At the Cat’s Cradle, 1992 – Ween
At the Cat’s Cradle, 1992 is a beautifully brown time machine. The listener becomes instantly immersed in the days when Ween were just two sketchy looking dudes onstage with guitars, loudly losing their minds while the soundman runs the drum machine and experiments with a sampler. It was a time when the line between stage and audience is gorgeously blurred, like in the set opening “Big Jilm.” Mid-song, without missing a beat, Dean recognizes a fan, “Hey dude, dude, you’re the dude from South Carolina, right? Allright! You guys drove real far, huh?”
The hard swinging lounge rock and infinite wisdom of “Never Squeal” picks up the pace before the epic “Captain Fantasy.” The reason that live Ween has always been such an experience is that no matter the subject of a particular song, they play each and every note and sing every lyric with true rock n’ roll abandon. Ween lyrics may seem silly on the surface, but there is usually a hilarious and/or completely fucked up real life story in there somewhere, and you can feel it. At a time when the inspiration for the cathartic skull-crushing “You Fucked Up” was likely still a recent memory, the rage is fresh and pure, pouring forth in every word, note and scream.
After wrapping up the tripped-out grungy reggae of “Mango Woman” Gene makes one of the night’s numerous references to pre-show activities, “Too much opium, need some Jack to wash it down.” The hilarious French nonsense of “Ode To Rene” shows part of the mind boggling range of gifted showmanship that is Gene Ween. How many other bands do you know that can write a song in a language they don’t even speak, and still pull it off beautifully? If you can listen to this set all the way through, and you don’t find yourself singing “Cover it in gas, and set it on fiiiyaaa!” or “I’ve got a tick in my head, and he’s sucking on my head, in the morning I’ll be dead,” for the next few days, then Ween just ain’t for you. God damn those are catchy tunes.
Attempting to categorize Ween is admittedly an exercise in futility, but their songs tend to fit into three extremely loose categories: throat-punching rockers (“Papa Zit”), experimental/psychedelic epics (“Marble Tulip Juicy Tree”) and flat out hilarious weirdness (“The Goin' Gets Tough from the Getgo”). In 1992, and still today, their live sets are an unapologetic blend of these styles, moving from one to the next as effortlessly as drawing breath. There isn’t even a hint of sarcasm in Gene’s voice after they finish up the spastic “Papa Zit” and he declares “This is some heavy shit,” before they bust into (the new at the time) soaring epic that is “Buckingham Green.”
As if the Cat’s Cradle audio wasn’t enough to properly convey exactly how therapeutic Ween’s performances were (and arguably still are) for them, the bonus DVD footage of “Reggaejunkiejew” from Staches really drives the point home. During the intro Gene explains “it’s about this dude that stole my girlfriend and took her to Jamaica,” and warns us “It’s a nasty one.” By the end of the song, wide-eyed and out of breath, Gene lets us know the tune has done its job, “That was incredible! That’s a very meaningful, purposeful song for us,” and you simply can’t deny the sincerity.
There’s usually a reason that bonus DVDs aren’t released on their own, but this one actually delivers the goods. The sound quality on the clips from Columbus, Ohio’s Staches is great and the camera is fairly steady. But the majority of the song come from their 1991 Halloween performance in Holland, where Gene and Dean remind us that they can play just as well wasted as they can sober(er). On the other hand, the cameraman annoyingly illustrates what happens when you hand an exceedingly high person a video camera, bumbling attempts at tripped-out creativity. Overall though, the majority of the DVD footage is good stuff and definitely worth watching for anyone down with the brown.