Back in mid-February, one of the most beloved and versatile rock acts in history reunited for a tremendous 3-night run of mindblowing performances, alleviating any potential doubt that they would still have it in them to reassemble like a massive hallucinogenic smoke-spewing Voltron equipped with the same ability to crush any venue/city with its 8-ton steel robotic lion paws, at a moments noticed, as they exited out on. WEEN, the the unlikely rock gods that formed as a duo in 1984, after Aaron “Gene Ween” Freeman and Mickey “Dean Ween” Melchiondo met in an 8th grade typing class in New Hope, Pennsylvania, hadn’t played together in over 4 years before resurrecting like a spun out Phoenix at the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield, Colorado. But, while that initial disbandment seemed like something that could never happen, the more time that passed with them apart, the inevitability of a reunion began to feel, well… slightly less inevitable. When it did eventually go down, however, it was glorious. Anyone who says otherwise, either wasn’t there or is someone whose opinion is garbage and you need to stop listening to.
I know that I was in the minority, but I said it when it occurred and I still believe it, now: that break up needed to happen. Aaron was suffering from a pretty severe chemical dependency that was only being fueled by going hard consistently for 3 straight decades and, if he hadn’t walked away when he did, neither he nor WEEN would likely still exist at all, today. While many “fans” selfishly accused him of destroying the band, my belief is that he actually saved it. The real tragedy that so much of us felt was knowing that there was something that could only ever existed if both pieces of that puzzle were united together and, without that, it would be lost forever. This truth was only solidified whenever Freeman would attempt a WEEN song outside of the group and the absence of a Melchiondo guitar solo stuck out like a sore thumb, or when Deaner would be forced to try and replace Aaron‘s irreplaceable vocals, out of necessity, in one of his own projects. It isn’t that both of them weren’t still able to pull off some really great performances, but it’s hard not to miss those other elements. That being said, something else happened, over time, as well; they each grew to become even stronger artists independent of each other. This is important both to them as individuals, as well as a unit, because it preserves the magic of WEEN which stems from something that everyone involved with truly loves and wants to be doing, rather than something that they have no alternative to.
Aaron‘s 2014 album as Freeman was a surprisingly solid effort supported by an even more impressive live tour, which demonstrated that, although he may have stepped away from the Gene Ween moniker temporarily, we could all let go of any fear that his abilities as an artist or performer had diminished — if anything, he seemed rejuvenated. In fact, it was almost too good, because it could lessen the incentive for a reunion with his old group. Melchiondo, who was already 2-decades-plus into his own alternate project, Moistboyz, took a much different route, touring with the remaining members of WEEN and performing plenty of WEEN tracks as The Dean Ween Group. The latter approach made it much more difficult not to dwell on comparisons to their former outfit than if they were pushing all new material, but over time DWG evolved into something that made believers out of even the most critical fans; something with its own substance beyond just a place filler for what came before it and in the interim before its return. The band’s adjusting lineup has brought in artists like Roger Waters’s son, Harry to man the Keyboards, as well as long-time collaborator/Sound Of Urchin guitarist, “Reverend B-ILL“ Fowler. Evidence of the project truly standing on its own merit can be seen in the fact that, even now that WEEN has officially become a band again, DWG is continuing to go strong, announcing both a brand new album and a 10-city tour supporting it this October. This tour will feature none other than the legendary Meat Puppets as the opener.
While Freeman‘s online presence had lessened, after the breakup, Deaner became more visible and accessible than ever. For about a 3-week period leading up to the reunion shows, Melchiondo communicated via a Ustream channel that he started and which a number of us followed somewhat religiously, until Mickey encountered issues with the streaming service, putting the kibosh on the short-lived and sorely missed community/experiment. I elaborated on the basics of “Deaner’s Warm Wet Stream,” during a related post back in late January.
