Gasparilla Music Festival: Gov’t Mule
The Gasparilla Music Festival blew through downtown Tampa October 1-3 with very hot temperatures and even hotter music. It was Sunday, October 3, and there was only one band left on the schedule.
It was time to shut down the festival, and who better to turn that job over to Gov’t Mule? This former trio now quartet has been kicking so much ass there are rarely any names left to take. Simply put, 26 years after the band blew on the jam scene, they’ve lost not one iota of their power, energy, or inspiration. For the next hour and a half, Gov’t Mule delivered a simply magnificent set. Interestingly, they did not follow the printed setlist, which would have been good, but what actually emerged was… as good as it gets.
Mule opened with two tracks from the most recent studio album Revolution Come, Revolution Go (2017) — “Traveling Song” and “Stone Cold Rage” — bookending iconic fan favorite “Thorazine Shuffle,” and we were off to the races. The sound was perfection, Warren Haynes’ guitar and vocals pure magic, along with Danny Lewis’ phalanx of keyboards (electric piano on “Thorazine”), Jorgen Carlsson’s deep, dark bass, and the relentless rhythms of Matt Abts on drums. Carlsson and Abts sent “Thorazine” to the stratosphere.
Haynes next offered his homage to dear friend and former bandmate, the late Allen Woody, in “Banks of the Deep End”: “On the banks of the deep end, Where I lost my best friend.” No matter how many times Haynes performs this song, it never fails to reach in and grab you by the heartstrings.
At this point, the band veered away from the planned setlist. On the one hand, we missed “Rocking Horse,” but what we got instead was an amazing take on “Kind of Bird,” a song from the band’s 1996 album Live at Roseland Ballroom. The tune has a slow intro, then begins to swing… hard. Lewis dug in on electric piano again as the tune soared into jazz. Just as smoothly, Haynes led the quartet into a soul-stirring “In Memory of Elizabeth Reed” jam. Eventually they steered the jam back to “Kind of Bird.” Lewis whipped out his trombone for a great solo, and then they teased another Allman Brothers Band classic, “Les Brers in A Minor” before returning to “Bird” for the coda.
After a huge wave of applause, Haynes reminded the audience that the band had just completed recording of Heavy Load Blues, the group’s first true blues album, due out November 12. He asked permission to take one of those songs out for a spin. To universal approval, Gov’t Mule crushed a rocking version of Howlin’ Wolf’s “I Asked Her For Water (She Gave Me Gasoline).” It was incredible.
As the band launched into its signature song “Mule,” we were all ready for a proper ass-kicking, and. boy, did we get it. “Mule” usually features some song sandwiched in the middle, often Van Morrison’s “I’ve Been Working” or “What Is Hip?” Not this time! Haynes was on fire as he provided teases or short passages from “Shakedown Street,” “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin),” “Getaway” (EW&F), and “Jungle Boogie.” Mind blown!
They took us from the blistering “Mule” to the salve of “Soulshine” to close out the set, night, and festival, the crowd swaying back and forth as one to the deep message. As they said good night, the crowd was having none of it, insisting, successfully, on an encore. And what an encore! Gov’t Mule whipped out a titanic take on Tom Waits’ “Going Out West.”
Ass kicked? 100%
[GOV’T MULE: Traveling Song, Thorazine Shuffle, Stone Cold Rage, Banks of the Deep End, Kind of Bird > Liz Reed jam > Kind of Bird > Les Brers tease > Kind of Bird, I Asked Her For Water (She Gave Me Gasoline), Mule > Shakedown Street > Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) > Getaway > Jungle Boogie > Mule, Soulshine; E: Going Out West]
Great thanks as always to Jeffrey Moellering / Snapzalot.com for the great photographs!