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That time Ween opened for Fugazi at City Gardens
07.28.2016
08:58 am
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That time Ween opened for Fugazi at City Gardens


 
If you’ve read “Understanding Trump” by the cognitive scientist George Lakoff, you might recognize aspects of “strict father morality” in Fugazi’s code. It was funny, escaping the hierarchies of home and school to attend a Fugazi show as a teenager: You didn’t know which songs they were going to play, but you could be sure they would deliver a stern talking-to about your behavior before the night was over. That was a new development in rock and roll; I doubt Gene Vincent’s audience would have stood still for such a lecture, even if Gene had been the guy to give it.

Don’t get me wrong, they were great. But the values we associate with Fugazi—discipline, hard work, sobriety, authority, frugality, self-reliance—are traditionally paternal.
 

 
That’s why it’s such fun to imagine Ween, the crowned and conquering child of 90s rock, opening for them at Trenton, New Jersey’s City Gardens on March 19, 1991. Then a crazed, wasted suburban duo backed by a tape deck, Ween was still pretty loose back then, and at least as irresponsible as the Butthole Surfers: On that year’s The Pod, they encouraged their fans to believe Scotchgard™ was an excellent high. It’s almost impossible to imagine them lecturing a crowd about stage-diving. All they demanded of their fans was to keep bringing them home-cooked food.

Apparently, the show is briefly discussed in the City Gardens oral history No Slam Dancing, No Stage Diving, No Spikes. I had clean forgotten about it until last weekend, when, strangely enough, my copy of Flipside #84, in which I first read about this legendary bill, turned up during a long and fruitless search for my Pure Guava T-shirt. In Flipside reporter Ted Cogswell’s hard-hitting interview with Ween, conducted in January ‘93, Gener and Deaner cleared up some important points: if Pure Guava were a drug, it would be “love boat”; no, they had never really huffed Scotchgard™ (“Sorry kids”); and yes, they really had opened for Fugazi. All typos have been preserved out of respect for the indomitable fanzine spirit:

Ted: Wasn’t there an infamous show at City Gardens (in Trenton, NJ) once when you opened for Fugazi?
Gene: They hated us.
Ted: I heard that you guys just started, like, playing one note over and over again, and were staring into space,...
Dean: No, those are just rumors. We played that Ozzy Osbourne-Lita Ford duet, “When I Close My Eyes Forever”, They hated that. Then we did “Where Do The Children Play” by Cat Stevens.
Gene: And they hated that. It’s not a problem now anymore though, because people are starting to like our shows, so we can’t do “Where Do the Children Play”. We save that for, like, when we’re about ready to get shot.

 

 
Gene’s account of the show in the March ‘95 issue of SPIN added a few details:

“We opened for Fugazi in front of hundreds and hundreds of mad, raving skinheads. We were going through a highly experimental drug phase, so we were wacked out on mushrooms or something, and playing new songs. And they just hated us completely, and screamed at us the entire time. Threw gum in my hair, spit at us…”

“Raining stuff the whole time,” adds Dean, “trash…”

“Constantly, just ‘Fuck you!’”

“Thing is, though, we were totally kicking ass. We were so good that night. It’s one of our best live tapes.”

I’m glad Dean confirmed that a tape exists, because, as far as I can tell, no recording of Ween’s performance that night has surfaced. If any tape traders or obsessives had the show, I suspect one of them would have typed out the setlist at the comprehensive Ween gigography Brownbase by now. Fugazi’s set, however, is available as a download for a suggested price of $5. At the Fugazi Live Series page dedicated to l’affaire Ween, one Mathew Kessler comments:

This show was legendary, with Ween opening for one of the toughest crowds imaginable, playing off a backing tape deck. Incredibly, they laughed it off - “We suck? Oh, man… I don’t want to suck!” Gene did a hilarious, mind-stretching solo version of “When I close my eyes forever” by Ozzy and Lita Ford picking gum out of his hair. My respect for Fugazi really grew that night to select these closet-case, bedroom stoners as openers. Oh and Fugazi totally destroyed it, too.

Below, you can hear the moving rendition of Ozzy and Lita Ford’s duet, “If I Close My Eyes Forever,” that Gene and Dean recorded for (but left off) The Pod. There’s also a 1990 set at City Gardens that ends with praise from an intimate of both Ween and Fugazi, Henry Rollins. As for Cat Stevens’ “Where Do The Children Play,” Brownbase lists only a single documented performance of the song, buried in a four-and-a-half-hour Jimmy Wilson Group bootleg from 1999, which I have thoughtfully cued up for you here. (Internet Archive also has a tape of a New Brunswick show that took place two nights after the Fugazi debacle.)

Ween is currently on tour.
 
“If I Close My Eyes Forever”:

 
Ween at City Gardens, February 2, 1990:

Posted by Oliver Hall
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07.28.2016
08:58 am
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