Ween Paints the Town Brown for Jazz Fest
May 08 2017

Ween Paints the Town Brown for Jazz Fest

By: Finn Turnbull

Mickey Melchiondo, Claude Coleman Jr., and Dave Driewitz of Ween set their sights on one of their favorite cities this past week. Each of them came down to do some late night jamming for Jazz Fest. Mickey is known to most as Dean Ween, co-founding member of Ween, an experimental, psychedelic, slightly comedic, rock band from New Hope, Pennsylvania. Claude is the longtime drummer of Ween, and Dave, also known as Double Dip, is the bassist. Incidentally, they had all just passed through New Orleans, playing with the Dean Ween Group and Claude’s solo band, Amandla at Tipitina’s last February. This time, they each traveled to NOLA for their own reasons, but inevitably came together for multiple sick nights of music.

On the first night they arrived, Claude played a show with his good friend Mike Dillon, a punk rock percussion mad man that has swept the city with his brilliance. Claude has played with Dillon many times, as part of the Mike Dillon Band, and otherwise. The Siberia show also featured drummer Jean Paul Glaster of Clutch, and bassist Norwood Fisher of Fishbone. 

The following night, Claude joined good ‘ol Deaner along with the Mike Dillon Band for the 2017 annual Megalomaniac’s Ball. The Megalomaniac’s Ball is a live music party of epic proportions put on every year by Dillon and Stanton Moore of Galactic at the Howlin’ Wolf downtown. The night’s music began with The Stanton Moore Trio, which featured Stanton on drums, Will Bernard on guitar, and Robert Walter of the Greyboy Allstars on the organ, who was celebrating a birthday that night. They blasted out some super funky instrumentals, and were followed by Mike Dillon’s New Orleans Punk Rock Percussion Consortium. The act is just as fantastical as the name. Mike Dillon leads a group of nine or so students of his, all wielding percussion instruments such as vibraphones, xylophones, drums, and quite literally all the bells and whistles. The Consortium is unlike any other musical experiment in New Orleans, quite possibly the country. A wall of organized vibrations, spectacularly executed, blew away any expectations of what was to come. The sound was something out of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, only much more intense and melodic. Something about 3+ vibraphones being played at once really captures attention and tickles the ears. Famous local drummer and vibraphonist, Jason Marsalis, even joined the Consortium this year.

After Mike’s football team of musicians left the stage, it was time for the Mike Dillon Band. Claude Coleman took one drum set, J.P. Glaster took another, Robert Walter got back on the organ, Norwood Fisher picked up the bass, local guitarists Cliff Hines and Marc Paradis joined, and Dean Ween appeared with his signature red Fender. With some incredible musicianship, the supergroup let the crowd know that the night had only just begun. Without losing a beat or even seeming tired at all, Dillon hammered away on his vibes, dueling with Dean Ween. They played a mixture of Dean Ween Group songs such as “Mercedez Benz,” which was extended into a glorious session, along with some of Mike Dillon’s own music like the song “Cremate Me” from his brand new album Life is Not a Football. The tunes went on and on, with musicians switching around on instruments. At one point, there was a cake brought out onstage for Walter’s birthday. They ended the night without leaving for an encore, but instead Deaner lead an exploration of Miles Davis’s song, “Sivad,” which interestingly enough was the same song they ended last year’s ball with. At about 3am, it was a damn smooth way to close the evening. 

Despite playing so late, Deaner and Claude had another night in the city together, and with none other than Dave Driewitz and local guitarist Alex McMurray. Dave was in town to play bass for the three night run of Joe Russo’s Almost Dead at the Joy. So, the next night, Weeners and music fans alike stuffed into the undersized Saturn Bar for “Brownout Thursday.” Anything “brown” always indicates a heavy influence of Ween. This expectation was not let down, as Alex, Mickey, Claude, and Dave, experimented with more than just a couple Ween songs. 

The set started with Deaner on vocals singing Jimi’s “Are You Experienced?” and they continued with some deep Ween songs like “Frank,” and even some that were re-imagined. “Take Me Away” and “Johnny on the Spot” were slowed down to more relaxing blues numbers. Everyone had a chance to sing, too. Dave sang for a tribute to Lemmy with “Ace of Spades,” Alex sang backup and leads for tunes, and even Claude belted a child’s voice while playing the drums for the famed Ween tune, “Spinal Meningitis.” The group also played a couple of Alex’s songs, including “Now You Know.” They put a new spin on some other classics, as well, jamming a breathtaking instrumental, dueling-guitar ballad of “Superstar” by Bonnie Bramlett and Leon Russell. Of course, more Ween and other covers came to be, including the sea shanties, traditional and non, “Drunken Sailor” and “The Blarney Stone” by Ween. To the crowd’s great pleasure and enjoyment, they actually played “The Mollusk,” one of Deaner’s and the world’s favorite Ween songs. After another version of “Mercedez Benz,” they stopped playing and revealed that in lieu of an encore, there would be an entire second set.

Alex and Mickey have been friends since the late 90’s, and it really showed during their performance together, getting extra close to one another for solos, which had nothing to do with how cramped the venue was. For the second set, they kept the surprises coming. They jammed an interesting “Star Spangled Banner” into Ween’s “Jammy Pac,” followed by a couple Henry Mancini songs starting with “Pink Panther.” Mickey played his signature Eddie Hazel tribute, “Tear For Eddie,” by Ween, and then Mike Dillon showed up for some guest vocal action. Before the audience knew what hit them, Dillon was pummeling them, starting a mosh pit for the Ween song “It’s Gonna Be a Long Night,” which he sang at the Ball the previous night, and seems to enjoy singing every time Ween is in town. It’s a perfect way to describe both evenings of brown mayhem, as the Saturn Bar show also went on until past 3am. Dillon also sang “No Fun” by the Stooges before the group’s final song, an out-of-left-fielder, “Standing There” by the Beatles, which was sung by Double Dip. One can only hope for an even browner week of jams next year. 

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