By Ryan Sytsma
God. Ween. Satan. The holy trinity that composes the spirit Boognish. Once you contact this entity there is no turning back. Not all can receive it. However, those that can, MUST LET IT INTO THEIR HEARTS. The prophets Dean and Gene Ween have harnessed Boognish and have been given no choice but to put the masses under its spell. The Boognish did hand the brothers Gene and Dean the sceptre of wealth and power, did it not? (listen to “Up On Th’ Hill” off the album “GodWeenSatan: The Oneness”). Those who can receive but choose to not do so may be damned to a life of boredom and being perceived as the type of person who just doesn’t “get it”. All hail Boognish! WEEN! WEEN! WEEN!
I remember my first contact with Ween. It was around 1999 or 2000. I’m ten or eleven years old. It’s maybe 4 a.m. or so and I’m watching “The Wedge” on Much Music. Suddenly, this video comes on and I’m already laughing at the fact that they are called “Ween” before the song fully kicks in. I believe I was laughing at the name because I was under the assumption that Ween was a silly word for penis (turns out I wasn’t far off, it’s supposed to be a mixture of the word wuss and penis). The song starts, and the fucking song sounds exactly like the name. It’s pee-pee music for babies. I’m laughing so hard I’m not making any sound and tears of joy are running down my cheeks. This video is “Push the Little Daisies” of course.
That moment electrified my mind like some sort of white hat MK Ultra Project. Ween was the opposite of nu metal. Unfortunately, I didn’t become super obsessed right off the bat. I figured Ween was some sort of one-off goof band that just decided to troll the industry and the public for some quick money and a laugh. I was wrong. The full-blown obsession didn’t begin until I was 16 years old and decided to pirate their music (sorry guys, I’ve purchased a lot since then).
Their album The Pod was what fully converted me. It has the humour element that is always there with Ween in one way or another. There are some songs that are scary: “Right to The Ways and The Rules Of The World” sounds like someone awaiting execution wailing out to the creator of the universe that they’ve learned their lesson and have come to accept their fate. Then there are songs like “The Stallion Pt. 1”, where you are being explicitly warned by the band not to even think about fucking with said Stallion. When you are a stoned/drunk 16-year-old that kind of thing will tickle you to your core. I must have listened to The Pod in its entirety every day for around 6 months. The reaction I would get when exposing this album to people would typically be, “How can you possibly like this shit?” or “How the fuck did these guys even manage to get signed?” Given my borderline pathological contrarian nature, I loved this reaction. All powerful things get polarizing reactions. Ween may very well be the most polarizing band that has ever existed.
A few years on down the line I made the decision that I had to see them live. The year was 2010 and I found out the boys were going to stop by Toronto’s Kool Haus (R.I.P.) on the 29th of July. Now 20 years old and a seasoned listener of the band I was psyched to finally become a man. Not only did they kick thorough ass (which was no surprise, honestly), they played for approximately 3 hours (not uncommon for Ween). One of my accomplices to the show became so overwhelmed by Boognish that he decided to remove his shirt and flail around like crazy before abandoning the rest of us to charge to the front of the crowd to aggressively try to give Deaner a beer. You know why? It was out of respect! After this experience, I was prepared to see them as often as possible for the rest of my life.
Unfortunately, in 2012 I read the news that Gene Ween quit the band to save himself from his own appetite for booze and drugs. It felt like I was going to shit out my heart. However, in retrospect, this was probably a very good decision. If Gene Ween were to have kept pressing forward it sounds like death would have been a real possibility. That would have fucked us Ween fans up a lot more than what ended up ultimately just amounting to a 4-year hiatus. Throughout those 4 years, it looked like the party was over for good.
Ween put on the best shows I have ever seen. Everything about a Ween show drips from top to bottom with novelty. The fanbase has been drawn in from many walks of life. Punk Rock types, Phish Phans who have crossed over (not always, but quite often referred to as Wooks), computer programmer looking dudes, Jesse Eisenberg, Elijah Wood, Metal dudes, my Mother and more! People body surfing to “Mutilated Lips”, I mean, come on. A world without Ween was a dead world in my eyes.
The year is now 2015. I and associates are having conversations about Ween. We are bringing up the topics “How much would you give/ what would you do to get Ween back together?” Also, “How far would you travel if they were to reunite for what could potentially be the last Ween show?” The conclusions were something to the tune of “I could die happy after seeing them one more time”, and “I would fly anywhere in the world and would spend all of the money in my possession.” What happens next is all too perfect.
‘Guess I’m going to Colorado! When I heard this news, I had a reaction analogous to someone hearing that a nuke had been shot down that was aiming directly for their house. I remember dancing around the house laughing, punching the air, and screaming “Holy shit! Fuck yes!” So of course, a friend and I frantically bought tickets to this thing the very second that they went on sale. We were off to Weenstock. Every fan of the band that was able to go to this thing did.
There were three shows in a row. February 12, 13 and 14th. Night one was nothing short of a religious experience for all of us in attendance. People were losing their minds. The couple situated next to my friend and I were amazing (the guy was so hyped up that he was yelling “Fuck you Gener!” at the top of his lungs). It was a very loving “Fuck You”. It was an “I can’t believe you could have ever considered leaving us” kind of “Fuck You”. The girlfriend gave me a bad ass sticker that she created just to give out to people as a gift who were attending the shows. I believe those two ended up either being taken out by security or hopping out to the floor. I may never know.
I could go on and on about the other two nights, but honestly the whole family vibe of the thing and just the overall coolness of everyone is kind of a “you had to be there thing” All three of the shows were filmed so that fans who couldn’t make it can enjoy it, and fans that could can revisit them.
I have seen them twice since the reunion. One at TURF (the Toronto Urban Roots Festival) (which also featured one of my faves, Lush, but that’s a whole different article) and another at Ommegang Brewery in Cooperstown, New York.
I highly suggest anyone reading this let the mighty Boognish into their hearts (if you can). The sort of music and culture that these guys and everyone surrounding them have brought into my life and other lives are undeniable. There is nothing truly pretentious about Ween. Everyone is welcome to join the party.