I Think I Must Be Dreaming: A Ween Tour Memoir

On the road with the Shit Creek Boys in October, 1996

I couldn’t sleep the night before we left. I was pumped for this tour — my first with ‪Ween, and with any band, for that matter. I had been a local musician in central New Jersey for years, and suddenly I had a musical opportunity of a lifetime.

The lead-up to the tour requires a little background. I met Aaron Freeman and Mickey Melchiondo (aka Gene and Dean ‪Ween) through Chris Harford, a vastly under-appreciated singer-songwriter who is the heart and soul of our local scene. Chris has always attracted great players to his music.

Mickey was a regular on guitar in Chris’s band, and as I started playing with Chris we got to know each other. I quickly realized that Mickey’s knowledge of music is encyclopedic. Whether it’s the Beatles, the Ramones, Slayer, George Jones, Chic, or Prince—he knows all of it inside-out, and he can play it.

After sharing a car ride to a gig in New York one night, I told him, “If you ever know anybody who’s looking for a bass player, feel free to give them my number.” It was something I said to lots of people at the time. I was always on the hunt for a new, better gig.

A couple weeks later, Mickey called and told me ‪Ween was looking for someone to play bass for a show at Tramps in New York to support their new country record, 12 Golden Country Greats. The band would include a bunch of Nashville heavyweights plus him and Aaron. Was I interested? Hell yes.

I learned something like 50 songs in two days, and then we traveled to New York for a long day of rehearsal with the Nashville guys. It’s hard to overstate what it’s like to play with professionals of that caliber. The piano player, Bobby Ogdin, had played with Elvis, among many, many others. The guitar player Danny Parks spent years with Dicky Betts of the Allman Brothers in Dicky’s solo band. The fiddle player and pedal steel guitarist also had tons of credits with country legends like Ray Price and ‪Faron Young.

Bobby was our bandleader, and in our first rehearsal he walked the Nashville guys through charts that employed a numeric notation used by all the studio players down there. As long as the charts were right, there were no bum notes, no missed entrances or timing mistakes. We ironed out a few kinks, and things sounded amazing. These were real pros, and for that night in New York they were ‪Ween’s backing band.

I’ve never been as nervous about a gig as I was the afternoon before that show at Tramps. I was going to be the only person onstage who had never played in front of a crowd of more than 1000 fans. To the Nashville guys, this was just a gig, and a pretty funny one with a couple of wise-ass kids from the Northeast. To Mickey and Aaron, it was maybe the only chance they’d get to play the country album live with Bobby and some killer Nashville musicians. For me, it was a first taste of the big-time music world.

The gig at Tramps was actually two shows, an early set and a late one. To my huge relief, both went great. I didn’t miss a note or forget a song that I’d recently crammed into my brain. By the time the second show rolled around, I was able to relax and have a good time out there. It was the most addictive drug I’d ever taken: as soon as it was over, I wanted another hit.

So when Mickey called and told me that he and Aaron were planning a Ween tour with the Nashville band in the fall and that they wanted me to play bass, I couldn’t have been more excited. ‪Ween’s regular drummer Claude Coleman would be on the tour, and we’d have a different fiddle player than at Tramps, but otherwise it would be the same group.

The full band and crew, somewhere out west: (from left) Aaron Freeman, Mick Preston, Stu Basore, Bobby Ogdin, Kirk Miller, Claude Coleman, Mickey Melchiondo, Matt Kohut, Danny Parks, Hank Singer. Tour manager Paulie Monahan was probably behind the camera.

Nashville — Day 1

The tour started in Nashville, which meant Mickey, Aaron, Claude, and I had to catch a ride to Newark Airport together from our home base area in New Hope/Lambertville along the Delaware River. It took nearly two hours to get to the airport, which was an hour longer than usual. We pulled in ‪at 8:20 for an ‪8:30 flight. An absolutely unhelpful woman from U.S. Air greeted us by saying, “There’s no way you’re getting on that plane. No way.” Really?

