JAM BAND BEEF: Dean Ween Vs. Phish Fans Is One Of The All Time Great Beef Wars Of Our Era
There’s a big ole beef war a-brewin’ in the laidback, 4/20-friendly corners of the Internet today. It’s a high drama soap opera, stemming from the Lock’N music festival in Virginia during the month of August. Here’s a TLDR in case you don’t rabidly refresh jam band message boards and Live For Live Music isn’t your homepage:
Phish, Ween, and My Morning Jacket headline four separate nights at the festival. Ween headlines Thursday, Phish on Friday, My Morning Jacket on Saturday, and Phish again on Sunday. Ween is booked for two nights — Thursday to headline, then slotted right before Phish’s first set on Friday.
Ween and Phish have a weird relationship — More punk than jam, there’s still a big overlap in fanbases thanks to coming of age in the East Coast college scene around the same time. Phish has covered Ween’s “Rose Are Free” for years — much to the chagrin of Ween — and, a year ago, Trey Anastasio urged the members of Ween to work out their differences that kept them from touring. They did and this past winter Ween reunited after a hiatus.
Flash forward to late August: Ween is book at Lock’N with Phish. Ween plays the first night and teases possibly stepping on stage with them.
But, meanwhile, Phish fans not familiar or down with Ween’s musical product beyond “Rose Are Free” complain on social media about the band’s Thursday night “Brown” set featuring some of the band’s darker anthems like “A Tear For Eddie”, “Poopship Destroyer”, and “Zoloft”.
That said, thousands and thousands of fans loved what they did, including a large overlaping fanbase:
You get the point. This has remained a divisive issue conversationally between fans and on Phish and Ween Twitter and Facebook group boards boards since August. Today everything escalated just a little bit. Dean Ween went in on Phish fans in his recently-revived web site/community, AskDeaner.com. There is no mincing of words:
Now then, Lockn—Ween at a festival is something that leaves everyone half-hard—no one more than us. Ween for 75 mins, 90 mins, meh… When the sun is out? Forget it. I should be asleep still, and I usually am. Now all I knew about the Lockn Festival is that we were opening for Phish. I swear to god I had no idea it was 2 nights either. I was surprised to learn that one night we were headlining and the SECOND NIGHT we’d be opening for Phish. i’d be lying if i said that opening for Phish wasn’t a big deal. all i’ll say is that we really wanted to play our asses off in front of those guys, who we’re friendly with going back a long ways. call it friendly competition, but it exists with every band. read: i wanted to blow their fuckin’ asses off the stage and rupture their fans’ ear drums and harsh their “vibe”. so there it is. u happy now? i hate their fans, they hate Ween, and I wanted to kill them with our music and un-fuck their minds from their normal listening habits. that would be like trying to convince a gay man that he was really straight though. ok, i think i just crossed the line. don’t like phish fans, so next off……..
i mean I didn’t even know this shit til right when it was happening, the whole “headlining one night” and “opening for phish” the next. i thought it was one gig opening for Phish and that was it. not that it really matters because we prepare the same for every show. Any ideas that we made it “more brown” on one night than another is imagined. So we get there. The festival is different somehow than most—the stage rotates, the bands go right back to back on a spinning stage. in theory we coulda played medleys with the openers, and Phish, had they not needed 19 hours to set up. the first night we just played and played. it went really well. it was a new high for us at a festival. i felt like for the first time since the reunion we achieved at a festival what we do in clubs. it was fuckin’ rad. i left a lot of other of our fave tunes for the next night so we didn’t shoot our entire load on night one. The 2nd night rolls around quickly, we go out and deliver a measured ass whooping, but this crowd is somehow indifferent. they’ve taken a lot of shit from ween fans for many years, we are officially on the scale. we do in fact whoop their ass, but nothing compared to the first night when it was OUR crowd. basically they reacted to us like you would to any opening act when you’re waiting to see the headliner, who u follow around, altho i know we made many converts this night. and that’s how simple Lockn 2016 was for Ween. killed it both nights, but we were the opening band on the 2nd night. i could micro-analyze it but we came offstage feeling like we killed it and that’s how i measure a gig, on how we feel when it’s done. a 40 minute poopship destroyer wouldn’t have done anything but looked cool on paper. phish went on about 80 minutes after us—we didn’t watch them. i thought their long setup was a buzzkill from the vibe of the one-two punches of the other bands on the two days before they showed up, they brought EVERYTHING, production, lights, video, sound—it was excessive i thought. we were too busy relaxing after 4 nights of gigs and being finally done. my favorite part was peter wolf from j. geils opening, we met before and he loves ween. he was the only dude at the festival i could relate to at all. like, the only motherfucker except the guys in my band that really understands rock and roll and is still doing it. a survivor, like me, and aaron, and claude, dave, and glenn.
Meanwhile, the reactions to Dean’s “blow their fucking asses off the stage” comment is going over about how you’d expect:
Personally, I think Dean has a point, even though it does open him to a shit ton of mockery. I’m saying this as someone who’s enthusiastically been to 100+ Phish shows compared to 5 Ween shows. Phish fans can be a little unmellow and un-rock’n’roll in (a. their criticism of the band in any way and (b. supporting anything remotely different than Phish’s live concert formula. I just think about how hard I cringe when I hear a big Phish vet say something like “WSP sucks” in real life. Yet badmouthing Phish — EVEN IN JEST — to the same uptight Phish fanboy is perceived as borderline blasphemous. That’s where things start to get a little cult-like and being cult-like is pretty un-rock’n’roll.
Even the most hardcore of Christians can take the occasionally Jesus joke.
Rap beef is cool and all, but jam band BEEF between two of the most legendary touring bands of the last 20 years is kinda, sorta the best beef.