The feel of fall is in the air and that made Friday night a perfect night to spend outside at Surly Brewing’s Festival Field. Out of all of the outdoor shows I go to, the shows at Surly have to be some of my favorites. From the familiar faces of First Avenue staff running the event to the incredible food trucks, tasty beer, and well-thought-out layout, everything about Festival Field is just perfect. I may not have known much about the band playing on Friday night but I knew that there wasn’t anywhere else I would have rather been as summer started to fade into memory.
I may not have known anything about the band that was about to take the stage and lead everyone into the night but I was alone in that. The atmosphere as I walked from the parking area up to the giant field was electric. People were excited and had clearly been looking forward to this for quite a while. Some people decided to dress to the nines in a way. It honestly felt a bit more like a festival than just a show with the dress. Think Coachella meets a Dave Matthews Band show. It was a strange mix of people but this had me even more intrigued about what my night was about to turn into.
As much as I would love to keep on talking about the wide array of people I saw as I waited for the band to take the stage on Friday night, you are not here to read about that. You’re here to read about the band I saw so let’s dig into Ween!
First, as mentioned, this is a band I knew absolutely nothing about when waiting for them to start on Friday night. I mean, obviously, I know their name and I have seen their quirky logo a million times over but I have never spent any time with the group’s music. I wanted that to change. I had to know why there was so much hype surrounding this band and why they have an almost cult-like following. That mixed with the fact that it was a gorgeous night where the reasons this was my pick for Friday night and although I definitely still don’t understand Ween or the hype, it was a perfect way to spend my evening.
Ween hails from New Hope, Pennsylvania, and has been around for literal decades. They started in 1984, took a quick break in 2012, then ramped back up in 2015. Throughout their career, the group has released nine full-length albums with each one being quirkier than the last. This is all impressive on its own but the more impressive thing about Ween to me would be the fact that the two founding members of this group have been in it since day one and the other members joined in not much later. Seeing a band that has been doing their thing for decades is always thrilling but seeing that band with their original members that never left the project– that’s truly something magical.
I say this because of the clear connection that can be felt between the musicians. No matter how quirky the music got on Friday night, this band was tight and perfectly together. They respected moments of silence and solos sprinkled throughout the set but also came together to create beautiful waves of sound that washed over the crowd in a perfect manner. Even with that togetherness, there was something super organic about the set. Whether the band broke into a little jam-band-styled jam or there was an epic solo, there was still this feeling of creativity that radiated throughout the set and kept me completely captivated.
Although I loved the organic-flawlessly-imperfect-togetherness, I found it hard to follow what they were doing but that’s the magic of this band and something that I did appreciate even though it wasn’t for me. Sure, I couldn’t sing along to the almost nonsensical words like the rest of the audience but every time I thought about heading out early to catch another show or go home and get caught up on some work, the band would jump into a song that sounded nothing like the previous tracks. From moments that had a very jam band feel to ones that seemed to pay homage to the late Jimmy Buffett and others that felt more straight-up bluesy-rock, this band was truly unclassifiable musically which kept things interesting for me and although their overall sound isn’t quite my cup of tea, they had me hooked.
People always talk about the following behind bands like Insane Clown Posse and Phish but I really think we need to start talking about the cult-like following behind Ween. It was a strange crowd to be in and I felt both out of place and absolutely welcomed as I wandered like a lost puppy through the packed audience. From Ween t-shirts to Ween tattoos to Ween blankets– everyone was sporting the logo of this band somehow and I would be lying if I said it didn’t compel me to almost go check out the merch (but I refrained). So I will say this once and only once but — Ween is a cult. I’m not saying this is a good or bad thing but just something that became quite clear to me on Friday night.
All-in-all, I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the Ween show on Friday night. It was definitely a nice change from my normal shows and audiences and now I finally know what this band is like which is always a goal when I go to a show just because I’ve seen a band’s name a million times before. I don’t think I’ll be going out to get a Ween tattoo anytime soon but I absolutely would not say no to another performance from them.