We gathered up a pocketful of cash and handed a skycap a $30 tip. Suddenly our flight experienced a minor baggage handling delay. A few minutes later we were stumbling down the center aisle of the plane. All the other passengers glared at us. From the window seat I watched as our instruments loaded into the hold of the aircraft. We were on our way to Music City.

We rehearsed that evening with the Nashville guys, who were dubbed the Shit Creek Boys for the tour. I had forgotten just how good they were, even in a first rehearsal situation where they didn’t really know the tunes. They were also the nicest, down-to-earth guys imaginable, and they went out of their way to make us feel welcome in their home town. During a break, someone pointed out Steve Earle across the hall. He had just come back after a rough stretch. Everybody was rooting for him.

Nashville — Day 2

When I woke up, I took a walk down West End Avenue, a main thoroughfare of Nashville. The architecture seemed inspired by movie sets. The Bell South skyscraper looked like something out of Batman, and the new arena was pure 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The 328 Performance Hall in Nashville was a big slab of concrete. It was easy to imagine cows hanging on meat hooks from the ceiling. The first show of the tour felt like a success. ‪The crowd was pretty big considering that ‪Ween had never played in Nashville.

After the show, Dave Pomeroy came and introduced himself. He’s at the top of anyone’s list of Nashville bass players, and he paid me a compliment and said I should feel free to call him once I got off the road. That meant a lot.

From Nashville we took off on a tour bus for the rest of the run. This was Ween’s first time chartering a bus — they’d toured in vans and station wagons in the past. The Nashville guys gave us two tips on bus life. Number one, sleep with your feet toward the front of the bus, or otherwise your head will crash into the bunk wall if the bus stops short while you’re racked out. Number two, don’t crap in the toilet. Rules to live by.

I watched the sun come up alongside the driver as we rolled toward Atlanta, and I had a feeling this wasn’t the first time it would happen. Sleeping has never been my strong suit.

Atlanta — The Masquerade

The show went well. Claude and I are just getting to know each other’s moves as a rhythm section. Lots of eye contact for now as we’re learning to play together. I love the choices he makes. We’re also rooming together, and that helps with the mind meld.

The Masquerade had three different levels: Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. In Purgatory there as a room called the Foam Room. The center was a big pit filled with — you guessed it — foam bubbles, and kids dancing to crappy electronic music. One of the kids in the pit danced straight underneath the foam spout. The Shit Creek Boys from Nashville were not entirely sure what to make of the Foam Room. There was a simple one-word answer: Ecstasy.

New Orleans — House of Blues

After the culinary deserts of Nashville and Atlanta, we arrived at the oasis. The New Orleans Chamber of Commerce should offer a discount angioplasty as part of a complete tourist package.

The band is getting better with each show together. In a group this large, my main job is listening, locking in with Claude, and not overplaying. The Nashville guys bring tremendous discipline to the music. They’ll each get a solo break for four bars or eight bars in an instrumental section, and they’ll absolutely crush it and then go right back to supporting the rest of the band. It’s a lesson for me every night out there.

Claude got the single room for the night in New Orleans — it’s a rotating benefit — so I roomed with Mick Preston, the guitar tech/roadie. He’s a good guy, and it’s his first time out with this crew too. Mick is all rock.

After the show I met John Stirratt, the bassist from ‪Wilco and formerly Uncle Tupelo. He was an incredibly nice guy, and we had a short conversation about bass player philosophy. In a nutshell, there are bassists who keep it simple and play in the pocket with the drummer, and there are bassists who are fretboard acrobats. We are in the pocket players union. It was fun to chat with a kindred spirit.

Austin — Liberty Lunch

A sell-out. One thousand screaming, drunken kids, shoving and stage-diving until they were pushed back by the burly guys in front of the speakers.

Shortly after we stepped offstage, I was chatting with this low-key guy hanging out in the band’s room. Turned out he was Mike Judge, creator of Beavis and Butthead. He was completely self-effacing; nothing about him said show biz or self-importance. He mentioned a new show in development called King of the Hill that sounded pretty funny. I was glad I introduced myself.

