining moment came during the extended-jam guitar solo of “Fluffy.”

The solo was able to awe concert-goers as Dean shredded along the ranks of Eddie Van Halen without the wankery and mindless drivel, and was able to display the passion in his playing while acknowledging how good he actually is.

Most jam bands, such as the Grateful Dead, center their shows on their improvisational jams and spaced-out solos.

While Ween has never fallen hard into the jam band scene they definitely have all of the requirements as far as the culture and to put on a great show.