Iconic Band Ween Rocks Chicago

Photo by Patrick Jordan

By Emily Schwarz

Ween had two performances this past weekend at the Riviera Theatre in Uptown this past weekend, and luckily WLUW was able to attend the second night. As I was walking up to the Riv, there was a long line outside the door that wrapped around. I had listened to Ween a lot, but never had seen them, and had no clue what I was getting myself into.

Ween is one of those bands that has a cult following, where most people in the crowd have seen them upwards of thirty to forty times, and many people follow them around the country when they tour. I was briefly talking to a man in the crowd before the show started, who said it was the week of his thirty-second birthday and Sunday’s show was his thirty-second Ween show, after seeing them play the previous night before as well (Happy birthday Cooter!). Ween was one of those bands that had a loyal following, and the crowd felt like it was full of old friends, which was a very inviting environment to walk into for a first time Ween show-goer like myself.

Ween consists of the founding members Aaron Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo, better known by their stage names Dean and Gene Ween. Freeman and Melchiondo founded the band in New Hope, Pennsylvania in the 1980s and currently tour accompanied by a full band. Both Freeman and Melchiondo play instrumentals and do vocals, sometimes even using megaphones and voice synthesizers. Not only is the crowd entertaining and inviting, but the band’s lengthy performances are also captivating musically and fun to watch!

There was no opener to this set, as Ween has a historic reputation for playing 3 to 4 hour long sets. They started promptly at 7:30, after the line was just starting to be let in. Their set did not end until after 10:30 PM, after hours of dancing and jamming out. 

Besides their reputation for playing exhilaratingly and impressively long sets, they also have a reputation for exploring many different genres and sounds within their discography, and they touched base on all of it. They played songs ranging from their iconic album The Mollusk, which is the band’s most recognizable sound, similar to sea-shanties and island-like music, to playing some songs from their album Quebec, like their song “Chocolate Town,” which has more of an acoustic sound. They even played a song off their country album, titled 12 Golden Country Greats which is somewhat of a parody album reminiscent of it’s bluegrass country roots. 

Ween’s music and performances dance the fine line of artistic exploration and experimentalism and gimmicky, parody music, which is why the band is so unique in their sound and a good explanation for their iconic reputation. The duo, despite the brief breakup between 2011 – 2015, have been playing for years and are one of those bands who refuse to play the hits. No “Ocean Man” or “Tried and True” were played in the Riv this past weekend. Instead, they switch up their setlist every show, choosing songs between their 30 studio and live albums. The best part about the show, in my opinion, was the fact that every time the band finished playing a song, the crowd cheered and applauded as if it was their last. The energy that their performance and music created was truly captivating, and I’m excited to see where this iconic band goes next!

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