Afterward a writer for a local music rag cornered me and refused to let me talk to anyone else. Every time I started a different conversation, he’d come around and butt in about his great Teisco Del Ray bass or his old Kay. There is nothing more boring than musicians who want to talk gear. I know my gear and have my own obsessions with it, but talking about it is like talking about your dreams. Nobody else is interested.

Austin > Phoenix — day off

I saw wild horses for the first time from the tour bus window. The drive was a grueling 16 hours. My mind was vapor by the time we got off. Phoenix is one enormous strip mall. The club was in a strip mall, as were all the restaurants. At least we ate well at the strip mall.

It was my turn to get the single room, which was a luxury. As easy as it has been getting along with everyone on the bus, it was a welcome break from the action.

In the morning we had nothing to do before sound check, so a few of us hung out by the hotel pool in the Arizona sun. There is nothing that feels more rock star in the middle of a weekday.

Speaking of decadence, this tour is the opposite of what fans might expect of ‪Ween. There’s plenty of drinking (hell, there’s a bottle of Jack Daniels onstage each night), but that’s about it. The influence of the Nashville guys is probably part of it, but there’s also just a recognition that this is a one-off opportunity to play together for a few weeks, and nobody wants to screw that up.

Tempe, AZ — Electric Ballroom

We were playing the same night ‪Rage Against the Machine had a sold-out show at the big arena in town, so the crowd was only in the five hundreds.

The opening band, Doo Rag, played the first of many shows that we’re slated to do together. They’re a duo. The lead guy, whose name is ‪Bob Log III, sings into an old telephone wired into a motorcycle helmet while playing the dobro. The drummer, Chocolate Joe, beats on a suitcase and a washtub. Aaron captured it perfectly when he said they sounded like an old Robert Johnson record played on 78 rpm. Fast and noisy.

Chocolate Joe just got married at ‪2 am in Vegas to a German woman he met five days earlier whose name is Walter. Walter was wearing a mini-dress that looked like an East Village thrift shop find and her bridal veil. She screamed encouragement from the side of the stage throughout Doo Rag’s set.

The club’s sewage system overflowed in the parking lot, which was fun as we were standing out there in the middle of the night. Rock and roll.

Aaron and I onstage in Tempe.

Santa Monica — Santa Monica Civic Center

We wasted the entire afternoon in the parking lot of the Santa Monica Civic Center. Across the street at the courthouse, the OJ Simpson civil trial was in progress. The band probably had a more exciting afternoon than the spectators at the trial — at least we watched National Lampoon’s Vacation.

We opened for Beck at this 3500-seater arena. It was odd being the opener, doing a forty-minute set, and getting polite applause from fans who were waiting for Beck. We put on our usual show, but it sucked being the opener. Mickey was antsy because there was no smoking anywhere on the premises. Hello, California.

The after-show reception was perfectly L.A. Beck was kind when we were introduced. I sensed that he had met thousands of people he’d never see again. Lots of beautiful people milled around, looking past me for somebody higher up the celebrity food chain. I couldn’t wait to get on the bus and head to San Francisco.

San Francisco — The Fillmore

Just stepping off the bus and seeing the black-on-white street signs of San Francisco was enough to make my day. I would move here in a minute.

The Fillmore. What a room. Chandeliers hanging in rows from the ceiling, dark velvet curtain on the walls. A real old-style ballroom. In the back room upstairs they have hundreds of framed posters from old shows. Hendrix. Joplin. The Dead. And now Ween.

My uncle John and his family made the drive down from Sonoma County to see us. He’s a bass player too, and he has maybe the finest 1960s vintage Fender Jazz Bass I’ve ever played. He was my long-hair hippie idol when I was a little kid. I have a picture of him jamming with my dad in the early 1970s. It meant a lot to play for him.

Portland — La Luna

‪The crowd was great for a ‪Sunday night. A little rough up front, and really into the music. The set was excellent — a little mellow, perhaps, but very tight.

