GOV'T MULE'S EPIC NIGHT AT THE SAENGER

Gov't Mule | Saenger Theatre | New Orleans, LA | 05.03.03

"No one will ever believe us!"

The guy with dreads who echoed this comment to the masses as we headed out of the Saenger at 5am hit the nail on the head, except for one fact. Thank god Gov't Mule had the foresight to get this baby recorded because, for lack of a good recording and DVD that will be released, I’m not sure any of us could ever do this show justice. Saturday, May 3rd was a music history lesson and I’m damn glad I was a part of it.


By Mike Railey
Heading down to NOLA on Saturday, our crew was still one Mule ticket short of making the big show at the Saenger Theatre. We didn’t have any intentions of going and didn’t preorder tickets, but the closer it got, we knew we had to head to the Crescent City to see what was going down. I’m by no means a Mule fanatic but I do enjoy them. Their sound had definitely been growing on me and I can't imagine any music fan even attempting to deny Warren Haynes's ability to play his instrument. And what music fan in their right mind would not want to see what would unfold, with all the promised special guests on Saturday night? After sitting through the afternoon sets of Widespread Panic and the funky Meters at the JazzFest Fairgrounds, we splashed some water on our sunburned faces and headed back to Canal Street to shop for one extra. When our cab rolled by the Saenger on the way to the hotel, there were already hoards of folks streaming through traffic with their finger raised in the air. A sinking feeling seemed to set in on the group, who was going to be left out in the cold? Tickets were a tough find on this night but we kept the faith. Things always seem to work out in New Orleans and tonight was no different.


By Mike Railey
We walked up to the venue at 143 North Rampart Street around 10-ish, and a line had formed around the building already. People were definitely amped up for this show. This was my first visit inside the legendary venue. It reminds one of the Fox Theatre in Atlanta with not quite the upkeep. The old building was beautiful and elegant but you could tell it had been through many shows. Our crew settled into our row of seats midway up the balcony right behind about ten seats, which had evidently been left for members of the NY Times. There was plenty of room upstairs; most fans had headed downstairs to be in the midst of their guitar god Haynes, but the place was full, no doubt.

I’d like to mention a couple of things about the Mule before I make comments regarding the show. First, they draw quite a diverse crowd of people. They seem to have a different following of people than other "jamband" groups who seem to draw, for the most part, certain segment of fans. Everyone seemed to be represented on this night, the old, the young and everyone in between. The second point I wanted to make has to do with their sound. Yes-yes-yes, the Mule’s sound is loud and crystal clear which was a plus seeing how I thought the Meters and Widespread sets at JazzFest had a muddled feel to them. With cameras rolling on the floor and cameramen scurrying around the stage, the lights dimmed and it was on!


By Mike Railey
The music itself was tight from the get-go. It would be ridiculous to try and attempt to review each song of this lengthy show but let me give you some highlights from my perspective. The night almost seemed to have a Last Waltz flavor to it with the special guests that flooded the stage. Never have I seen so many people at a show shake their head in amazement after each guest exited stage left. Unbelievable!

It was evident after the first couple of guests had made their way to the stage that each player would get a song, two at the most and then move on to the next performer. I think this format might have had something to with keeping the whole night fresh for so many people. It was one surprise after another and there never seemed to be a letdown even as the show crept into the wee-wee hours. When Warren turned to the crowd midway through the first set and said, "this is one of the greatest musical nights of my life," I could not help but agree with the man. Warren thanked the bass players, some of "who had traveled... some from all over the country," to be with us on this historic night. If Warren is anything, he comes across on stage as a gentleman who respects his music as well as others.


By Mike Railey
The epic night included the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Karl Denson funkin’ it down in typical New Orleans party style, and then you had the power that Metallica bassist Jason Newsted brought to the stage, and the finesse of Bela Fleck's Victor Wooten and Rob Wasserman. It was not only a "who’s who" musically, but it was also a chance to see some acts I had never had the opportunity to catch such as Los Lobos. At the beginning of set two, Mike Gordon entered the stage and was more animated in his actions on stage than when he grooves with Phish. Everyone seemed to be having fun, which definitely translated over well to the audience. Seeing Will Lee skip back and forth during a monster jam was an event in itself. Each bass player brought a different presence to the stage and a new energy.


By Mike Railey
At one point during the second set of the evening’s show, Haynes stopped to reflect on his buddy and sidekick that he obviously misses a great deal, Allen Woody. Haynes said to the crowd that he thought "Woody must be looking down upon all of us right now with a big smile on his face." This was a prime example of how Haynes’s soul is reflected in most everything he does.

Perhaps the most intimate moment of the night came in the second encore when Haynes emerged alone on stage with guitar in hand and did his rendition of The Eagles' "Wasted Time." I felt like I was sitting in my living room listening to this man play his guitar for me. Not a sound could be heard during moments of this classic, and it was done with a beautiful elegance that only Haynes could have mustered in this night of musical power.


By Mike Railey
Finally, to close the night during the third encore, the bass trio of Dave Schools, George Porter and Les Claypool combined for what Haynes described as the "Thorazine Scuttlefuck." After about a ten-minute pause between encores, the trio busted out "Thorazine Shuffle" and you had a funny feeling that Haynes had envisioned this bass accompaniment when writing the song with Woody during the band’s inception.

When it was all said and done, our sweaty crew sat down for a moment, and with a sarcastic smirk a buddy leaned over and said, "Is that what they mean by phat-jams?" I just smiled and said, "Yeah, I do believe it is." And with that, we eased out onto Canal Street and witnessed the film crew interviewing some red-eyed fans just in time to hear it proclaimed, "No one will ever believe us!"

Bart Gaston
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[Published on: 5/13/03]

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