A Good Time Was Had By All

Grown-up Adult Me and Childish Idiot Me are frequently at odds with one another. Adult Me will say things like “you really should stay home this weekend! Look at all the laundry that has piled up over the week! You have reading to do for your classes! Be responsible!” Childish Idiot Me says things like “but the friends are coming to visit the other friends and we should all be together! I want to go see the friends!” Adult Me says “but they’re all going to see some guy (Dean Ween) who is half of a band you are barely even aware of (Ween). You’ll be bored!” Idiot Me replies, “maybe, but there will be beer there so how bad can it be?”

Last weekend, Idiot Me won the argument (with a little help from my friends), and sometime on Saturday afternoon, I found myself in Asbury Park. My friend Heater had opened her home to friends who were coming into town from near and far, and when I got there brunch was about to happen.

Luckily, there was a grapefruit IPA available! Pairing the right beer with one’s meals is very important, especially if you’re making a day of it. The plan was to hang out at the house for a bit and then head down to the beach for the Asbury Park Indian Summer festival. It was the last big beach bash of the season and the Dean Ween Band was slated to headline a day of music.

I am not terribly familiar with Dean Ween or much of his music. I have vague memories of when Ween’s “Push th’ Little Daisies” came out but that was 1993 which was a rather tumultuous time in my world so I never really noticed or bothered much with Ween. The only exception is their song “Roses Are Free” which is covered regularly by Phish.

(The early 90s were even stranger than this video would have you think)

As it turns out, Ween has been around for awhile. School friends Mickey Melchiondo (Dean Ween) and Aaron Freeman (Gene Ween) met in typing class and started playing music together in 1984. Over the past 28 years, the duo (who are sometimes as large as a sextet) have sailed the seas of sound from the Prince-inspired “LMLYP” to a rejected Pizza Hut jingle called “Where’d The Cheese Go?

Along the way, they managed to gather one of the stronger cult followings in alternative rock. Fans of Ween aren’t quite so noticeable as Juggalos, but they are similar to that group in that they wholeheartedly embrace whatever weirdness the band chooses to produce.

The Dean Ween Group, however, isn’t really quite as “out-there” as I was expecting it to be. I had this image of it being even MORE weird and strange than I already believed Ween to be, so I was pleasantly surprised to find that the majority of the Dean Ween Group tunes they played on the beach were more classic rock than crazy. I say this because, in my experience, side projects of weird bands tend to be extra strange (look at what Wayne Coyne gets up to when he’s not in The Flaming Lips, for example).

Since I was so unfamiliar with their music (and maaaaaybe a little drunk), the band initially wasn’t holding my interest very well. I’m sure the few [read: many] beers consumed over the course of the day had something to do with it, even if the beers DID help my dancing skills. At one point, Idiot Me decided it might be fun to go stick my feet in the waves crashing around us but Idiot Me misjudged it a bit and ended up wet to the knees. Whoops! I found out later from the other friends that I fell down quite a bit over the course of the evening, but that’s within normal limits for Grown-up Adult Me, who is bad at gravity.

I did try, though. One tune that caught my ear is a new one, called “Mercedes Benz.” A classic rocker with some funk elements had everyone up and grooving in the sand, which is surprisingly difficult to boogie in. The band was joined by local legend Billy Hector for a fantastic rendition of Jimi Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced?” which made my soul happy, not least because it was a song I recognized and by that point in the evening, Idiot Me was looking for things to hold on to, literally.

I’ve been to hundreds of shows, but only rarely do I go see a band I don’t know anything about. For me, the music is always the thing. For some, it’s the atmosphere. For others, it’s the scene. Once in awhile, you go to a show because your friends are going and you have a blast regardless of what’s going on up there on the stage. It helps when the band is good, and the Dean Ween Group is definitely that. They have an album coming out on October 21, and I think I’m going to pick it up. Then, if the Dean Ween Group are playing somewhere nearby, you might just find me there.

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