Our pedal steel player Stu Basore has become a real crowd favorite. Every time he plays a solo break, he gets a massive round of applause. He has an incredible melodic sensibility, and he’s having fun playing to the audiences.

After the show I talked with a tattoo artist who patiently explained to me, the ignorant East Coaster, the difference between Tacoma (cool) and Seattle (not). It’s good to know these things before you arrive.

Seattle — Showbox Theater

I spent the early evening with my college friend Jean and her three year-old daughter. Jean took me to an indie bookstore to stack up on reading for the next leg of the trip, and we had a nice, super-domestic time over dinner. (What other kind of time can you have with a three year-old?) Then we got in the car, drove to the club, and the Shit Creek Boys rocked to the point of meltdown. It was schizophrenic going from one environ to the next. ‪Dave Grohl of the ‪Foo Fighters came out to the show because he has done some shows with Mickey and Aaron. Even with local royalty in the house, the backstage scene was very low-key — the complete opposite of the L.A. vibe.

Part of the reason we rocked so hard was because Mickey got wrecked on Jack Daniels with an empty stomach. Mickey gives it all every night onstage, but tonight he was exorcising demons. After the regular set ended, he was sick as hell while the rest of us went onstage and began the encore. Our road manager Paulie was standing over his shoulder giving him shit the whole time. “They are onstage now. Are you ready yet?” He basically leaned on me through the entire epic performance of “Fluffy,” stinking just like you’d expect. Rock exacts its price.

Seattle > Salt Lake City— day off

A long, beautiful drive, and our last long haul of the tour — everything else is ten hours or less. I forced myself to sleep as late as possible because I knew that whenever I woke up, we’d still be on the bus for hours.

Claude and I walked around Salt Lack City for a while after dinner. We ate with Kirk, our sound guy, at an excellent ‪Thai place. (Who knew there was great Thai food in Utah?) Granted, it was a ‪Tuesday night, but this town was dead. Aside from a few teenagers roaming the streets, we didn’t see anyone or anything.

The teenagers we did see started walking behind us, and by East Coast standards they were way too close, right up on our heels. I gave them the benefit of the doubt, but it was obvious they’d never experienced the fright or coldness of New York City, where you don’t do that without taking your life in your hands.

Salt Lake City — Club DV8

This show sucked. It was a free concert promoted by a radio station, and we were co-headlining with a pop band called Ocean Blue. It was a classic mismatch: imagine Wham! opening for the Allman Brothers. Different crowds, different styles.

DV8 in Salt Lake City.

I will offer a few excuses for why we sucked, besides the double bill. The club sound was terrible. We couldn’t see the crowd at all. We couldn’t feel the crowd. Nothing lit us up. We played competently, and the crowd probably thought they saw a good show. But there was no life in it. We ended up doing something like four encores because Aaron felt so shitty about the show. At one point Mickey said to the audience, “We’re gonna play until there are only four people left.” Luckily, we didn’t make good on that threat.

Boulder — Fox Theatre

It was nice to spend the afternoon bumming around Boulder after the sterility of Salt Lake City. Aaron and I caught a cab into town from the hotel and putzed around for a while. I don’t know Aaron really well, and we haven’t spent a lot of time together. He lays himself bare in some of the songs and he’s completely at home in front of an audience, but on the bus he’s quiet and mostly keeps to himself. It was fun to hang out a bit.

Before the gig, I decided to go to the movies and see Big Night, which was about two brothers who own an Italian restaurant together in New Jersey. It was nice having a temporary moment away from the tour. But I was jumpy all the way throughout the film. I kept pulling my hair, biting my tongue, tapping my fingers. I was nervous that the movie would run long, and that I would miss the show. There was no way it could happen, but I couldn’t shake the feeling.

It was a good night for our fiddle player Hank because his wife was coming to the show. Hank was based in Nashville for years before getting married and moving out West. Since then he has mostly been off the road, but Bobby talked him into coming out for this tour. I’m grateful for it. His tone just blows me away. It’s that high, lonesome sound.

