On August 21st, 2001 I went to The Cajun House in Scottsdale, Arizona to see one of my favourite live acts, the incomparable Ween.
It’s funny that I describe them as “incomparable”, as they are basically a pastiche band and as such it’s quite reasonable to compare them to other bands. So many of their songs lie somewhere between homage and parody, or if you’d prefer somewhere between heavily influenced and all but ripped off, but they do it with incomparable expertise. With a killer band behind the amazing singing of Gene Ween and the superb guitar playing of his imaginary brother Deaner these guys can sound like Paul McCartney and Wings one minute and The Beastie Boys in the next. Nothing is off limits for Ween and nothing is out of reach.
The Cajun House is a fair-sized venue, I seem to recall a second-floor balcony that wrapped around the open dance floor. I was there early. I walked in the door, grabbed a pitcher of beer at the bar, strolled up to the stage and parked myself dead centre. I rested my glass on the stage and poured my first drink, the band at least an hour from hitting the stage.
The few people that were in the bar at the time soon followed my lead. Beside me stood a nice guy, about twenty-two years old. He had clown make-up tattooed onto his face; coloured triangles above his eyes, red dots of blush on his cheeks, that sort of thing. It occurred to me at the time that he would only see the tattoos when he looked in the mirror. Everyone else sees them all the time.
Near what became the end of our chit-chat I brought up his tattoos for the first time, asking him sporting facial tattoos ever proved inconvenient. “Not until now,” he said, dishing out what was obviously his stock answer. For a guy that gave up a countless job opportunities, innumerable potential girlfriends, and any chance at public office he sure wasn’t that interested in talking about his tattoos. That’s fine, I wasn’t really that interested in them either.
I was, however, very interested in Ween when they finally hit the stage. They came on like a powerhouse and drank themselves wobbly during an epic set that included Voodoo Lady, The Mollusk, Buckingham Green, Take Me Away, and an endless stream of other golden rockers.
When they closed the set with a raging Dr. Rock the band was drunker than the crowd. The huge encore included Ohio by CSNY and closed sounding just like Paul McCartney and Wings on a tear through Band On The Run.
It was an intense evening of music, and from my perch against the stage I could feel the rock; I could smell it. Throughout the evening no matter how many beer runs I made I couldn’t keep up with the band, and no matter how much fun I was having, again, I couldn’t match how much fun those guys seemed to be having up there on that short stage, staggering and slurring through one monstrous gem after another in front of a reeling (and selectively tattooed) crowd.
I don’t remember speaking to Clowny Clownerson much for the rest of the night. But y’know, despite the fact that we barely hung out (I certainly wouldn’t say we became friends or anything) I suspect I would still recognize him if I saw him walking down the sidewalk even today.
Maybe facial tattoos aren’t such a bad thing after all. The personal markings of marketing?
(Oh, I forgot to mention that while I and about a dozen others were waiting outside of the venue for the doors to open Gener walked right up and knocked on the front door to be let in, casting hellos and handshakes to we few fans while he waited. Nowadays I suspect the band uses the back door.)