“The guitarist would pop up on there sporadically, sometimes offering a little insight into his process, or a bit of Ween trivia, while playing old shows, or hipping us to a little taste of a rarity. Maybe we’d even just watch a science show hosted by Jurassic Park star, Sam Neill. The stream quickly picked up steam and content began streaming more and more frequently, often in a loop. A mini community accumulated overnight, discussions in the chat bar going on even without Melchiondo‘s presence, or anything streaming, at all; sometimes into the wee hours of the night. Then, like clockwork, right when people were ready to retire, a little “Yo” would pop up from Deaner, followed by a “Here we go,” or “check this out.” At the end of it’s run, the stream had a little over 500 official followers, but would generally max out at around only 34, or so, viewers at any one time. Out of those, maybe about half were actively communicating through the chat. When David Bowie passed away, nothing but old interviews and performances by the Thin White Duke played, followed by his 1976 film, The Man Who Fell To Earth on repeat. The day before was sprinkled with everyone’s live commentary of the NFL playoff games — the collective viewpoint is that Joe Buck is a trash commentator.“
A lot of great stuff was shared via that stream, including a clip of the unaired Mickey and Les Claypool fishing show, but it was all done under the agreement that everything would remain on the feed and, if there was any evidence that anyone was trying to record anything or spread information across the net, the channel would be promptly shut down and Mickey would kill everyone. Among this information was the fact that this Dean Ween Group album would be coming out this year with the man himself even sharing updates and samples, often freshly after recording them. Getting a slight peak into his everyday life at the time was fascinating, because Melchiondo was practicing and recording relentlessly. This was well beyond the preparation that he was simply putting in for the huge reunion shows; he’d often leave the stream to head directly to the studio or practice space, returning later to share a sample of what he’d accomplished that day. Every Wednesday when he’s not on tour, Deaner continues to make his way to the local New Hope establishment, John & Peters — a venue synonymous with the early days of WEEN — to jam at the weekly invitational, often welcoming fans an opportunity to step on stage with a rotating cast of musicians. This crew has included his fellow WEEN bandmates (minus Aaron); Fowler; and even Michael “Kidd Funkadelic” Hampton of Parliament fame, a huge get for Mickey who is very open about the influence that P-Funk has played on his entire career. Each of these collaborators also appear on the upcoming DWG release, filling in spots where Mickey isn’t manning all of the instrumentation himself. Additional features include impressive names like Curt Kirkwood (Meat Puppets), Scott Rednor, and Chuck Treece.
Looking at the tracklist, there are 2 specific songs that I recognize — “Tammy” and “GUM” — which I’m really pleased to see make their way onto the LP. [Especially “Gum.” That song is crazy as shit]. Another exciting element is hearing “Mercedes Benz,” the first song that has been chosen for public consumption. Clocking in at over 7-minutes, it may seem like a lengthy tune, but this is a cut that was, actually, molded out of a substantially longer jam — if memory serves me correct, I believe that it may have, initially, come in at twice the running time. Those of us that frequented the Warm Wet Stream had the tremendous opportunity of listening to that jam on an extended loop, observing Melchiondo weigh which direction to take it, and, later, hearing him make a breakthrough on the instrumental, and adding tracks, while shaping it toward its current incarnation. It’s pretty crazy to be able to listen to it now that it is a fully formed song, complete with vocals. If you enjoy this tune, that’s great news, but with Deaner‘s versatility, we can pretty much guarantee that this release is going to be all over the map, in the best way possible. After all, that’s exactly what WEEN has built their untouchable legacy on.
With the amount of focus, attention, and care put into this thing — not to mention the sneak peaks that we’ve already heard from it — we have absolutely no doubt that The Deaner Album will become another high mark on an already impressive career. But, perhaps even more encouraging is knowing that there is so much more to come, whether through this outfit or another, brand new music, or tracks that have been sitting on the shelf in pieces and just need to be dusted off a bit. It’s true that those following the stream were treated to an inside scoop or two, a number of which have still yet to be publicly revealed, but if there’s one piece of insight that remained consistent throughout it’s run it was that all that Mickey was ever really providing us with was a very small taste. Even this upcoming LP only represents the very tip of the iceberg.
The Deaner Album will officially hit shelves on October 21st, but can be preordered now via ATO Records.
1. Dickie Betts
2. Exercise Man
3. Bundle of Joy
4. Charlie Brown
5. Shwartze Pete
6. I’ll Take It and Break It
8. You Were There
12. Mercedes Benz
14. Doo Doo Chasers