The Dean Ween Group hit the well-worn Tipitina’s stage this past February on a mission to leave a mark deeper than a dropped Pelican case. Deaner’s post-Ween rotating yet fluid band of pros brought with them a brand of rock that’s been dormant for some time. The show was a guitar eruption that hovered over guest percussionist Mike Dillon’s vibraphone like a shrine to six-string legends. The Dean Ween group added some much-needed resonance to the long faded echoes of the New Orleans rock‘n’roll scene.
The writing of Mickey Melchiondo’s (a.k.a. Dean Ween) first solo record came about after the demise of his long lived, well traveled, recently recommissioned juggernaut of a band—Ween. Melchiondo had spent the better part of 30 years as half of the often mislabeled, constantly misunderstood rock‘n’roll force and suddenly, due to his longtime partner’s resignation, found himself without a band and questioning his brand.
The Deaner Album was Melchiondo’s therapy to shake the depression and open a window on the darkness of a world without Ween. With the help and encouragement of friends like Josh Homme and Les Claypool, Melchiondo found the energy, picked up the whooping stick and proved to everyone— including himself—that he was still Dean Ween.
Like many Ween records before it, The Deaner Album acts as a foundation and solid framework that stands alone as a recorded work, but really comes to life during live interpretations. The company Melchiondo keeps also helps to animate the chameleon-like qualities of his written work. The album’s players include Ween cohorts Dave Dreiwitz, Claude Coleman Jr. and keyboard captain Glenn McClelland. Outside help comes in the form of Parliament Funkadelic’s Michael Hampton, Moistboyz’s screamer Guy Heller, and Meat Puppets’ guitar player and vocalist Curt Kirkwood.
The set’s opener came on full speed with Ween’s “It’s Gonna Be A Long Night” sung by long-time collaborator and bassist go-to Dave Dreiwitz. “Exercise Man,” a fast tempo lob at spandex-clad yuppies, sped by in the bike lane, setting up the Southern-by-the-grace-of-god Allman-inspired rambler “Dickie Betts.” The capo-pinched, self-depreciating swagger of “Bundle Of Joy” followed and set a rock roots standard that carried on through the rest of the night.
After some banter with the audience about how important New Orleans music was to him and the legends that had graced the Tipitina’s stage, Melchiondo and crew played a Big Easy R&B jam they called “Sunset Over New Orleans.” It was evident at this point we were witnessing an assembly of masters, each revealing their influences and professing the joy found in the power of amplified sound. “Sunset Over New Orleans” was an off-record jam void of all wandering trappings and white-boy noodling.
“Pandy Fackler,” a Ween standard, kicked off the second half of the set and, due to Mike Dillon’s Wolverine-style hammering, took on new life and added an extra feel of lazy day euphoria under the promenade. A droney, deep bass version of “Fingerbangin” followed, allowing Deaner’s pick-up promiscuity to go full bore. What the song lacks in lyrical content was made up for in Deaner’s signature drunken master guitar work. Next, Prince’s influence on Melchiondo was made known by all of the paisley-covered funk dripping off the wheels of “Mercedes Benz.”
The slow burn of “Garry,” a companion piece to Ween’s “A Tear For Eddie,” reined in the set. It was a masterclass in funk guitar, a tribute to Garry Shider of Parliament Funkadelic, and an example of why Melchiondo is one of the best guitarists alive. The set progressed into the last Ween cover of the night, “I Got To Put The Hammer Down.” Mike Dillon’s vibraphone filled in for the synth of the recorded work, pushing the proto-punk sound to the night’s finale.
“Bums,” a fast-paced progression and building act of aggression closed out the show. It was the rock equivalent of a stuck accelerator. The song blasts forward to keep from tripping over itself. It was a rocketship ride to post-show silence and had the crowd standing in bewilderment, a manic thunder that left behind a wait, that’s it? moment as well as this riddle: should we feel guilty for wanting more?