Picture Show: Ween New Year’s Run @ Fillmore

Ween @ Fillmore Auditorium, December 29 – 31

It’s a long drive from Chicago to Denver, about 16 hours. The payoff for avoiding car madness from mundane scenery? A New Year’s Eve celebration featuring three nights of Ween at the Fillmore Auditorium in Denver. For a Ween fanatic it doesn’t get much better than that.

Ween transformed the Fillmore into brown town on December 29-31. Fan anticipation for the shows was off the charts for the band had not performed a New Year’s show since 1998. The last time they played a three-night run at one venue was in November 2003 for the filming of their concert DVD, Live in Chicago. Adding to the excitement, the band aimed to set a personal record for most songs played during a three-night run.

In total, the group performed over two and a half hours of music each night, and shelled out roughly 30 songs per set. With nine studio albums, a handful of EP’s and a bounty of B-Sides and outtakes to choose from, Ween had plenty of material to work with. Each night offered a mash-up of varying genres and sounds, including experimental solos and extended instrumental jams. Sets primarily reflected their studio albums, also including a handful of choice covers and selections off Shinola (collection of demos) and The Friends EP.

Several of Ween’s usual suspects such as Roses Are Free, Voodoo Lady, Piss Up a Rope and the like appeared in the mix. Rare treats along the lines of Awesome Sound, Frank, and Mushroom Festival in Hell also made appearances. Surprisingly two songs were repeated: Buckingham Green and Your Party, both of which were performed on the first and last nights of the run.

With a vast amount of ground to cover Ween’s delivery was nowhere near perfect. As much as the band was spot on, there were several occasions where they botched song lyrics or missed pick-ups. Listening to the band recover from the mess-ups added extra excitement and humor to the music. In general, songs were beefed up and colored with ample solos and special effects. Lead guitarist Dean Ween (aka Mickey Melchiondo) played with an array of effect pedals, and explored the outer reaches of power and sound on his instrument. Lead singer Gene Ween (aka Aaron Freeman) frequently tweaked the vocal pitch and speed of his voice resulting in lyrical sonic psychedelic explorations.

Ween led fans through the depths of their back catalog right up to the new year. At midnight on December 31, they flushed 2011 down the toilet and reigned in 2012 with a balloon drop of confetti and brown balloons marked Boognish, Ween’s deity. During the height of the moment Gene Ween comically exclaimed: “2013 baby! Feels like we’re the Flaming Lips on any Tuesday night.” With that the band jumped into their first song of 2012, a cover of Let’s Dance by David Bowie. Ween carried on for another hour before it was time to bring the epic celebration to an end.

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