Friday, October 19, 2007
40 Acres and That Goverment Mule You've Been Dreaming Of
After touring earlier this year with the Allman Bros., Warren Haynes recently took his alter ego Gov't Mule on the road for a series of high energy show this fall. The band spent two solid, well- attended nights at DC's 9:30 Club where they jammed the night away playing their unique blend of rock, pop, and soul, drenched in blues, and buoyed by the big man's masterful guitar and soulful vocals. And as usual, the 1600 team was there!
From hearing bits and pieces of their live shows over the years, I was really looking forward to checking these guys out in person. Virtuoso guitarist Haynes, flanked by Matt Abts (drums), Andy Hess (bass), and Danny Louis (keyboards) were also joined by saxophone master and DC perennial, Ron Holloway, a longtime member of Susan Tedeschi's band, who improvised with inspired enthusiasm with his old friend Haynes, collaborating on several songs each night.
Another brief word here about the opening act, Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. Walking in that night, I was accosted by several friends who all cautioned me not to miss a minute of her set. So, denying ourselves the customary bathroom/smoke/beer walkabout usually reserved for opening acts, we stood at the edge of the stage, hanging on her every word, taking in the 24 year-old "Vermonster's" tasty slide guitar and Hammond B3 organ- fueled jaunts through her entire one hour set. It was good advice, and I'm glad we heeded it. Grace growled out her original songs with an authority reserved for the likes of seasoned blues vets.
The band, comprised of lead player Scott Dournet, bassist Bryan Dondero, and drummer Matt Burr, cooked with a fiery intensity, playing a loose but well-rehearsed set that included several songs off their second record, "This is Somewhere." Highlights included Ah Mary, Stop the Bus, Ain't No Time, and Big White Gate. 1600 anticipates that this band will headlining the next time they come to town, and looks forward to seeing them again soon. See www.gracepotter.com for more info, future dates, downloads, and pictures.
But as usual, I digress. The band we went to see was Gov't Mule (get more info at www.mule.net). And their reputation for playing great shows is well- deserved. Steve, a longtime Mule vet, accompanied by friend of 1600 Tommy Gavin, managed to make it both nights, and I could kick myself for missing out on many of Mule's signature tunes, including Thorazine Shuffle, A Million Miles From Yesterday, and Mr. High and Mighty, as well as their excellent reading of the Rolling Stones' Play With Fire, and duets with the forementioned Ms. Potter on Find the Cost of Freedom and Ohio. The band rarely repeats a song two shows in a row. My bad.
As for the show we did see, the first set kicked off with Streamline Woman and Brand New Angel, setting a high bar for the night. Bad Little Doggie, Blind Man in the Dark, with Ron Holloway eliciting a whooping response from the crowd as he laid down some blazing sax leads, and Unring the Bell found everyone at the 9:30 Club on their feet and dancing. We were also treated to an exultant Southern Man, with Warren sharing vocal duties once again with Grace Potter, just before the break.
After we caught our collective breath, the band soon returned and launched into another high energy set. Holloway sat in on several songs, including Soulshine, a great jam with drummer Abts, and my favorite song of the night, a cover of Traffic's Low Spark of High Heeled Boys. The set also included the Beatles' I'm So Tired, and Unblow Your Horn, from the new release "Mighty High." The encore featured a somewhat lackluster cover of U2's One, a song not really well suited for Mule's strengths, but finished on a high note with a powerful rendition of of Little Feat's Spanish Moon, with Holloway again at the forefront adding his muscular tenor to Mule's bluesy sound.
Fans can download songs and entire shows from the band at www.muletracks.com, through their most recent stops in DC and Richmond VA last week. The more I hear, the better I like these guys, and the mix of covers (everything from the Grateful Dead to the Blues Bros., Jimi Hendrix and Prince) and their own originals make Gov't Mule another "must see" band that's worth every penny of the price of admission, and then some.