Doo Rag opened for us again for the first time since Phoenix. Before we went on, Walter earned my permanent enmity. She asked me in the dressing room, “What do you do?” I told her I was the bass player. About a minute later, she turned to someone else and said, “Where is Andrew (Weiss)? Andrew is the real Ween.”

I expected some shit from hardcore Ween fans. Andrew Weiss is one hell of a bass player, and his production signature is to Ween what George Martin was to ‪the Beatles. I was very aware of filling his massive shoes on this tour. But I didn’t expect to hear talk like that in the dressing room from the wife of a player in the opening band.

The show rocked. We were back on our game. It felt like ‪the Fillmore. Everyone was together, the sound was good, and the crowd was great. Take that, Walter.

Topeka, KS — day off

What a sleepy place to have a day off. We arrived by midday with nothing to do until the next night.

I walked the entire downtown of Topeka. I even went into the capital building and checked out the artwork depicting the plains pioneers as religious figures. I wanted Topeka to be better than this. I wanted it to surprise me, to defy stereotypes by having a totally hip underside. If it did, I couldn’t find it.

Kirk and I decided to take a cab to a brewpub with vegetarian food, but our driver kept trying to talk us into going to a strip club instead. We had to tell him three times that we just wanted to go to the boring old brewpub. He seemed like the guy with a gun under the seat who would have no trouble raping us, killing us, and putting our bodies in the trunk till spring.

Lawrence, KS — The Granada

It was homecoming weekend in Lawrence, which was why we spent the night before in Topeka. There were lots of uncomfortable-looking kids tooling around town with Mom and Dad. Lawrence itself had all the good college town features: decent food, a couple good record stores, and lots of places to waste a couple hours between sound check and show time.

The show ended on a very dark note. During the encore right after we played “Dr. Rock,” Mickey heaved his Stratocaster into the air, and the headstock smashed our pedal steel player Stu right above the eye, drawing a ton of blood. We stood there dumbstruck for a few seconds, and then it was suddenly clear that the show couldn’t go on. Mickey felt terrible.

To add insult to injury (literally, in this case), Chocolate Joe and Walter had asked if they could ride the bus with us to Minneapolis. Bob Log III had some other way of getting there, so the two of them needed a different ride. The Shit Creek Boys were in no mood for overnight visitors on our already-packed bus, particularly after what had just happened onstage. Finally Aaron told Chocolate Joe and Walter they couldn’t ride with us. Chocolate Joe responded by heaving a beer bottle at the bus windshield, just missing by an inch. That was the final straw. Everyone felt bad, and the vibe on the bus was tense. It was a horrible ending to a night that had started off just fine.

Minneapolis — First Avenue

First Avenue is another legendary haunt, made famous by Purple Rain. Mickey and Aaron are huge Prince fans. It was an all-ages crowd, which was fun.

After much trepidation about the previous night’s escapades, we had a totally solid show. We played more country tunes than we had a in a few nights. Aaron and Mickey seem to have decided we should play to the strengths of this band rather than trying to add a bunch more rock tunes from the ‪Ween catalog. The Shit Creek Boys were relaxed, Mickey and Aaron were relaxed, and everything sounded good.

Our sound checks have become interminable. For the first few shows everyone behaved, but now nobody cares enough to hurry up and get things done, which means they drag on forever.

A sound check does two things: it lets the engineer adjust the sound the audience will hear, and it lets the musicians adjust the volume on stage so they can hear each other during the live performance. It’s always a bit of a guessing game because you check the sound in an empty room, and then the it bounces around differently when the room fills with bodies. Being able to hear onstage is a huge factor in determining how good a show will be. It’s hard to play well through bad stage sound, and it’s easy to overcompensate in all the wrong ways if you can’t hear the other players at the right levels.

Even our best sound checks are long just because we have eight musicians and two vocalists, and a few of the musicians play more than one instrument. Every single sound gets tweaked by both the front-of-house engineer setting the levels for the audience as well as the engineer setting the monitor levels onstage for the musicians. In our case, there are about 64 levels to adjust while everyone is just standing around. Kick drum. Two minutes. Snare. Two minutes. High-hat. Two minutes. And so on. Pretty soon people start jamming while the engineers are trying to work, or somebody walks off for coffee or a bathroom break. If the tour doesn’t end soon, each sound check will be longer than the show.

