Ween: 1984-2012
May 30, 2012 9:07 PM   Subscribe

In a Rolling Stone article published yesterday, Aaron Freeman, co-founder of the cult rock band Ween, declared he was "retiring Gene Ween. ... For me, it's a closed book." Today, Freeman posted on his Facebook page: "I've decided to end my musical relationship with Ween."

Co-founder Mickey Melchiondo (Dean Ween) was caught unawares by Freeman's announcement, writing on the band's Facebook page: "This is news to me."

The band is survived by Freeman's solo project, and Melchiondo's fishing tours.

posted by kjh (54 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, unexpected...
posted by Huck500 at 9:10 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Aw, man. Great memories there. "Pure Guava", 8th grade trip to DC. May '93 baby. Guava Spring, as it came to be known.
posted by IvoShandor at 9:12 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I missed them on their last time around (found out a week later) and never got a chance to see them live. Here's hoping for a reunion at some point.
posted by fishmasta at 9:13 PM on May 30, 2012

posted by queensissy at 9:17 PM on May 30, 2012

Aw, man. They were our Fugs, man.

And I was just trying to explain the fucking cheese (I don' know) to a baffled coworker yesterday.
posted by klangklangston at 9:35 PM on May 30, 2012 [6 favorites]

Although I recognise they had a great lifespan, I am very sad about the demise of Ween. I saw them in 2008 in Australia, and I regret seeing them only once. I also missed patches of the concert as I was breaking up with someone during their set at Golden Plains... heh.

Ween gets a listen at least weekly on my walk to work. Even after my sad listening party last night this morning saw 'Roses Are Free' soundtracking my jaunty downhill wander to the office. I get texts, and spit them back at unexpected times from a friend dropping little missives like 'Why'd ya do it Fluffy?' or 'Boys II Men still keeping up the beat'. I wished I was a Ween sister, in the band. I am always dismayed when I mention them and the response is 'Oh, Push th' little daisies?' because there was so much more to them. I hope everyone has as much fun with concepts and genre as Ween did.

That, and what else would you possible choose to get properly fucked up to?
posted by Trivia Newton John at 9:43 PM on May 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Freedom of '76 on 120 Minutes
posted by John Cohen at 9:44 PM on May 30, 2012 [3 favorites]

I wonder if Deaner makes the same face catching a fish as he did playing a melting guitar solo.
posted by not_on_display at 9:51 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm trying to look at it as a good thing, because Aaron Freeman deciding to sober up means Gener will still be around for the reunion tour.
posted by Lorin at 9:56 PM on May 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

My best friend thought their music was genius. For me, it was some of the worst stuff I'd ever heard. "Love 'em or hate 'em."
posted by cribcage at 10:00 PM on May 30, 2012

Wow, I'm glad I caught them live last year. That was an impressive show. I didn't know it was possible to hotbox a venue as large as the Wiltern.
posted by mullingitover at 10:02 PM on May 30, 2012

I learned about Ween from Metafilter. They'd always been that annoying band that played (yes) "Daisies." After discovering here that there was a lot more to them, I purchased everything they ever released. You know what, they're a pretty amazing band. If you haven't found a song by them that you enjoy, its only because you haven't heard enough of their songs. If ever there was a "something for everyone" band, these guys were it.

That said, I sort of saw the writing on the wall after the reports about Gener's infamous Vancouver meltdown last year.
posted by Joey Michaels at 10:07 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

There's a lot more I wanted to say about this but it didn't seem appropriate to put it up front. The backstory for this goes at least as far back as 2004, when Ween cancelled the back end of their tour that year. I was at the last show they played before the cancellation, in San Diego, and I remember thinking Freeman spent a lot of time sitting down on the side of the stage during Melchiondo's solos. There was never any official word about why the rest of the tour was cancelled, but there was widespread speculation that Freeman's substance abuse problems had something to do with it. Then there was the meltdown show last year in Vancouver (you can find the story in the previously link) where the rest of the band abandoned Freeman while he floundered on stage.

