Gene Ween Band: The Independent, San Francisco, CA 6/17/09

Ween may be lying low recently, but that hasn’t stopped one-half of the faux brother duo from picking up his acoustic guitar and hitting the road.  As the voice of the group, Gene Ween (real name Aaron Freeman) played two sold out shows at San Francisco’s popular The Independent to a crowd of eager fans.  Gene put on a very intimate show that found him altering many fan favorites to suit the acoustic mood of the night.  However, the changes found enthusiasm with the fans and Gene was all smiles the entire night.

Opening up with the title track of the group’s 1997 album The Mollusk, Gene received laughs from the crowds as he played with his voice, going from high to low interchangeably throughout the song.   From there, Gene covered most of Ween’s discography from White Pepper’s “Stay Forever,” “Exactly Where I’m At,” and an audience participation version of the Jimmy Buffet-esque “Bananas and Blow” to quebec’s “Chocolate Town” and “Tried and True.”  Other highlights of the night included “It’s Gonna Be Alright,” “Your Party,” and the Dean penned tune “Help Me Scrape the Mucus Off My Brain” from the groups country album 12 Golden Country Greats. 

What’s exciting about seeing Ween, apart from their great songs, is the humor they infuse with their material.  It was obvious Gene was having just as much fun as the audience was, especially during the mostly instrumental, darkly comedic “The HIV Song” as the entire room was yelling “HIV” and “AIDS” to Gene’s amusement.  Even as he forgot the occasional chord and lyric, the audience only encouraged him more. 

The night’s biggest treat was when opener, and resident Ween drummer, Claude Coleman, Jr. came out to accompany Gene on “Transdermal Celebration,” “Polka Dot Tail,” and “Big Jim,” to the cheers of the excited audience.  While the show may not have had the power and versatility that a Ween show has, Gene is a gifted performer who takes genuine pleasure in playing for his fans.

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