Aaron Freeman, aka Gene Ween celebrates his 50th birthday today. Freeman was born in Philadelphia on March 17, 1970 and his family moved to New Hope, Pennsylvania soon thereafter where he met Mickey Melchiondo during a typing class in middle school. The pair formed a musical relationship, took on the pseudonyms of Gene and Dean Ween and began a band named Ween in 1984 that became known for their prolific ways and impressive live performances. Aaron retired the Gene Ween moniker for a few years in the mid-2010s and in honor of his birthday, JamBase looks at a show from his first tour back as Gene Ween: 2015’s Gene Ween Does Billy Joel.
Ween released a series of cassettes in the mid to late-1980s before issuing the full-length GodWeenSatan: The Oneness in 1990. Elektra signed the band following 1991’s The Pod and their fanbase started to expand exponentially thanks to the success of 1992’s Pure Guava and Chocolate & Cheese in 1994. Gener and Deaner performed backed by tracked played through a DAT Machine before the lineup of Freeman, Melchiondo, bassist Dave Dreiwitz, drummer Claude Coleman Jr. and keyboardist Glenn McClelland was solidified in 1997. Ween toured as a five-piece from that time through New Year’s Eve 2011 and won raves for their diverse studio albums and bombastic live shows.
Aaron struggled with substance issues that peaked in 2011 after which time he entered rehab. Freeman shocked fans, and his band mates, by telling Rolling Stone he was retiring the Gene Ween persona and that Ween was done in an interview that was published on May 29, 2012. He focused on his sobriety in the years that followed and recorded music under his birth name. In 2015, Aaron Freeman started using the Gene Ween name again for a series of shows honoring Billy Joel as well as a performance with Umphrey’s McGee at the Summer Camp Music Festival. On April 10, 2015 Freeman played his first Gene Ween Does Billy Joel concert and brought the tribute to Underground Arts in Philadelphia on May 29, 2015.
Gener’s seven-piece band took the stage for a performance of “Prelude” and Freeman emerged to sing “Angry Young Man.” The ensemble then played one of The Piano Man’s classics after another including “Pressure,” “Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song),” “The Stranger,” “Just The Way You Are,” “Scenes From An Italian Restaurant,” “Only The Good Die Young” and of course “Piano Man.” Watch fan-shot video captured by noochnooch with audio taped by Larry Sellers of the whole show below:
- 00:00 Prelude/Angry Young Man
- 05:46 Pressure
- 11:18 Captain Jack
- 18:52 Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song)
- 22:31 My Life
- 28:09 You May Be Right
- 32:32 She’s Always A Woman
- 38:12 The Stranger
- 43:32 Don’t Ask Me Why
- 48:26 Sometimes a Fantasy
- 52:37 The Ballad of Billy the Kid
- 58:55 Just the Way You Are
- 01:05:02 Big Shot
- 01:09:34 Piano Man
- 01:19:54 Scenes From an Italian Restaurant
- 01:27:20 It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me
- 01:31:44 Only the Good Die Young