Freeman entered rehab here in Arizona after that and came out with the idea to do his Rod McKuen cover album, "Marvelous Clouds," which was just released. Some say this is his attempt to avoid environs that would tempt him back into using; others say its an admission that he can't "do" Ween's music in a state of sobriety.

I personally prefer to think that that time in his life is simply over--that all things must end and that the time for Freeman and Melchiondo to be Ween has simply passed. As someone who in recent years has started a family and begun a life of service and responsibility to that family--trying to overcome what seems like a lifetime of misspent youth and bad choices and bad decisions--I can respect that completely.

What's truly disheartening is that this seems like more than the death of a band but the death of a friendship. Freeman once described being in Ween as more like a "marriage" than a band. (On the flipside, Melchiondo once described it as "a death sentence.") Many fans are optimistic that a reunion will one day come--or is inevitable--but it's hard to take Freeman's decision to announce this without consulting Melchiondo as anything but a grevious injury to whatever was left of their relationship.

Ween was the soundtrack to some of the strangest days in my life. I mean that in both a good way and a bad way. I felt obliged to provide some selections from their oeuvre in framing this post, but choosing ended up simply too difficult. Those who had filed them mentally away as a "joke" band or a "jam" band would be surprised at the maturity and sophistication in some of their studio recordings. On the other hand, their live shows had a tremendous reputation for variety and improvisation; seldom could two performances of the same song sound identical.

At any rate, as Lennon famously said, we still have the records--and the bootlegs, and the demos, and the live DVD concerts. God bless, and keep on keeping on.
posted by kjh at 10:33 PM on May 30, 2012 [8 favorites]

Every time a new Ween album came out I'd always think that they had really shit the bed this time, but then I'd listen to if a few more times and then realize that it was actually only mostly shitty. Then, I'd listen to it about 20 more times, agree that it really is shit and try to forget they ever released such a steamer. Then a few years later I'll listen to it and be surprised that it transmogrified into pure gold. It's happened at least 4 times.
posted by lamp at 10:42 PM on May 30, 2012 [10 favorites]

Ween was my first concert. I was about 13 years old and my dad sat at the bar at the back of the place. When he met up with me after the first thing my good-hearted, straight-laced father said was "what the fuck was that?". That was also the night I saw an adult man's naked penis. Truly, there was no better night in my adolescents.

So long, Ween, and thanks for all the chocolate and cheese.
posted by munchingzombie at 10:52 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I was at the now infamous Vancouver melt-down show. I'd been a fan for years and had never seen them before. As it started getting truly weird, I turned to the guy beside me and asked if this was a 'normal' Ween concert. "No, man, I've seen them four times and this is some seriously twisted shit" he said. This was partway through Reggaejunkiejew, where Gene was sitting barefoot on the stage and making incoherent noises. It got stranger, and stranger and I remember clearly wishing I had some hallucinogens on me, or in me. I figured that it may be the end of the band then, and was really surprised to read a review of the Seattle show the next night that said they were fantastic. A memorable concert experience, for sure.
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 10:56 PM on May 30, 2012

oh brother not another motherfucker gotta go now
posted by scody at 11:08 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

The stadium-packing 2022 reunion show had better close with the diarrhea-mist machine enhanced rendition of "Poopship Destroyer" or I will demand my $2000 back.
posted by contraption at 11:17 PM on May 30, 2012 [6 favorites]

Oh, such beautiful memories of playing my cassette of Pure Guava over and over again, partially because it was awesome, and partially because I knew it drove my sisters batty. Ween will always have a special place in my memory.
posted by sleep_walker at 11:19 PM on May 30, 2012

Pure Guava is one of my favorite things to listen to on a shitty boombox.
posted by contraption at 11:22 PM on May 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

I never got it.

But some of my friends love them, so .
posted by bardic at 11:34 PM on May 30, 2012

Fuck, that sucks.

I saw them at the fox last year, and it was a good show, but gener was not in his best form. I gathered it was better than the few shows before it, but I saw them in seattle a few years earlier, for the La Cucarocha tour, and that is one of the greatest concerts I've ever been to.

