Gov’t Mule delivers ultimate Tahoe mountain jam

Gov't Mule Tahoe Onstage

MontBleu Theatre was jammed for Warren Haynes and Gov’t Mule on March 3.
Tahoe Onstage photos by Kurt E. Johnson

MontBleu Theatre transformed into a jam-packed party Friday night, with Gov’t Mule riding the stage for almost three hours.

The general admission format was perfect for a festive crowd that stood and danced for the entire show. Mule delivered two tight sets before a surprise guest joined the band for the encore.

Legendary guitarist Warren Haynes is famous for his 25-year association with the Allman Brothers Band and touring with the Grateful Dead. It is hard to imagine that he has ever played any better. The 56-year-old was in top form, bending the strings on his Gibson to produce crisp and commanding notes.

Haynes formed Gov’t Mule in 1994 in Los Angeles with drummer Matt Abts and bass player Allen Woody. The current lineup features original members Haynes and Abts with bass player Jorgen Carlsson and the versatile Danny Louis, who plays keyboards, guitar and trombone. Gov’t Mule has a loyal following and after its incredible performance, it’s easy to see why.

The opening tune set the tone for the night. A stirring nine-minute version of “Mule” and the jam was on. Haynes was working the slide guitar to perfection. That was followed by an excellent cover of Tom Waits’ “Goin Out West,” Louis accompanying Haynes on vocals. “Rocking Horse” from the band’s first album was next. This is when Gov’t Mule started working other popular rock songs into the jam. This enjoyable arrangement was continued throughout the concert. Warren paid tribute to his Grateful Dead connections with riffs from “Shakedown Street.”

Typically, professional photographers are only allowed to shoot the first three songs of a concert. It was a rare treat for Tahoe Onstage photographer Kurt E. Johnson, since the first three Gov’t Mule songs lasted 27 minutes.

The band honored the Allman Brothers with a thrilling rendition of “Dreams,” enthralling the audience. You could tell that both Haynes and Louis captured the essence of that magical sound during their time with the Allman Brothers. If you closed your eyes, it sounded just like Duane and Gregg Allman in 1969 instead of Haynes on slide guitar and Louis on the Hammond organ.

Louis showed off his versatility during “And Your Bird Can Sing” by strapping on a guitar and switching back and forth with the keyboards. “Forsaken Savior” showed a more mellow side of Gov’t Mule. Haynes’ guitar playing was amazing for a cover of Billy Cobham’s “Stratus.” They closed the first set with “Funny Little Tragedy,” which included a tease of “Message in a Bottle” by The Police. Haynes, Carlsson and Louis jammed side-by-side while Apts laid down the commanding drum line.

The energy in the showroom was maxed out during the second set. Mule opened with “Broke Down on the Brazos” and the party was back on after a refreshing break. Haynes played a haunting blues guitar during “Smokestack Lightning.”

The high point of the night was guest guitarist Eric McFadden joining Gov’t Mule for the two encore songs. McFadden’s powerful guitar licks brought the crowd to frenzy. First came a hypnotic 18-minute version of Funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain,” highlighted by the searing guitars of Haynes and McFadden as they traded leads. McFadden has played with numerous bands, including Funkadelic. The final song was a cover of Robert Johnson’s “32/20 Blues” with Louis on trombone.

-Conrad Buedel

Related story: Gov’t Mule packs for High Sierra Music Festival.

To see more concert photos go to Kurt E. Johnson’s website.

  • Gov’t Mule
    March 3, 2017
    MontBleu Theatre, Lake Tahoe
    Goin Out West
    Rocking Horse
    And Your Bird Can Sing
    Forsaken Savior
    Funny Little Tragedy
  • Second set
    Broke Down on the Brazos
    Tributary Jam
    Lay Your Burden Down
    Smokestack Lightning
    Unring The Bell
    Larger Than Life
    If 6 Was 9
    Slackjaw Jezebel
  • Encore (with Eric McFadden)
    Maggot Brain
    32/20 Blues

    Tahoe Onstage

    Gov’t Mule drummer Matt Abts

    Tahoe Onstage fists

    Warren Haynes

    Tahoe Onstage

    Gov’t Mule bass player Jorgen Carlsson

    Tahoe Onstage fifth

    Gov’t Mule multi-instumentalist Danny Louis

    Tahoe Onstage

    Eric McFadden joined Gov’t Mule in Tahoe onstage for the encore set.

About Conrad Buedel

Conrad Buedel was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland. He moved to Nevada in 1987. Conrad is a professional writer and photographer in the Lake Tahoe area.

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