By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Alice Laussade
By Scott Reitz
If you turn your back for a minute, maybe to grab a beer from the bar or go upstairs to shoot a quick game of pool, you can almost fool yourself into believing there's a different band up there onstage, headlining a Friday-night bill at Trees. Even if you face the stage and just squint a little bit, it could be someone else. And that's the whole point. The four guys onstage--guitarists Glen Reynolds (Chomsky) and Jason Weisenburg (The Commercials), bassist Mark Hughes (Baboon), and drummer Ben Burt (Pinkston)--want you to think they are someone else: Weezer.
That's right. A band with two--count 'em, two--albums to its name, both released this decade. A band that's still together. A band that will turn up on Hits of the 1990s compilations 20 years from now alongside Veruca Salt, Belly, Elastica, and Liz Phair.
Under different circumstances, given its members' individual talents, the quartet could be one of the best bands in town. But right now, as Weener, they'll have to settle for being the best cover band around, or the only good one anyway. Yet as entertaining as Weener is--and the band really does Weezer songs better than Weezer--it raises one question: Why?
Or more to the point: Whathefu...?
"I think Weener is kind of something that everybody secretly wanted, kind of like transvestite-type stuff," Reynolds says, laughing. "Everybody secretly wanted it, but they didn't know it. And it's a blast to do it. I've always loved Weezer songs. They never got as much credit as they should have for their albums. Me and Jason wanted to do a band, and this was like the ultimate opportunity to give them a proverbial pat on the back and have fun doing it. As well as trying to make some moolah in the essence of being a cover band without being a North Dallas special, you know, where we're stuck playing at Memphis or something."
Reynolds and Weisenburg first began to mull over the idea of starting a band together last spring. Reynolds' previous band, Liquid Three, was breaking up, and Bobgoblin was in the process of making itself over as The Commercials and severing its ties with MCA Records completely. They wanted to do something fun, something that would make them enjoy playing music again.
The pair had thought of forming a band ever since they started hanging out a couple of years earlier. But at that point, the idea of beginning another band that played original material didn't appeal to them, especially after the recent turns of events that had transpired in their respective bands. It was, as Reynolds says now, "kind of a dark time for self-made music." Reynolds suggested forming a Weezer cover band, so Weisenburg called Hughes and Burt to help round out the lineup. Before Reynolds knew it, he was a member of Weener.
"I'd gone to Mexico for a week, and when I came back, Jason was like, 'Well, we've already practiced once,'" Reynolds remembers. "I got together with them, and we just started practicing on Sundays, and adding songs. When we first started doing it, it was kind of a strange deal, you know, because we were completely aping a band that wasn't broken up. None of us even knew how to take it. It was almost like we wanted to mock ourselves, because it just shouldn't have been happening."
After working out almost every song on Weezer's two albums (1994's self-titled debut and 1996's Pinkerton), Weener played its first gig last fall at Club Clearview, opening for Le Freak, a group that's only purpose seems to be reminding people why disco died in the first place. Since then, the band has played to packed houses almost every time out, getting a response almost better than the real thing. Weener has even come to the attention of Weezer drummer Pat Wilson, who reportedly is flattered, according to Reynolds.
Of course, he should be, because--though the band is definitely in on the joke--Weener is a labor of love. All the members of the group are big fans of Rivers Cuomo and company's songs, and Weener is their chance to expose them to other people. Swapping lead-vocal chores, Reynolds, Weisenburg, and Hughes bound through the tunes as though they're playing their own songs; sometimes you forget they aren't. To Weezer fans in the Dallas-Fort Worth-Denton area (and judging by the size of the crowds who come out to see Weener, there are more than you'd think), Weener is the next best thing to Weezer.
"You know, what I think--and I hope this is what's happening--is that people who didn't get a chance to see Weezer, or people who weren't real familiar with Weezer are just now starting to figure it out," Reynolds says. "Hopefully, some of those people will come out to the shows and go, 'Man, that is great music' and then go out and buy the albums. Or people will realize just how good the music is. Like [tomorrowpeople frontman] Mike Gibson, after one of our shows at Clearview, came up to us and went, 'I didn't realize what a great arsenal of tunes Weezer had.'"