Sucks to see it end so abruptly (and without deaner even knowing it), but they brought us Sorry Charlie as teenagers, and gave us Country Music and Quebec, and The Pod and everything in between.


posted by lkc at 11:45 PM on May 30, 2012

THE tightest bands I've ever seen live : Ween, Spiritualized, Bone Thugs n' Harmony, Dr. Dog

(not necessarily in that order)

You just got the feeling that every note, every sound wave was exactly where it was supposed to be.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:50 PM on May 30, 2012

Poor Deaner, that was really a dick move.
posted by contraption at 11:56 PM on May 30, 2012

They were my favorite band through high school and college, and I saw them well over twenty times. The first time was my freshman year of college, when three of my friends and I drove about eight hours to watch them open up for the Foo Fighters in Cain's Ballroom in Oklahoma City. We were true Ween fans in that it never occurred to us that the Foo Fighters were a pretty popular band and maybe trying to get tickets before showing up would be a good idea. We got to the venue three or four hours before doors to learn that the show was sold out. So we stood in the parking lot figuring our next move when Dean and Gene showed up in their crappy van. I told them what had happened and they put us on the guest list. I asked Gene to play Pork Roll Egg and Cheese at the show and they did, and then we left before the Foo Fighters hit the stage. A great show.

And they were my favorite band before that but after that they were My Band, you know?

Sorry to hear it end like this, but I'm not sure Ween was supposed to move into middle age. Some time you got to sober up and I don't want a sober Ween. I mean shit, I'm sober now myself and I like the bands to take the drugs for me, but it is okay if they need to pass that particular duty on down the line.
posted by Bookhouse at 1:30 AM on May 31, 2012 [6 favorites]

Listening to Ween, especially Chocolate & Cheese, The Pod and White Pepper, helped me get through some tough times. I didn't fully understand them, I doubt I ever will, but I guess that's the point.

Gone away, gone away
Moving away, yeah …
Left with my own blues
Cos I love you

posted by robcorr at 2:20 AM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I wonder if it's a way of announcing another Moist Brothers album? Gene Ween is dead... Long live Dickie Moist?
posted by Slap*Happy at 2:59 AM on May 31, 2012

Aaron just got out of a long stint in rehab. Perhaps Ween songs and Ween shows are just too big of a trigger for him... it could be that he cannot enjoy doing Ween shows sober. He seems really into doing this Rob McKuen thing. *shrug* I've never been to rehab: I don't know how hard it would be to come out and go back to a job where nearly everyone is drinking and / or getting high around you EVERY NIGHT but I'm betting it'd be impossible. I feel kind of bad for the guy.
posted by chuckdarwin at 3:51 AM on May 31, 2012

I had the best time at your party.

Party's over, dude.
posted by h00py at 4:09 AM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

On the one hand, I've heard more of Ween than Daisies, and some of it exposed the dirty little secret that they actually had some talent. Much like Frank Zappa, they would've been quite capable of generating entertaining "normal" music but what fun would that have been?

On the other hand, Push th' Little Daisies is the only song that has ever caused me to physically break a radio.

So, mixed emotions.
posted by delfin at 4:36 AM on May 31, 2012

I never got it.

If you already haven't, find White Pepper immediately. You will never look at those cats the same way again. It's completely amazing.
posted by mintcake! at 5:07 AM on May 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

Poop Ship Destroyed.
posted by Mcable at 5:33 AM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

On the other hand, Push th' Little Daisies is the only song that has ever caused me to physically break a radio.

They have a few more in that class. 'The HIV Song' completely fucks up the flow of what would have been an outstanding album. Just dumb. They even played it live.

But still, great band with many standout songs in a number of genres. Their range is (was, I guess) unmatched. No one else goes from 'You Fucked Up' to 'A Tear for Eddie' to 'Baby Bitch' to 'I Don't Wanna Leave You on the Farm'.

My best friend played nothing but weenradio.com (or whatever the address was) for close to a year. I saw them live sometime around 2000-1. Probably the tightest band I've seen.

