The New School of Gov’t Mule (Relix Revisited)
By 2000, Mule—as they tend to call themselves—had gotten a reputation as an unparalleled touring machine, racking up as many as 250 shows a years and adding two more albums to their discography, including the propitiously titled Life Before Insanity. They were about to enter a studio to record another album when Woody was found dead in his hotel room in New York City on August 26. His death ignited a sense of melancholy and loss that hasn’t entirely dissipated three and a half years later. Abts still refers to Woody in the present tense, while Haynes admits that what the band has been through has allowed more of himself to surface in the lyrics of Gov’t Mule’s songs. He now makes sure that he always speaks what is in his heart—something you feel he thinks he neglected to do when Woody was alive.
“I guess I’ve been more open and vulnerable, because going through what we’ve been through, I’ve stopped sweating the small stuff. It’s only the large stuff that matters. And so I don’t worry about pretense, and I don’t worry about sugarcoating the truth. There was a lot of self-analysis going on, and a lot of guilt, and somehow that made its way into the songs.” Songs like “Bad Man Walking” (co-written with Danny Louis) and “Wine and Blood” bear that out, allowing Haynes to turn himself inside out, and in the case of “Bad Man Walking” to show the maligned effect fame has had on him—a claim that is hard to accept, observing the guitarist among his fans.
“Hey Warren, I took a week off work to see you. I’ll be at your next four shows,” a fortyish Orlando software exec tells Haynes, as he makes his way onto his tour bus parked outside San Francisco’s fabled Fillmore Ballroom. “Ah, thank you for that,” says Warren, all big smiles and bigger vowels, clasping the rather ghoulish-looking black-clad zealot’s hand, before signing a stack of photos thrust at him. A mother with two small boys comes up to Haynes, shyly takes a hold of his arm, and says hello in a hardly audible voice. “Now who do we have here?” asks the musician, stooping down to talk to the two tow-headed boys who clearly don’t have a clue who this large, leonine man is. For all they know, it’s Santa Claus in bright blue, his shortsleeved shirt emblazoned with ringed planets and shooting stars. They hang back quietly watching with big eyes while their mother asks for an autograph.
“Do you remember me from the Warfield, when you were here with the Brothers?” demands a small lank-haired man, stabbing the air agitatedly with a cigarette. “I was the one who got you all that Gatorade.” “I definitely do remember,” says Haynes. And you know for certain he really does.
There are few rock stars that listen more intently to fans, or are as cordial to them. That goes a long way toward explaining why the Mule’s two nights at this historic ballroom are sold out. Not only is Gov’t Mule a formidable band, but the care Haynes puts into his interactions with fans is the same attention he gives to his playing—from the gentle sigh of his guitar on “She Said, She Said” and “I’m So Tired,” both light, wistful renderings of his favorite Beatles songs, to the impish tease of the first strains of the Allmans’ “Mountain Jam,” to the angst of “Game Face,” or the hard-charging encore “I Am a Ram,” his astrological autobiography.
Haynes and Abts toyed with disbanding Gov’t Mule after Woody’s death, and their brief tour opening up for Ben Harper seemed to bear that out—the two of them performed with Woody’s gear set up beside them. “I thought this helped Warren and me a lot,” explained Abts, adjusting his black wool stocking cap over his rather striking platinum hair—an unexpected and strange doppelganger of Iggy Pop—against the chill of the San Francisco night—or maybe even more importantly, the chill of their massive loss.
“We went out and opened Ben Harper’s shows. That was an amazing experience. We actually set up Woody’s amp and the two of us went out and played with Woody’s rig right there. It totally made sense for us, and again, that was part of the whole grieving thing, to get over that. That was in November and Woody died in August; everything was still up in the air. It really wasn’t until we got to San Francisco, at New Year’s, that Warren and I did the same thing; we opened for Phil Lesh. The first week in January we booked some studio time and started the whole Deep End project with the bass players on the West Coast. I was probably a little more positive than Warren was. I think Warren was even more confused, if you can believe that, than I was, about where to go next. But once we started in the studio, on the Deep End project, it felt good. It would’ve been really hard for me to imagine not playing with Warren.”
Golden Bloom stopped by Relix to perform a tune from their latest EP No Day Like Today.
The Chapin Sisters share an tune from their new album A Date With the Everly Brothers.
Minneapolis-based Night Moves share a song from their record, Colored Emotions, live at Relix.
Cloud Cult share a song from their latest album live at Relix.
The Giving Tree Band enjoy a spring day on the Relix rooftop, while performing a classic Grateful Dead tune.
Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden performs a duet with his sister-in-law Lou Canon. The song appears on Us Alone his first record on Broken Social Scene’s Arts & Crafts Productions.
The Milk Carton Kids share the first song from their new album, The Ash & Clay.
Here is the new video from Serbian guitar ace Ana Popovic. “Object Of Obsession” appears on her latest album Can You Stand The Heat.
Ron Sexsmith visits the Relix office to perform a tune from his latest record Forever Endeavor.
Crystal Bowersox stops by Relix to perform a song from her new album, All That For This.
- Spin Doctors: If the River Was Whiskey
- Ray Manzarek, Founding Member of The Doors, Passes Away at 74
- Golden Bloom "Flying Mountain"
- Tedeschi Trucks Band at the Doheny Blues Festival
- Video Premiere: Anna Bergendahl "Fun"
- Electric Forest’s King and Queen
- Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers "Friend of The Devil"
- Grateful Dead’s Morning Brew and Drop Dead Dark Roast
- Interlocken Festival to Feature Neil Young, Furthur, String Cheese Incident, Black Crowes, Zac Brown and More
- The Salvation of Page McConnell (Relix Revisited)
- Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis Tried to Form Supergroup with Paul McCartney
- Weir’s Here: On TRI, RatDog and Solo Gigs
- Warren Haynes and Joe Bonamassa "If Heartaches Were Nickels"
- The Final Ingredient in Dogfish Head’s Grateful Dead Tribute Ale Is…
- Stone Gossard Readies His Moonlander
- Allie Kral Says Goodbye to Cornmeal
- Doctor’s Orders: So what should we call the Super Ball IX Newspaper?
- John Kadlecik Posts Statement on Bob Weir’s Collapse
- "I Wanne Be In moe.": The Latest Volunteers
- Bob Weir Escorted Off Stage During Furthur Show
- Furthur Cancels BottleRock Show as Bob Weir Is Out Of Commision
- Vote for Your Favorite "I Wanne Be In moe." Contestant
- Doctor’s Orders: What’s Your Favorite Furthur Song? (Win Copy of Relix Signed by Phil and Bobby)
- On The Verge Poll