Better Than: Paying to be crammed in a container with 1000 old, loud, smelly people and then shipped from Haiti during a earthquake with nothing but Gov't Mule on my MP3 player.
I am guessing that since Revolution Live has an average of six shows during each of the next three months (supposedly the busy season), both club and crowd have to make the most of each opportunity. Unfortunately, that is at the fans' expense. Revolution is one of two respectable indoor live music clubs in music-starved Broward County, but the conditions at Wednesday night's Gov't Mule show were extremely uncomfortable.
I was hoping that since it was a weeknight, maybe it wouldn't be that packed -- but who was I kidding? It's not like it was a school night for a single person in this crowd. Hell, half this crowd was probably retired; the median age in the room was somewhere around age 45. Not that I have anything against the elderly -- we're all getting there second by second -- but the partying elderly? It appears they have no respect for anyone else. On this evening they screamed to each other over the music and sweated so much, any hint of a shower was washed away.
The music was great, thank Jah. The Mule treated us with a good mix of originals, spanning most of the band's nine-disc catalog. Of course there were covers, too, many of which the band has made its own over the years. However, I didn't catch my first glimpse of the stage until a song or two into the second set.
Upstairs behind the VIP section, where at least the sound quality was tolerable, I got to enjoy the first set. The hardest working man in rock, guitarist Warren Haynes, started the night off strong with a slow build-up into one of my favorites, "Blind Man in the Dark," off Dose. Then the band followed with two from High & Mighty, "Brand New Angel" and "Endless Parade," before launching into a series of covers.
First the band broke out Steppenwolf's stoner anthem "Don't Step on the Grass, Sam" from the heady Hempilation album, driven by drummer Matt Abts' heavy bass drum. Then there was a take on Ray Charles' "I Believe to My Soul." Next was a Beatles medley of "She Said. She Said." and "Tomorrow Never Knows," both off 1966's Revolver, although the former also appears on Mule's Dose. So does the instrumental original played after that, "Birth of the Mule."
Next was an extraordinary version of the classic "Born Under a Bad Sign," aided by local musician David Shelley's soulful vocals and powerful blues rock guitar. The sonically rocking set then closed with "Broke Down on the Brazos," the first track off the new album, By a Thread. Regrettably, the only visual stimulation for me was watching people trip over a raised step as they made their way to the bathroom.
The set break gave us a chance to go out on the deck for some air and check the talent in America's Backyard below, before heading back inside Revolution to establish a better spot with an actual view of the stage.
The second set kicked off with another one of my faves from Dose, "Thorazine Shuffle." The Hollies' classic "Bus Stop" was next, and a definite highlight. It lacked the harmonies of the original but was a very interesting choice for a band as dirty and rugged as Gov't Mule.
Then were a few songs I was unacquainted with: "Frozen Fear" from By a Thread, which they jammed into "Wandering Child" from Life Before Insanity. That jam then lead into a "Drums" and followed with "Inside Outside Woman Blues #3," also from By a Thread, finishing the least gripping part of the show for me. We used this opportunity to better our position once again and get away from the awful people screaming in conversation behind us. Their hearing-aid batteries must have been dying.
But what a strong finish! The crowd was finally opening up when the band went into Humble Pies's "30 Days in the Hole," which is exactly how I felt in this room up until this point. Just when you thought the song was over, Warren broke into the chorus of Ray Charles' "I Don't Need No Doctor," leading the crowd in a sing/clap along.
The deep groove of Gov't Mule's new bassist, Jorgen Carlsson, ensued as the band took off into the most danceable song of their catalog, "Mule." Sticking with tradition, they took the jam in and out of another hip classic. This time it was Stevie Wonder's "Superstition," led by keyboardist Danny Louis' funky organ chops, before bringing it back to "Mule" before an ecstatic crowd.
Finally, there was a short rest before an encore, in which the band stormed through Muddy Waters' "Champagne & Reefer," with some alternate Florida inspired lyrics to elate this stoner crowd one last time.
Personal Bias: My first Gov't Mule show was the first of the Deep End series several weeks after 9/11 in New York City and included a preview of Mike Gordon's documentary on bass players, Rising Low. I also caught the last show of that run, a six-hour marathon during 2003's New Orleans Jazz Festival, referred to as "The Deepest End" show.
Random Detail: Jorgen Carlsson is Gov't Mule's second official bass player since the passing of founding member Allen Woody in 2000. The first was Andy Hess of the Black Crowes although they had countless legends sit-in during a period they dubbed "The Deep End" which lasted until 2003. The guests included: Jack Bruce of Cream, John Entwistle of The Who, Mike Watt of Minutemen, Les Claypool of Primus, Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Chris Squire of Yes, Dave Schools of Widespread Panic, Oteil Burbridge of the Allman Brothers, Mike Gordon of Phish, Victor Wooten of the Flecktones, George Porter Jr. of The Meters, Jason Newsted formerly of Metallica, and Greg Rzab formerly of The Black Crowes and the Buddy Guy Band, among others.
By The Way: Gov't Mule just returned from an "Island Exodus" in Negril, Jamaica at a super-inclusive resort. Supporting acts included Grace Potter & The Nocturnals and DJ Logic.