Gov’t Mule played Sept. 25 at the Grand Sierra Resort. A couple hours before show time I found out there was an opening band. For a short time I thought about arriving late rather than sitting though an opening act. As it turns out, that would have been a terrible decision!
The Stone Foxes out of San Francisco opened up for Gov’t Mule. My first thought was that these guys are a new and upcoming jam band, and a force to be reckoned with. They rolled out a set of original tunes that all had catchy but subtle hooks, and hit me face first with a powerful, youthful energy that made me sit up and take notice. They were so passionate in everything they did that they almost vibrated on stage. I truly believe that if these guys can keep it together as a group, and not get sucked up and tainted by the nastiness of the music business, they will go far. They have an original sound that will take them all the way. “To the top Johnny!”
After about a 30 minute intermission (which had The Stone Foxes unceremoniously tearing down their own gear) Gov’t Mule hit the stage and started their set with a pair of Mr.’s. “Mr. Man” from 2005’s “Deja Voodoo” followed by “Mr. High and Mighty,” the title release from their 2005 album. They finished off the first three songs with “Any Open Window” from 2009’s “By A Thread.” At this point the leader of the pack, Warren Haynes, explained to the crowd that there was a very early curfew on the show so they were going to play straight through their usual intermission. This got a cheer. The other members of the band are Danny Louis on keyboards, Jorgen Carlsson on bass guitar and my personal favorite, Matt Abts, on drums.
The crowd was a very diverse group. You had your dreadlock ganja group, the peace out hippy-ish group, the older rock and roller group, and the hard core jam band group. It was a general admission show with no assigned seating and no chairs on the mail floor in front of the stage where the dancers were letting it all out. As the evening progressed the bodies on the main floor got more and more exuberant in their dancing and enthusiasm. It was a bouncing sea of heads in front of the stage.
Like colorful icing covering a delicious cake, the lighting at this show was definitely the icing on the cake. Much like what I saw at the recent Widespread Panic show, the lighting played an integral part in the overall experience. With computer controlled and choreographed lights of red, blue, purple, green, and yellow the designers were able to bring the entire room to life. Once you get the show off of the stage and into the room there’s a lot more for the audience to watch besides the musicians. You had pulsing and gyrating lights filling the room, and canopies of light spinning and engulfing the players on stage.
As accomplished as these musicians are I found a few points in the show to be less than stimulating. Not because they weren’t playing well, but rather because the songs weren’t that interesting. Composed well, yes. Played flawlessly, yes. But just not interesting to me. The high point of the evening for me was an extended drum solo by Matt Abts in a number called “Sco-Mule”, which he received a Grammy nomination for in 2003. It was amazing. Being a drummer myself I was floored by his performance.
If I had one ‘take away’ from the evening it was this. The Stone Foxes are coming on strong. I hope the next time I see them they have a stage crew to take care of their equipment for them.
…and the beat goes on.
Nick McCabe has a music website, Front Row Photo. Contact Nick at Nick.firstname.lastname@example.org
Gov’t Mule Gallery
The Stone Foxes Gallery