Wesley Willis in Concert

Posted November 2, 1999 at 2:26 am 2 Comments

Philadelphia may be a seven-hour bus ride away from Pittsburgh, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me from seeing Wesley Willis live in concert.  Ethan and Brendan weren’t quite so enthused about the idea of a weekend jaunt to Philadelphia, but they eventually agreed to go along for the ride.  After all, Ethan needed something to take his mind off of his OS assignment, and Brendan needed to be dragged away from Everquest for awhile.


Ethan and Brendan could scarcely contain their
excitement as they waited for the Greyhound bus.

After we missed two taxis that morning, Ethan came up with a new idea: “Let’s just go to Taco Bell, instead of Philadelphia!”  I countered with the suggestion that we go to Taco Bell and then  to Philadelphia, with a stop at 7-11 on the way to pick up Slurpees and Corn Nuts.  This plan met with general approval, so several hours later we found ourselves at the bus station downtown.

Wesley Willis was playing at Nick’s Upstairs, a tiny, crowded, smoke-filled bar one story above Nick’s Roast Beef Restaurant.  We filed quickly into the bar just before the bouncer returned from the bathroom.  Avoiding eye contact with the bartenders, we took up a spot next to the stage and directed our attention to the eardrum-splitting opening act, a band called “Stars Over Scars”.

Ethan bought the opening band’s CD, but I thought that their noise-to-talent ratio was much too high.  They had this unpleasant habit of generating screeching feedback noises by holding their electric guitars right next to the loudspeakers.  It wasn’t long before the crowd began chanting “Wesley!  Wesley!  Wesley!”


When your band opens for Wesley
Willis, that pretty much says it all.

We could feel the suspense mounting as Wesley Willis pushed his enormous bulk through the dense crowd and climbed the stairs to the stage.  He sat down slowly at his keyboard, set his book of lyrics on the music stand, shuffled the pages, and selected a song.  He regarded the page with careful deliberation, frowning fixedly.  He coughed, turned to the next page in his book, and smiled.  He checked the settings on his keyboard, settled comfortably into his chair, lifted his microphone to his lips, cleared his throat, and waited until the audience was completely silent.  The tension in the air was electric.

“LICK YOUR ASS!” he shouted.  “LICK MY ASS TOO!”

The crowd erupted into cheers.

As Wesley plays, he regards the keyboard intently, his brow furrowed deeply in intense concentration.  He strikes each key deliberately, methodically, forcefully, grinning when he finds a chord progression of which he is particularly proud.Wesley doesn’t like taking requests.  “Quit shouting those rerun songs at me!” he exclaims.  “I’m doing what I want to do, and I don’t care what you think you need!”

“Play that song ‘Jesus is the Answer’!” suggests a fan from the back of the bar.

“Come up here on stage and play with my balls,” suggests Willis in return.


Much to our satisfaction, Wesley did play
one “rerun song”: I Whooped Batman’s Ass.

The circular bruise on Wesley’s forehead is the product of years and years of head butting.  Head butting is Wesley’s form of friendly greeting.

One woman asked Wesley to write a song about her and perform it the next time he came to Philadelphia.  Wesley wrote down her full name, address and phone number.


“Say raaawh!” shouts Willis as he prepares for a head butt.

“Can you pick me up from the airport?” Wesley asked the young woman.”I suppose I could do that, Wesley,” she answered.

“And can I stay at your place for the night?”

Custom Willis songs don’t come cheaply.

“What did you think of the song ‘Lick a Bulldog’s Nasty Asshole’?” Wesley asked me as he autographed my CD.

“That was a great song, Mr. Willis!” I told him.  “I hadn’t ever heard that one before!””That’s because I made it up special for the concert tonight,” he revealed, beaming.


Wesley Willis really whips a bactrian camel’s ass with a belt.

2 Comments »

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  1. hey i was looking around the web for some WW stuff, i was in that opening band that was too loud. you wouldnt have any more photos of that night, would you? i am writing a book of stories about touring with wesley willis. thnks, peter

    Comment by peter — October 23, 2006 #

  2. Is the Wesley Willis Song generator broken?

    Are you hosting it somewhere else?

    Comment by Ed — July 15, 2009 #

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