They had a reputation for partying with their fans after shows. I'm sure there was less of that as they aged, but I don't see how you go from there to a clean and sober act. It had to come to a definitive end at some point. It was a great run, but I'm still sad to see them go.
posted by BigSky at 5:38 AM on May 31, 2012

Totally expected and good for them. Based on interviews and gigs in the past few years, it's kind of felt like they each needed to find their own ways.

There was never going to be another Mollusk.
posted by Theta States at 6:15 AM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

I named my wi-fi network "Fluffy on the Porch."

A week later, someone on the block (no idea who) had named theirs, "Ween Lover Too."
posted by Danf at 6:18 AM on May 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

I've loved Ween for about 16 years, and they've meant more to me than any other band (and since I'm no longer a kid, it's unlikely any other band could take their place).

That said, I'm glad to hear this. I have been worried for years about Freeman's health, and it really didn't seem like Ween was a good thing for his sobriety.

I'd much rather see Gene Ween dead and Aaron Freeman sober and healthy. We got more Ween than we had any right to expect.

Thanks for layin' the present to waste, Gener.
posted by pinespree at 6:40 AM on May 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

posted by bigZLiLk at 6:48 AM on May 31, 2012

I love Ween so, so, so much. I'm really sad about this.
posted by Dr. Wu at 8:57 AM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Not entirely surprising, as some have noted. Through various connections, I've (sort of) known these guys for about 15 years, although I was better friends with Mickey and Claude (the drummer) than Aaron. All of them were big time partiers, although as they got older that started to subside. For Claude especially after his car accident, for Mickey as his kid started to get older. Aaron always seemed to be the one who hit stuff the hardest, but also had the most personal demons. Touring was especially hard, because they were real road warriors, and once they had all gotten pretty much clean he seemed to have the hardest time dealing with the temptation. Last time I saw them -- Tucson in 2008 or 2009? -- Aaron pretty much retired to the hotel immediately after the show. The rest of the guys could go to the bar and hang out fine, but I think he just wanted to make sure that he didn't put himself in compromising situations. Given the increasing lagtime between tours and albums I always sort of expected them to fade away.

Another amazing musical project that we still have is Claude Coleman's solo group Amandla. Really awesome stuff, very different from Ween, very soulful.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:02 AM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

So many Ween memories, so little time.

When I was in undergrad, my future husband dj'ed on the campus radio station. He was half of the "Wacky Brothers" and their show was the Friday Night Overdrive or some such nonsense. It was basically 3 hours of them goofing off with special guests (shark lady, calling their mom's on the air, etc), reading Mark Trail comics, and playing Can's "Turtles Have the Short Legs" every week. It was a small college and no one paid a lot of attention to the campus radio station, but there were loyal listeners (our friends).

One day my husband and his cohort got a bright idea. They played "The HIV Song", then followed it up with a public service announcement about getting tested for STD's. A call came in to the station immediately from the manager shouting at them that they were fired, highly offense, etc, etc. A few minutes later the two dj's come running into the house huffing and puffing. It turned out though, that the "station manager" who had called was just a friend of ours fucking with them. Somehow they managed to keep their slot at the station after those hijinks.

Oh, and we almost got into a fistfight at a 2003 or 2004 Ween show in Rochester NY because all these stupid punks were elbowing people hard to get to the front row--even us lame oldies standing in the back row. That was one of the last crazy shows we were willing to go to. And they encored with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young's Ohio, which brought a tear to my eye. (could have been the alcohol though)

Finally, about 4 of their songs made it on to our wedding CD. I'm sure my Grandma appreciated that!
posted by fyrebelley at 9:04 AM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

And of course the 2011 meltdown.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:06 AM on May 31, 2012

Still collecting my thoughts on this. Ween is really meaningful to me, wrapped up as they are in the development of a new musical taste when I was in college, and in the way they push genre boundaries, and in their gloriously smart/stupid poop humor and rather brilliant wordplay. I sincerely think that they are one of the most important and fascinating and musically inventive bands of the last 25 years or so.


