Weener brings the cult of Boognish to Ashland

The tribute band is a testament to the spirit of Dean and Gene Ween

The power of Boognish is strong with these ones.

Weener, Seattle's own Ween tribute band, is landing in Ashland on Saturday to spread the gospel of Boognish and His chosen prophets, Dean and Gene.

Backing up a bit, Dean and Gene Ween were the duo that powered Ween through more than 20 years of some of the most twisted, vulgar, psychedelic and intelligent music ever to come out of New Hope, Pa.

Or anywhere, for that matter.

Ween's music is as difficult to describe as it surely must be to play. After all, it was created by a couple of dudes who met in a middle school typing class, found they each dug Frank Zappa and were then visited by Boognish, a trippy space entity that bestowed upon them the power to craft a wide range of songs, everything from disco-funk to sea shanties, and make it all fit seamlessly together on a series of bizarre masterpieces.

And it also was, at glorious moments, transcendent until it all flamed out last year in a dam-break of booze, smack and pills. The Ween brothers, whose real names were Mickey Melchiondo and Aaron Freeman — and they weren't brothers — built a sizeable cult of fans before their split.

Fortunately for those who never had the chance to catch one of Ween's legendary four-hour-plus sets, complete with David Bowie and Emerson, Lake and Palmer covers sprinkled throughout, Weener has risen from the cashed-out ashes of Ween to give you a taste of what you missed.

Lead guitarist Sean Storts described the struggles of inhabiting the Dean Ween role in Weener.

"One of the great things about being the Deaner is just how often I'm challenged by playing these songs and making sure I'm playing them right," Storts said.

Ween's catalog is impossible to classify, as each album sifts through different genres, never settling in one place for very long.

Ween surely induced strokes at Elektra Records after signing a lucrative record deal and then promptly cutting a traditional country and western album called "12 Golden Country Greats" with a hand-picked group of talented Nashville session musicians. Well, maybe not quite a traditional country album, considering it contains a song called "Help Me Scrape the Mucus Off My Brain."

Storts believes it's Weener's duty to stick to the blueprint of Ween's original records, though many of the songs leave room for improvisation.

"A lot of times what we'll do is combine the live version of a song with the recorded version," Storts said. "I just don't want to go off too far on my own direction and ruin the spirit of the song. But we do try to make some of the songs our own."

The band crafts set lists organically, opting not to set boundaries on how many songs to include from each album. This way a Weener show doesn't dissolve into a paint-by-numbers set of Ween's greatest hits.

"We try to have the songs flow together," Storts said. "So we don't worry about how many are coming from one album or another."

Ween's biggest "hit" would have to be the annoying anthem "Push th' Little Daises," which was showcased on a classic episode of MTV's "Beavis and Butthead."

This brush with the mainstream gave the impression that Ween was a throwaway joke band, though the reality was much more complex.

Many of its songs tread into some murky and downright creepy realms.

Storts points to a song such as "So Many People in the Neighborhood," which is set to a pulsing, paranoid drumbeat. The songs tells a story from the point of view of a man who fears, and might harbor violent thoughts about, his neighbors.

"You listen to a song like that and it screams agoraphobia," Storts said. "But that's one of the great things Ween did, was to tell stories in songs set from one character's point of view. Only you didn't get the whole story, but just a brushstroke. And a lot of the time, some dark and sinister things were going on in their music."

Weener's tribute band ethos doesn't extend to matching Ween's legendary consumption of booze and drugs during shows, Storts said.

"We might have a few beers to loosen up, but we can't hang like they did," Storts said, laughing. "Ween made their living doing their thing. We have day jobs. We can't do what they did and expect to come home to the wife and kids the next day and then go to work."

In the end, Weener is a testament of the dedicated cult sparked by the Brothers Ween more than 20 years ago.

"They just have so much to offer stylistically," Storts said. "A lot of their songs might sound so simple, but there's so much more there when you listen closely."

Weener is set to play Saturday night, May 4, at Taroko in Ashland, 62 E. Main Street. The cover costs $5. Doors open at 8 p.m., and the band goes live at 9.


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