Hot was the summer of '02. Especially the end of June, leading to the 4th of July weekend. A party hadn't been planned, they never really were. Chad and I had bought some meat at Meijer and some beer at the International Beer Store (or IBS, the same acronym as Irritable Bowel Syndrome... no coincidence). We had a geek-gathering planned for the next day. People would show up, hook their computers together, and stink. Beer would be drunk, music would be played, and Kleiner-1-Niner would kill us over and over. The night before, we thought, let's get set up for the party. Invite some people over, grill, and drink some beer.
Mandy showed up sometime late-afternoon. We had vacuumed and cleaned the empty pizza-boxes off the floor. This equates to the closest thing to cleaning we did, and we were damn proud of ourselves. So proud, in fact, we felt we deserved a beer. Sitting on the back porch, Djarum in one hand, a beer in the other, we looked out over Scum Lake and pondered the meaning of it all.
The 4th of July is the central point of the summer, the great climax and the greatest expression of pure summer-abandon. College was in full-swing. I was living with three other guys in a run-down house, working full time at a well paying job, and dating my future wife. Our pet cat Jabba hadn't grow sour on our collective insanity, and would still occasionally pop in and nibble on our scraps. These were the glory days. A time that seemed to last forever, yet, in retrospect, was only a period of about eighteen months. Life's possibilities rolled out before all of us, and we knew, simply knew, that we had to reach out an grab them. The first year anniversary of 9/11 still hadn't happened, and we were all reeling in the changes wracking the world around us. It was a time of change on every level, and in the center of that maelstrom of chaos, insanity, and fun sat a simple, unassuming house.
Say the name to anyone who lived through that period, and they will inevitably do two things: Smile and shake their heads. Next, they will say, "Remember when...?" And will tell the story of Tyler almost blew himself up with a roman candle, or the time we had 20+ people on the phenomenally dangerous deck rocking it back forth to see if they could get it collapse, or the time two here-unnamed people went across Scum Lake with arm-fulls of Class B fireworks, lightening them off in a mall parking lot until the entire neighborhood was crawling with cops.
So, in many ways, that weekend was much like any other. People, both invited and not, began to arrive as the air cooled slightly. Somehow the grill was lit, a half keg appeared at one point, and music began to play through any number of the sound systems that filled every corner of the house. I would be playing groove salad in my room, where the pot-heads would inevitably crash on the king-sized water bed. Dan would play a scratchy vinyl record he found at a flee market called "28 Truckin' Classics". Chad would burn crazy mix CDs and put them in the various boombox-style CD players throughout the house. All of this would blend with the various conversations, laughter, and occasional breaking of something expensive-sounding.
That night, through cacophony of noise, I heard a few small bits of music that caught my ear. Somehow I associated the music with this skinny dude wandering around talking to Chad and friends. I said hi and he eagerly responded, "Hey! How're you?" I think I wondered off. This happens often at parties. You meet people you're supposed to know, but due to the excitement or drinking or something, you can't place them.
Mandy and I woke the next morning on the downstairs couch. Dan, even taller than me, was crumpled up on love-seat completely covered by a blanket. The sliding door was wide open, and outside I could see Scum Lake sparkling. Today was the LAN party. All of our careful preparation from the day before had been laid to waste by the party held to celebrate the preparation.
Mandy and I went upstairs. Chad was making eggs and toast. He made us some and we sat on the deck discussing the night before.
"Who was that skinny guy last night? He looked really familiar." I asked.
Mandy said, "That was Andy. You've met him, like, ten times."
Chad, "Yeah. Andy. I've known him for years."
"Ah, right. Andy."
Chad, "Did you hear the CD he brought? It's really good."
"I think so. I caught a little of it."
Chad, "There's this one song, it's an instrumental. Mid-way through, it sounds like you."
"Sounds like me?"
"Yeah. It sounds like you, groaning."
"Here. Listen to the album."
I couldn't immediatly tell whether the band was suppossed to be humorous, dark, rock, or folk. I found myself laughing, kind of, and looking around to see if anyone was seeing me enjoy it. The experience was akin to listening to Zappa for the first time. You keep asking yourself, "Am I suppossed to be laughing at this?"
The key to Ween lies with the understanding that there isn't anything to get. The confusion, the humor, and strangeness is the point. Once I stopped trying to disect it and just listen and enjoy, I fell in love. A deep, musical love I've only felt with three or four bands. Experiencing Ween, obviously, is difficult to sum up in words. It's very challenging music, but the reward more than compensates for the effort.
If you haven't listened to Ween, or you've only heard the one or two singles that used to be played endlessly on MTV ('Push the Lil Dasies" or "Voodoo Lady") go out and buy / download The Mullusk and listen to it. Try not to figure it out. Turn off your brain and let them take you down the brown road, where mutilated lips, whales with pokadot tails, drunken Irishmen scream about cracking in your head. It's worth it.