On the subject of "The HIV Song," there's a very astute essay about it here -- it's an excerpt from the "33 1/3" book about Chocolate and Cheese, and I think it does a nice job of explaining why it's actually rather a brilliant song. (Self-link: I have blogged -- very briefly -- about Ween and that article here.)
posted by Dr. Wu at 9:06 AM on May 31, 2012 [2 favorites]

I saw them live at the Hampton Beach Casino Ballroom for the first time a few years ago and I thought I was ready, but I just wasn't ready, mang. I had no idea. The Ween tattoos on just about everybody were what really blew my mind the most. But I didn't sweat it. I was pretty much shellshocked by the time I left the show, for I had tasted the waste. It tasted like a pork roll egg and cheese, with a side of sour cream. The farther away I get from that show, the better it gets, and I loved it at the time. Awesome sound, mang, awesome sound.

As a token of my thanks for the friend who took me to the show, I bought her the Ween Coloring Book. Sketches of Winkle, and how!

So long, sweet stallion. I'll miss you.


ps - The Mollusc is genuinely a brilliant album. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to strap on that old jammy pac, go down beneath the reaches of sound, and start drinking the guava. Sorry, Charlie.
posted by the painkiller at 9:20 AM on May 31, 2012 [3 favorites]

This sort of makes me sad I just got rid of my literally DOZENS of Ween live bootlegs on cassette. But I have literally DOZENS of other Ween live bootlegs in my iTunes, so it isn't that much of a loss.
posted by Saxon Kane at 9:23 AM on May 31, 2012

The Mollusc is genuinely a brilliant album. Anyone who thinks otherwise needs to strap on that old jammy pac, go down beneath the reaches of sound, and start drinking the guava

Wait, are you implying that there are people that DON'T think The Mollusk is one of the most brilliant records ever?
It hurts my brain to even think of someone, a Ween fan no less, who could raise the torch of criticism anywhere near it. It's GOLD in my mind, the staggering crown in a career of identities and experimentation that was leading up to that musical moment.
I keep the record cover on my wall amongst a select few others.
posted by Theta States at 9:36 AM on May 31, 2012

I've been a Ween fan for about 20 of their 28 years, and the only thing of theirs that doesn't hold up IMHO is, ironically (?), their last album, La Cucaracha. It sounded like a bunch of guys trying to recreate something they had done 20 years earlier but were sick of doing.
posted by Saxon Kane at 10:35 AM on May 31, 2012

Ween was the only band I ever hung around behind the venue to meet.

In 1997 (or thereabouts) I was living in Portland. My college friend Aaron was still living back east, and fractured several vertebrae jumping into a quarry. Luckily no permanent damage, but he was laid up for a while. Aaron and I had been roommates, and spent way too much time listening to The Pod, Pure Guava, and Chocolate & Cheese.

To cheer up Aaron during his convalescence, I hit up the custom greeting card machine at Target (an artifact of a bygone era) and made him a flowery pink and yellow "Sorry You Broke Your Spine" card. (He didn't really sever his spine, of course, but it seemed very Ween-y in a Spinal Meningitis sort of way). Of course, the icing on the cake would be to get it signed by Gene & Dean, who were playing at La Luna that week (shows at La Luna were a late 90s staple for me...)

It was a fine show, I'm guessing it was 1997 since it was a core-band show (the previous year they had toured with the 12 Golden Country Greats band). During the encore, I slipped out back and waited by the back stage door, near the tour bus. Several other fans showed, and we shared Ween stories and chatted as we waited (quite a while) for the post-show festivities to end, and for the band to emerge.

Finally, they did. I introduced myself to Deaner and told him Aaron's story... he listened with concern, and filled half of the card with a personal message. "Dear Aaron, dude, that totally sucks that you broke your spine. Get better soon, love Deaner." I thanked him for the show and moved on to get the important second half of the message.

Waited until Gene was free... started to tell him the story, and while I talked he grabbed the card, scrawled a quick "Gene Ween", handed it back, and walked away.

Maybe he was exhausted... he certainly didn't owe me anything. But I've always remembered the difference in their responses. And perhaps because of that, it doesn't really surprise me that Gene publicly ended one of my favorite bands without bothering to mention it to Dean.