Chicago — The Metro

This is traditionally a great venue for Ween that’s always a sellout, and this night was no exception. We did a similar set to Minneapolis, and it was just as tight. The polish of playing together for a few weeks is really starting to show. Neither Claude nor I thought we had our best nights, but we weren’t making mistakes either, and the overall energy level was high.

I spent part of the day with my friend Seth from home as well as his cousin Reese and Seth’s friend Kurt, who’s a minister. It blew my mind to think about a minister loving a ‪Ween show.

Detroit — St. Andrews

The days have become blurry. There have been too many similar-looking hotel rooms and too many nondescript clubs to keep things straight. Since the low tide in Lawrence we have settled into a nice Shit Creek groove. The show here in Detroit was another one, but it didn’t have quite the same energy as Chicago or Boulder. It’s hard to remember specifics about it, even though it just ended.

I went out to dinner with a few of the Nashville guys, and we got to talking about what’s ahead for me. They have all been very generous and big brotherly in sharing advice with me. Danny and Bobby talked about the importance of finding my own signature style as a player. Compared to these guys, I am still very much a work in progress.

It has been gray for a couple days, and the weather is taking its toll on my psyche. I don’t want to ruin the present by worrying about my next gig, but the tedium of the road allows this sort of sludge to surface in my brain.

It is no mystery why musicians become addicts on the road. You spend the whole day waiting for those couple hours of bliss when you get to do the thing you live to do. With the exception of sound check, you don’t have to show up anywhere else unless there’s some sort of publicity event as part of the stop. So you have to keep yourself occupied for roughly twenty hours, except you’re in close quarters with the same people for weeks at a time.

On the 25th anniversary of ‪the Rolling Stones, ‪Charlie Watts was asked what it was like to play with the band for a quarter-century. He said something like, “We only played together for five years, and we waited around for the other twenty.” The waiting is the hardest part, and if it drives you insane, drugs are there to take the edge off.

Claude introduced me to a girl tonight who typified the kind of interactions I have with the fans. She was seventeen, kinda wasted, and she had a story. She had paid $75 for a scalped ticket to the show. Jesus. She was not the kind of kid who had $75 to blow. (I wouldn’t pay $75 to see us.) Her mom was kicking her out of the house in a few weeks on her eighteenth birthday. Her father was trouble. She wasn’t sure where she was going. What can you say to a teenager who pours her heart out to you, someone who is crazy enough about the band to pay $75 for a ticket? You just try to listen, not say the wrong thing, and hope the music helped for a few hours. That’s the best I could do. I taught eighth grade for a couple years, and it was the best preparation for this part of the job. It’s remarkably similar.

Toronto — The Phoenix

We passed through customs into Canada ‪at about 4 am, and we woke up to another gray, rainy day. At least Toronto is beautiful. It has a European feel to it, though the streets are wide like in the U.S. In the area where we’re staying, everybody was well dressed. I felt conspicuously like a musician.

The gig was one of the best of the tour — definitely Top 3 so far. It was maybe the longest set so far too, close to 2 1/2 hours. We were all tired after four nights on in a row, but we surprised ourselves and kicked it into that strange overdrive that sometimes hits when you’re exhausted.

Ween released the Toronto show as a live album in 2001.

The after-show reception was filled with beautiful people, so I stood in the hall and talked to some guy who had planted trees in Togo for the Peace Corps. We had an actual conversation rather than the usual after-show chatter. That doesn’t happen that often in this environment, so when it does it’s a treat.

Later that night, Toronto earned real points in my book by having a pizza delivery service open ‪at 3 am that served very good New York-style pizza. As a Jersey boy with an Italian grandmother, I feel entitled to weigh in on pizza quality. Way to go, Toronto.

