Gene Ween in Woodstock
Thursday, September 22 2011
At some point in the day I took Eleanor for a walk in the woods, following a trail up the hill to the east off the Farm Road. The trail here follows the remnants of a logging road that turns into a raging river whenever there's much rain. The legacy of the way that river had raged during Tropical Storm Irene was written in big mats of leaves, wood, and other cellulosic matter. There were also a lot of mushrooms, most of which turned out to be Jack O'Lantern Mushrooms, though there were also a few Chanterelles. I harvested them all since they were all so big and deliciously golden. I'd seen Jack O'Lantern gills glow in the dark a couple years ago, but try as I might I could not see the gills glowing on any of the mushrooms I harvested today.
Later this evening I made veggie burgers for Gretchen and me and I put sauteed Chanterelles in mine (she doesn't usually like wild mushrooms, though I left her one on the side to try).
Tonight was the kickoff of the annual Woodstock Film Festival, and among the things happening in Woodstock would be a performance by Gene Ween (of the band Ween) and friends. I'd been introduced to Ween when I was living in Los Angeles, and I'd found a couple of their then-new songs so compelling that I'd placed them on a mix CD I'd prepared for Gretchen early in our renewed relationship. So we were going tonight.
On the drive over, I was feeling a little weird, and began to wonder if perhaps I'd accidentally eaten some Jack O'Lantern Mushrooms (which, though not deadly, are somewhat toxic). I'd also had a Sierra Nevada Torpedo Imperial IPA, but that wasn't anything beyond the norm for me. My mind was in such a weird place that I almost missed the turn from Route 28 to 375.
We met Chris and Kirsty at the venue (the Colony Café). There's always been something just a little bit wrong with that place as a music venue and it seemed maybe this problem had been fixed: the relationship between the audience and the performer had been rotated 90 degrees. Where once the audience had been narrow and deep, it was now wide and shallow, with everyone close to the performers.
We weren't at the Colony long before Jen and Chris (other Woodstock friends whom we only run into occasionally) turned up and decided to join us at our table. Jen wasn't drinking tonight, so right away I knew that all that antireproductive rhetoric she'd espoused in the past had been subsumed beneath biological imperatives. Happens all the time.
In terms of beer, I started out with a Red Hook Long Hammer IPA, which is probably one of the worst IPAs with widespread availability. For my next and subsequent beers, I went with the superior Red Hook ESB (which Chris of Chris and Jen was drinking at a somewhat faster rate than me).
Gene Ween took the stage with an acoustic guitar and a bass player and sang a song advising us not to shit where we eat. He's a wiry prematurely greying guy with a knowing smirk on his face. He radiates an aura of impish musical brilliance, though (as with his music) it would be better if everything he did didn't seem to come with air quotes. The most unique thing about Gene Ween (and what lends Ween itself most of their uniqueness) is his oddball vocal style. He often sings in different parts of his oral nasal cavities and even moves the location of the resonance to different parts as he's singing. This can make him sound like a human turntable, especially when he alternates between high tinny passages and low grumbly ones, depending on the amount of "drag" on the virtual spinning disk in his head.
At some point the two musicians were joined by a cellist (Jane Scarpantoni, who has appeared as a session musician on many rock records and lives in Wodstock), and at that point the songs really seemed to soar. The first of these was one introduced as "the Future of Cheese," though it was actually "The Flutes of Chi," one of those Ween songs I'd put on Gretchen's mix CD over ten years ago.
After the Gene Ween show, Gretchen and I went to a Film Festival party Chris and Kirsty knew about that was happening at New World Home Cooking. By now it was after midnight and nobody was even at the door to make sure party crashers like us didn't come and piss in the punch bowl. There was no punch bowl, or course, and there didn't seem to be an open bar either (which there had been at other Film Festival parties), so I started drinking an orphaned beer someone had left on a table. It was warm and not especially good. There was also plenty of spicy green beans, savory artichokes, and greasy triangles of deep-fried pita bread, some of it of dubious veganness.
We ran across a few people we knew and met a few others, including the Gene Ween's bass player, who showed up even after we did.
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