Then-current album — not really Pure Guava as that was a few months away but they played a lot of stuff from it
Opening act — honestly not sure if there was one
Part of the problem of strictly relying on my ticket stubs to remember shows is that, inevitably, I almost forget a few things that I didn’t have tickets for. I never did do a full entry on the New Fast Automatic Daffodils show from 1991 I caught, a real pity since that was a stellar set — maybe one day I’ll dig something up further from the memory banks on it. Meantime, I’d almost forgotten this show until a couple of weeks ago — a bit funny since for the longest time I had the set list on my wall.
Ween were (and are) special, as perfectly great and ridiculous an American band as one could want, they’re even on Rounder Records now or were — my sister’s favorite band to this day, I think, she has brought them hot meals and danced on stage to their “Shockadelica” cover and all. In a weird but true way a kind of progenitor — less in intent, more as retrospective example — for a lot of things yet to come, and not just in music. For instance, thinking of two guys kicking back in relaxed fashions with happily juvenile senses of humor mixed with a lot of not-always-immediately-apparent skill, hell, that’s foreseeing a duo like Trey Parker and Matt Stone right there (no surprise that Ween played Chef Aid) as much as it’s channeling Frank Zappa. The skill part is key, actually — I think it was the Trouser Press Record Guide that identified Ween’s secret weapon as being their ‘poorly disguised musical skills.’ Rather than showing off in the yank-em/crank-em post-Berklee/Guitar Center visions of hell at that time, or even just dressing it up a bit differently (as Billy Corgan will admit to), they applied it to the home-recording approach that had yet to be fully codified as ‘lo-fi,’ while tackling everything from dreamy ballads to utter and complete noisefests. If they had just home released everything on tape I think that line of descent would be clearer, as it is they scored a left-field hit of sorts with “Push th’ Little Daisies” the following year without changing anything about their approach.
Like the best of bands in general they didn’t stop there either — country albums, smoothly perverse seriousness and more were to follow, and there are some future shows to talk about in this series. At this stage of the game, though, Ween had their cachet among my fellow disc jockeys at KLA thanks to our fearless leader and general manager Eric J. Lawrence, who had fallen completely in love with God Ween Satan when it had come out and pretty much singlehandedly converted the rest of us to it. (Somewhere…buried…is a ridiculous joke poem I wrote about Eric and his Ween obsession. It should probably stay buried.) By the time The Pod surfaced — and a brilliant album that is and remains — there was a good core of us who just finally wanted to see these guys live and also to see Eric go insane with happiness. Or at least go and have a good time.
The show was held at Jabberjaw, specifically at its original location on 3711 West Pico Boulevard. This turned out to be the only time I ever went there, more’s the pity given all the bands that ended up playing there over the years, but one is better than none, especially with a great band like Ween and all playing. Now, though I don’t have a ticket I do know pretty well when this show had to have happened for a very simple — and pretty sad — reason.
As you can see via some of the descriptions in that link and in various other stories about Jabberjaw, the location of the club, or more accurately the state of the neighborhood, was as classic a reflection of what Tim London of Soho, in his recent kind comment on his entry in this series, identified as LA’s mixture of “vacuum, hedonism and apartheid…where actual poverty and poverty of experience sat right next to brazen wealth.” On the one hand that explained why the shows were always so cheap, but on the other hand this was a classic case of the kind of tension that ranged from the perception of slumming to, simply put, outright danger — as a story in the link says, “Now let’s talk about when that dude was killed outside during the Jesus Lizard show…”
The reason why this show had to have happened in May or June of 1992 was because it was after the Rodney King verdicts and everything that followed, when that mix Tim identified finally overspilled thanks to one series of idiotic steps too far courtesy of a warped LAPD and a clueless Simi Valley jury. (Though you could easily exchange the adjectives there.) While the club was not in the area of the most damage, it was impossible not to notice a number of burnt-out buildings in the area, the sense of unease. I don’t know what those I was with though, but I hadn’t had to worry about anything like that where I was living. Reality checks, as previously mentioned, are all too necessary sometimes.
With this as the lead-in, if the show itself had been something pedestrian then maybe that would have been enough, but it remains one of the most entertaining small sets — hell, sets in general — I’ve ever seen. If there were openers it’s skipped my mind, I almost have a vague sense of someone or other doing a small bit, but otherwise there was a lot of talk inside the small and cramped venue and outside in the little patio area as such out back as we waited on the band’s performance. I remember at one point talking to a friend of a friend who had KXLU connections mentioning that he was coordinating a Young Marble Giants tribute release; I had recently heard Colossal Youth and loved it very much so I was interested to learn more — and very surprised to find out he’d been able to get Nirvana to promise to do a cover of “Credit in the Straight World” for it. (When Hole’s version came out a couple of years later, I admit I had to wonder.)
And then, Ween. Just two guys, their instruments, drum machines and that was all — and that was damn fun. Another obvious (to my mind at least) descendant of the band was, I’d be willing to bet, somewhere in that audience, in that Jack Black and/or Kyle Gass seem to have gotten a sense of how to be a huge rock star duo on a small stage from Ween at some point. Dean and Gene weren’t doing comedy bits per se but they were introducing various songs as needed, sometimes perfectly so — at one point, referring to another Pod classic, “Demon Sweat,” they noted its similarities to early eighties Phil Collins ballads and asked us to imagine “the huge bald head of Phil Collins rising behind us onstage.”
Besides familiar stuff they were breaking out all kinds of songs that would appear later in the year on Pure Guava — “Reggaejunkyjew” went over well, accompanied by a story about how it was written about some clown back home that they hated, but the hands-down winner of the new ones was “Don’t Get 2 Close 2 My Fantasy.” Again, nobody had heard this before and nobody knew what to expect, so when they first got into the huge ridiculously uplifting (and ridiculously worded) chorus that was pretty amazing right there.
It’s when they reached the conclusion that we all almost collapsed — if you hear the recorded version, the music cuts out and there’s a massed overdubbed singalong of the chorus one last time, their own “Bohemian Rhapsody” of sorts. But words can’t capture what this was like live when they stopped playing their guitars and sang to the audience, hands reaching out in arena-rabble-rousing exaltation, as pure a celebration and a mockery and a combined outright love for it all as I’d ever seen up until that point. I think by then some of us were singing along through the giggles and the cheers at the end were huge.
After it was all over, I snagged one of the setlists as mentioned and talked briefly to Gene Ween — friendly fellow! — and our bunch either went home or went to get something to eat or the like, the usual stuff. As noted I never returned to Jabberjaw — honestly not sure if I’ve ever been to that exact area of town again (had I been a Das Bunker devotee that would be a different story by now) — and pretending I went through a series of profound life-changing decisions as a result would be a lie, but obviously something hit and lingered as I wouldn’t remember the surrounding details as much as I do. Perhaps a solitary visit meant something was more vivid in the memory.