But thanks for everything, guys... it was great! And we'll always have the music.
posted by enkd at 10:47 AM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Okay, I'm a little late to post this, but I didn't see the thread until last night, and wanted to get this right.

Sometime in the distant past in NY, I'm going to guess it was 1990, because I'm pretty sure this only could have happened in the time between The Oneness and The Pod, I was at CBGB's. I was their to see some friends play. I honestly can't remember if it was to see Cop Shoot Cop or the solo project of one of their previous members Motherhead Bug. In any case, I was hanging out with the guys from Cop Shoot Cop.

Now, keep in mind, I wasn't exactly tight with those guys, but I idolized them. I got to meet a lot of my musical idols (and play with a few) back then, but I always felt like the little dog from the cartoons around them.

So the band I'm their to see finishes, and I'm hanging with the guys and we're popping out to get 40's from across the street and pounding them, then coming back in. At this time, and probably always, at CB's they had a horrible habit of having two or three opening bands, the headliner, then two or three other bands. Usually crappy out of town bands who had no idea what they were in for. So it's pretty much just us left in the place and these two guys get on stage and put a tape in a deck. We start screaming abuse at them for having a tape because we were dicks. Then they rip into Fat Lenny. And we start cheering. One of the Cop Shoot Cop guys dives into the tables up front and the lights come up and we get kicked out.

A year later I saw they were headlining, and thought 'good for them' a few years later, I'm in New Mexico and a pal turns me on the catalog and I'm hooked for life.

Thanks for licking my brain for all these years, gents.

posted by lumpenprole at 2:41 PM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

:( Get better mang...and come back browner than ever.
posted by schyler523 at 4:57 PM on May 31, 2012

I was 12 years old when Push the daisies was on the radio and my friend Keith and I loved that song...but it was just the first taste of the awesome sound. I saw Ween in 2002 while I was dropping out of college and society in general...it was the perfect soundtrack.

They put on such a great live show...I've seen them 6 or 7 times and never did they play less than a 2 hour set. I'll miss those mangs. Guess now I'll just have to go fishing with Deaner.

He wanted to leave.
posted by schyler523 at 5:18 PM on May 31, 2012

Their double album was the first release I ever encountered at my college radio station in 1990 that I'd never heard of before; I opened it, blinded by the horrible fluorescent colors, said "what the fuck", dropped the needle on a few random tracks and fell in love.

I've been a fan ever since; white pepper and 12 country greats are still on rotation in my mp3 collection. I vividly remember trying to convince someone that Ween was fantastic by telling them to pick any album, "they're all good" and having to eat crow after they'd purchased pure guava.

At the end of the day, I think that the comparison made to Frank Zappa earlier in these comments was in many ways an apt one.
posted by davejay at 7:26 PM on May 31, 2012

It's a sad day for my hometown (New Hope, PA). I grew up listening to Ween and went to one of their gigs at a roller rink in Warrington. They had some really strong power pop melodies but were often remembered more for their kind of tasteless lyrics (at times) and screechy vocals. I was proud to be from their neck of the woods, though.

Still, I contemplated quoting 'Push th' Little Daisies' here because the song is sort of lyrically apt. But, I suppose, too obvious. One of their finest songs from Pure Guava was 'Don't Get 2 Close 2 My Fantasy'.
posted by Mael Oui at 8:38 PM on May 31, 2012

Gabrielle is probably one of the top ten Thin Lizzy songs ever, and that's not the only band Ween did that for.

I'll say for Gene that even though this is sort of a shit thing to do to Dean, he may not have really had a choice. Getting cleaned up is a bitch, and he may have decided that the only way for it to work for him was to get out. If he was deciding between Aaron and Gene, well . . .
posted by Nabubrush at 9:05 PM on May 31, 2012 [1 favorite]

Marvellous Clouds is really, really good, so I'm content to see what's next. But come on... never say never, Gener.
posted by Robin Kestrel at 5:51 PM on June 1, 2012

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