Guitar great leads Gov’t Mule into Virginia Beach for first Pungo Jamboree
Twenty-five years ago, Warren Haynes co-founded Gov’t Mule as a side project when his main group, the Allman Brothers Band was taking a break.
Two years later, that side project became the guitar great’s primary outlet, and it has remained so through the years as Haynes also worked with the Allman Brothers and members of the Grateful Dead, and ventured out with solo projects.
The Mule is celebrating its 25th anniversary by going on the road and playing to the legions of fans it has built up by constantly touring. The band also has a new concert release to promote, “Bring On The Music – Live at The Capitol Theatre,” which was directed by noted photographer/director Danny Clinch. And Gov’t Mule is headlining the first Pungo Jambo on Saturday in Virginia Beach.
Recently, guitarist/singer Haynes called in for a conversation about live performances. Here’s some of that talk:
Q. So what makes a great show?
Haynes: You can really tell if a show is going to be great from the very beginning. From the first minute you know if that show is going to be right, going to be good. There’s an energy coming from the audience that’s kind of hard to explain. If it’s going to be great, it’s there from the beginning. For us, we’re going to do what we do. We play a different set list every night, take a totally different path every night.
Q. Talking about playing a different set list every night, I see so many bands playing the same set list every night. You guys are the opposite of that. Where does that come from?
Haynes: Jazz bands, blues bands and bluegrass bands have been doing that for decades. In rock, the great bands have imitated that. When I joined the Allman Brothers in 1989, we did the same set for two or three years. Then we changed. It really proved to be the best decision, for the band and the fans. For the band, we didn’t feel stagnant playing the same songs every show. For the audience, they never knew what they were going to get hit with.
Gov’t Mule adopted that philosophy from the very beginning. Even though, when we started out we only knew a handful of songs, it was “shake ‘em up.” Now, 25 years later, we could do four nights and not repeat a song.
Q. Does all this mean, that, live performance is what’s most important for Gov’t Mule, more than the records?
Haynes: As much as I’m very proud of our studio records, the live performance is where we come across, where the music comes across. Sometimes the studio performance is just a blueprint for what’s going to happen in the future. Sometimes you’ll play a song the same way 35, 40 times. Then you’re doing it one night and change it and it’s different from then on.
Taking a cue from bands before us, the two biggest being the Allman Brothers and the Grateful Dead, there has to be a balance between songs and jamming – just one or the other doesn’t work as a complete thing. If you feel a balance between the two, it can be more of one than the other, but still a balance, it makes a more satisfying show.
Q. What do you do when you haven’t played a place in a long while, or have never played there at all?
Haynes: That gives us a clean slate to start with. In those cases, we’ll get something from each period over the last 25 years. When I look at doing the set list, I think about how it flows, from moment to moment. If we’re doing a more “professional” set, it might be just the greatest hits for over an hour. But when we’re doing these shows, it goes up and down, comes together in different ways.
if you go
What: Pungo Jamboree at Back Bay Farms, with Gov’t Mule, Keller Williams, People’s Blues of Richmond, Roosterfoot, Jesse Chong Band, Anthony Rosano & the Conqueroos, The Fuzz Band
When: 2-11 p.m. Saturday
Where: Back Bay Farms, 1833 Princess Anne Road, Virginia Beach
Tickets: $50, advanced; $65 day of show; $150 VIP Tickets, www.pungojamboree.com