Gov’t Mule plays through the rain at Festival Park

By on July 8, 2019

In spite of the rain, the turnout for Government Mule at Roanoke Island Festival Park was strong. Photo Kip Tabb

In spite of the rain, the turnout for Gov’t Mule at Roanoke Island Festival Park was strong. Photo Kip Tabb

If there is such a thing as classical rock music, then Gov’t Mule is the maestro of the method.

I’m not talking about classic rock, those hit songs from 15, 20 or 30 years ago. What Gov’t Mule brings to the stage is a way of viewing music that weaves together different styles and genres into a seamless and remarkable evening of music.

Given the weather last night at Roanoke Island Festival Park, it was probably a good thing the music was remarkable. There was a constant light rain, yet no one left. The band was that compelling.

They kicked the set off with “World Boss,” a very much an in your face hard rock song. Where the band takes it is what makes the song so memorable.

For good reason frontman Warren Haynes is considered elite among rock guitarist, and in “World Boss” his lead is as good as it gets. It’s clean, it’s innovative. But bringing it all together is how tight the band is and the musical brilliance of each member of Gov’t Mule.

As Haynes is ripping through his lead, listen carefully and Jorgen Carlsson on bass is right there with him. The chords and patterns that come from Danny Louis’ keyboard are much closer to jazz than rock. And it all gets driven home by the driving beat of Matt Abts on drums.

What makes Gov’t Mule standout, though, and what makes them so exceptional in concert is what appears to be their absolute refusal to fall into any one category of music.

Hard driving rock? Yes, it definitely part of the show. Blues? Yes, with amazing slide guitar work from Haynes.

But with something like “Dreams” what is typically slow blues almost becomes a ballad. What makes the song compelling is Hayne’s slide guitar and Louis’ keyboard.

Then there’s “Trane” with drum and bass solos to bring it in. Everything Abts and Carlsson are doing is jazz–the rhythm, the notes, the sound. That leads to a perfect guitar solo and the song becomes a fantastic jam.

Haynes, who handles vocals and is the face of the group, is a master showman.

He tells everyone “Lay Your Burden Down” is a singalong. And there were a lot of voices raised, singing “Lay your burden down, lay your burden down, Take your troubled soul, your tired mind, And lay your burden down…”

Same thing with “Soulshine,” which is a sweet wonderful song, and with lyrics calling out for sunshine, it resonated during an outdoor concert featuring constant rain.

What brings everything together is how talented each of the musicians are.

Great example: the Hendrix classic “If 6 Was 9.”

Hendrix’s lead is classic and deservedly so, but the guitar work alone is not what made the song a standout. Mitch Mitchell’s drum work pulled it all together on the original, and Abts nailed it.

Ultimately though, given the range and variety of their work, Gov’t Mule is a jam band like no other. That came through in almost every number they performed. Consistently they took their music to unexpected and wonderful places.

As a group, Gov’t Mule has been together for 20 years. In the world of commercial music, that is almost unheard of. They have survived because they have refused to be pigeonholed into one category of music, focusing instead on a wide variety of innovative sounds performed by musicians at the top of their game.

A couple of quick notes from last night—Record Company was the perfect lead-in group for Gov’t Mule. I would not mind seeing them as a featured band.

And…big kudos to Mike Dianna and Bearded Face Productions for bringing the bands to the Outer Banks.

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