The Dean Ween Group brought their goofy brand to Tipitina's Wednesday night, with special guest Mike Dillon sitting in.
An unassuming black and white RV was parked on the corner of Napoleon and Tchoupitoulas Wednesday night. Inside was Mickey “Dean Ween” Melchiondo, guitarist and co-frontman of the legendary Ween, a cult favorite now entering its fourth decade of goofiness.
Ween split up in 2012 when Aaron “Gene Ween” Freeman, the band’s lead singer, left following a disagreement over a collection of demos released without his consent. Later, he cited a desire to get sober as his reason for quitting. Gener’s high-pitched, nasally voice and irreverent lyrics—alongside Deaner’s frolicking guitar licks—were the essence of Ween’s sound, so his departure was a tragedy for Ween fans around the globe. It did, however, allow Dean to work on his own music. He put out his fifth studio album with Moistboyz, his project with Guy “Dickey Moist” Heller, and started a new band, The Dean Ween Group.
It was The Dean Ween Group that came to Tipitina’s Wednesday night, in support of their first LP, The Deaner Album, released in October, 2016. Dean and Gene have reunited since their 2012 split, playing several shows together last year following an undoubtedly epic three-day reunion festival in Broomfield, CO. Still, Wednesday night’s show was entirely Dean-centric, with Gene nowhere to be found.
Wednesday was far from Deaner’s first time in New Orleans. He’s played here multiple times with Ween, and last year, The Dean Ween Group headlined the Megalomaniac’s Ball at Howlin’ Wolf during Jazz Fest. In an interview with OffBeat’s Sam D’Arcangelo published on Tuesday, he called New Orleans “the greatest fucking music city in the world.” He admitted that he has applied similar accolades to Nashville and Austin in the past, but upheld that New Orleans “means something extra. There’s New Orleans and then there’s everything else.”
Fans looking for a set filled with Ween classics would have been disappointed Wednesday night. Despite opening with “It’s Gonna Be a Long Night” from Ween’s 2003 album Quebec, the band stuck mostly to their own material. Still, the Dean Ween machine was well-oiled and functioning smoothly. Their setup was modest, for the most part, with an additional guitarist, a bassist, and a drummer. New Orleans percussionist Mike Dillon sat in on the show, injecting a dose of vibraphone into the band’s lighthearted sound. Overall, the songs were tight and the mix was good, although it was difficult to hear the vibraphone from upstairs.
Most of the music came from The Deaner Album--feel-good tracks with laidback rhythms and Allman Brothers' style double guitar solos. There were standout moments, like extra-silly single “Exercise Man,” gorgeous ballad “Garry,” and foot-stomper “Mercedes Benz.” Deaner’s virtuosic guitar playing was on display in the dazzlingly beautiful “Sunset Over (New Orleans),” a song whose title changes based on the city where it’s being played, and Dillon showed off his vibraphone chops on Ween throwback “Pandy Fackler.”
The atmosphere at Tips was mellow and euphoric. It was far from packed for a change, which made it easy to move about and get close to the stage. The crowd was all there to show love for Deaner, and there were plenty of good vibes to go around, but a surprising shortage of the over-the-top, costume-wearing superfans infamous for populating Ween shows.
From start to finish, Dean kept up the energy of the band and the audience, prancing barefoot across the stage and wearing a grin as wide as the Cheshire Cat’s. The Dean Ween Group left the stage to raucous applause after closing with the one-note third baseman’s anthem “Fingerbangin’.” While Gener’s absence was certainly felt Wednesday night, Deaner proved he can do silly all by himself.