Michael McLaughlin
The Aspen Times

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December 25, 2013
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Geeks or not, Weezer still rocks — this time at Belly Up Aspen

It’s been almost 20 years since the band Weezer released its first album, which is also how long many fans in the valley have waited to see the band perform locally.

For those still waiting, opportunity knocks this week when lead singer and guitarist Rivers Cuomo, drummer Patrick Wilson, bassist Scott Shriner, and guitarist and keyboardist Brian Bell perform twice at Belly Up with shows starting at 9 p.m. on Thursday and Friday.

It’ll be the first visit to Aspen for the band, based out of Southern California. Playing Belly Up will represent the most intimate venue Weezer has performed in for many years.

From the time the self-titled Weezer album (also known as “The Blue Album”) was released in 1994, the alt-rockers have enjoyed two decades of success, selling more than 9 million albums and winning a Grammy in 2008 with the song “Pork and Beans” for the Best Short Form Music Video.

The two shows at Belly Up will feature some of Weezer’s most popular music from its nine studio recordings.

“It’s going to pretty much be a hit train,” Wilson said from his home in Southern California.

Cuomo, Wilson and Bell all have recorded solo projects in the past decade. Weezer has a catalog of new music stockpiled that the band, according to Wilson, will be looking to record “really soon.”

“It’s been awhile since we made a full-on record,” he said. “I’m pretty excited to get back in the studio. I don’t think we’ll be playing any of the newer material in Aspen, but it could happen.”

Wilson said he’s not worried about Weezer being a cover band of itself. The band still enjoys playing music from its earliest releases, and as long as its members are having fun, that translates to the crowd, as well.

Over the years, fans never quite knew what to expect at a Weezer show. Wilson has been known to play guitar and sing; Cuomo can play guitar, bass, drums, keyboards and some wind instruments; Bell is equally adept on guitar and keyboards and is known to play harmonica, as well, while Shriner will occasionally sing lead vocals.

For the Aspen shows, the band will likely stay with its customary instruments.

“We’re keeping it pretty tight,” Wilson said. “We’ve gotten through our periods when Rivers is playing the drums and I’m singing a song and all that. I like the classic Weezer style. I’m glad we’re doing that, although playing guitar is definitely a lot easier than the drums.”

When Weezer released “The Blue Album” in 1994, its dressed-down look with the trademark black-rimmed glasses of Cuomo invited some new rock terminology. While radio stations pegged the band as alt-rock or indie rock, others began to refer to Weezer as geek rock as well as math rock or smart rock.

Wilson said when Weezer first formed, there was a conscious decision to be a little more normal than what was the norm for rock bands at the time.

“We were all from the ’80s, and at one time, we were all pretty much into metal or rock,” he said. “We all went through the Sunset Strip thing where there was a certain way to do it if you wanted to be a hair band. There were a lot of prerequisites and costuming as well as posturing. When the Seattle scene blew up, that was really awesome. It proved you didn’t have to look like David Lee Roth to be in a rock band. In the beginning, we made a choice to be normal — like extra normal, like more normal than normal.

“We used to wrestle with the idea of being the leaders of geek rock because we were still raging onstage, but now I’m fine with it.”

It also can be said that Weezer is a band that refused to rest on its laurels. The nine studio recordings each offer something unique musically, which is more of a reflection of the diverse talent within the band.

Wilson said there has never been a formal strategizing of what kind of sound the band would try and produce when it records in the studio, but instead the band seems to write material that reflects what’s happening with it at that time.

“You hear bands say they’re going to do this or that in the studio,” Wilson said. “Damon Albarn, of Blur, once said, ‘You go into the studio and you think you’re going to be radical and really step out of your comfort zone, ... and then it just ends up sounding like you anyway.’”

Weezer played nearly 40 shows this year with the two Belly Up shows representing its final 2013 performances. It has played in large, outdoor venues in front of 40,000-plus fans as well as smaller theaters but nothing as intimate as the Belly Up club.

Wilson said he expects the Aspen shows to be special in many ways. Playing someplace new is always exciting, but having the opportunity to perform in a club setting can lead to some memorable interactions with the fans.

“Sometimes playing in a large arena feels weird, like you’re so far away that you’re disconnected with the fans,” Wilson said. “My preference is to play someplace where you can see and interact with the crowd, and of course, that sounds really good. Hopefully that’s what to expect in Aspen.”

Canadian rock band Black Pistol Fire will be the opening act both nights.

mmclaughlin@aspentimes.com


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The Aspen Times Updated Dec 24, 2013 06:44PM Published Dec 27, 2013 06:49AM Copyright 2013 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.