Toronto > Boston — day off

The South Bay Howard Johnson’s in Boston is a patently disgusting hotel. I got flea-bitten in bed. It turned out we were spending two nights here and none in NYC. That’s just the way it is.

Claude, Kirk, and I went out to Chinatown for vegetarian food, and then we found a bar where we could watch the World Series. The Nashville guys are all Atlanta Braves fans, and the ‪Ween boys and crew are rooting for the Yankees, so it makes for an interesting dynamic. If the Yanks win tonight, they’ll take the lead in the series, and we’ll be playing in NYC while Game 6 is going on in the Bronx. How cool would that be?

Boston — Middle East

We killed time in Cambridge today since nobody was interested in hanging at the fleabag HoJo any longer than necessary. A lot of the guys chose to sleep on the bus.

The show was good and rowdy. The room was about half the size of the venues we’ve played, so it was packed pretty tight. Rock sounds best in a hot, smelly dump where you sweat profusely. How else do you explain the enduring appeal of CBGBs?

NYC — Tramps

Back to the site of our not-so-humble beginnings. I went out on Sixth Avenue and bought out all the Yankees caps I could find from a Sri Lankan guy, and I gave them to our northeast contingent. The Nashville guys may have a hard time finding Braves caps here.

Mickey, Aaron, and Bobby backstage at Tramps.

My whole family came out tonight as well as a bunch of friends. Most were only there for the first set, which was pretty short and tame. The second set was a different story. The Yanks won the Series, it was a full moon, and the clocks fell back an hour. ‪The crowd was fucked up and wild from the minute we stepped on the stage, and we didn’t disappoint. We played a long, hard-rocking set that ranked right up there with Toronto, Chicago, and a few of the other high points of the tour. Bobby’s piano break on “Freedom of 76” gave me chills. He has the touch.

When it was over, we were all beat. Claude and I caught a ride to our homes rather than riding the bus to Philly. It was great to see Betsy and sleep in my own bed, and it was also weird to break the tour bubble so thoroughly for a few hours.

The next day Paulie told me that Mike Mills of REM came to the second show. He’s a totally underrated bassist, kind of like Bill Wyman of the Stones. You never notice him, but he’s always there.

Philadelphia — Trocadero

The Troc is an old theater that basically looks like a cavernous dump. Even though I grew up less than an hour away, I somehow merged to miss going there all these years. No great loss.

New Hope is Ween’s home town and Philly is its home city, but the audience seemed young and comatose on ‪this Sunday night. Even though we played well, we couldn’t get a rise out of them. When the set ended, they finally went nuts, as if they suddenly realized that the band was leaving the building if they didn’t wake up. We did an encore, but the energy level never reached that inebriated sense of recklessness that a ‪Ween show needs to rise to greatness.

Afterward the whole New Hope crew was in the dressing room. It was just like our neighborhood bar John + Peter’s moved to Philly — dimly lit, drunken, and smoky as hell.

DC — 9:30 Club

Last day of the tour, and it feels pretty anti-climactic. The two shows at Tramps took most of the air out of our tires.

Claude and I went on one last adventure to a music store in Wheaton, Maryland where he wanted to look at cymbals. Before we left, Paulie told me I was in charge of getting Claude back on time. We returned with a couple hours to spare, but after that he seemed to disappear. As the gig time rolled around, nobody knew where the hell he was. Somebody finally thought to check the bus. Turned out Claude was just taking a disco nap. He’ll probably outlive all of us.

The crowd was the smallest of the entire tour — we barely broke three hundred on this lame ‪Monday night. While Doo Rag was playing, there were fewer than 100 people out front. It was weird to realize that just one week earlier we had sold out a 1200-seater in Chicago. It said more about DC than it did about us.

The show almost didn’t matter. We played well, but it was incidental to the fact that this band is over. The Shit Creek Boys are history. W‪een will probably only keep a few of the tunes from the country album in their set. From my vantage point on the left of the drum riser, it was an awesome, incongruous sound. Country and eastern is dead. I’ll miss it.

© Matthew Kohut, 2016. All rights reserved.