Gov’t Mule shook a ruckus out of The Mountain Winery in Saratoga, CA on Tuesday night.
The gorgeous venue carved into the top of a mountainside along the northern ridge of the Santa Cruz Mountains combines vineyard and venue overlooking San Jose and most of the Silicon Valley on a clear day. The esteemed concert venue which normally draws an older, reserved audience was topsy-turvy in comparison on Tuesday, as the crowd really let their hair down for Mule.
The band hit the stage shortly after 8:30 p.m. just as the sun dipped out of view. They opened with a rocking “Railroad Boy” from 2009’s By a Thread. The music dropped into an earlier cut and fan-favorite “Rocking Horse” which segued into another of the band’s older tunes in “Which Way Do We Go From Run?”. The show then slowed down considerably for one of the band’s newer originals, “Pressure Under Fire”, allowing for Haynes to break out that bottleneck of his for some added theatrics. After a rowdy, bluesy peak, a deep purple hue filled the stage. Melting with eerie discombobulated jazz piano, it signaled a departure from the jam and they finished the song.
By the time 9 p.m. hit, Mule had already started into the fifth song of the night with “Devil Likes It Slow”, followed by “Wine & Blood” before continuing into a cover of The Allman Brothers Band‘s “Soulshine”. Once they broke into the Allman Brothers Band classic, a good portion of the crowd that hadn’t given into audience participation really leaned into the evening. Haynes took notice and used the opportunity to keep the music rolling on and into a hard-rocking blues number, “Banks of the Deep End”. The song made for a fitting exclamation point for the mid-point of the show. Although it wasn’t explicitly stated–at this point or at any point, regrettably–many fans reported feeling a strong presence and longing for the late Neal Casal. The emotion behind the music enhanced by the loss throughout the lyrics.
From there, Mule delivered two cuts from their most recent studio release, Revolution Come, Revolution Go. Beginning with the title track, the underlying music featured a hard-stepping funk vibe. Keyboardist Danny Louis really took the driver’s seat throughout, even though audibly Haynes continued to dominate in the mix. At one point the right combination of wind made the smoke machine behind his amp made it look like it was catching fire with how hard it was pushing.
The band then fell into a hard-rocking blues riff and Louis entered on the trumpet. It wasn’t long before they returned to the funk riff from earlier, with Louis playing both keys and trumpet simultaneously. Drummer Matt Abts took the spotlight with a steady and heart-pounding drum solo before they ended the song.
Mule moved onto the second of two Revolution tracks in “Traveling Tune”, a great anthem for anyone who’s spent time driving on the long highway. Once again, the middle verse lines of, “Here’s one for the fallen ones that didn’t make it through / This life’s challenges and pressures / we gotta keep on rising, keep singing in their honor / Maybe even enjoy some of life’s pleasures” was unapologetically reminiscent of the late Casal.
The next four songs took up roughly the next 40 minutes of the show. Beginning with “Forsaken Savoir” and continuing with a politically charged combo from their 2006 studio album High & Mighty, the band played “Unring the Bell” and “Endless Parade”. The feeling behind the lyrics of “Unring”, asking the listener “Where is your freedom?” lead into a monstrous southern rock jam with a wild peak.
At this point in the show,The Mountain Winery found itself hosting one of the most mobile and dance-prone crowds in recent memory. While many folks remained seated, the proportion of those standing up to get down was exponentially higher than typical for the venue.
“We’re going to play one of the first songs we ever played as a band,” said then Haynes as he introduced the final song of the set, “Blind Man in the Dark”. Appearing on their 1998 sophomore studio album, Dose, the song stood out immediately with a huge intro. Hayne’s ability to harmonize with his slide guitar and wah pedal so perfectly almost made it sound like he was using a talkbox. Louis broke out the brass again, this time performing on the trombone.
The band was off stage for maybe two minutes before returning for a single song encore. Eliminating the final two songs of the written setlist, the band called an audible and covered Tom Waits‘ “Going Out West”
Gov’t Mule continues its end-of-summer run of shows with their next performance scheduled at the Britt Music & Arts Festival in Jacksonville, OR on Friday, August 30th.
Setlist: Gov’t Mule | The Mountain Winery | Saratoga, CA | 8/27/2019
Set: Railroad Boy (Traditional cover), Rocking Horse, Which Way Do We Run?, Pressure Under Fire, Devil Likes It Slow, Wine & Blood, Soulshine (Allman Brothers Band cover) > Banks of the Deep End, Revolution Come, Revolution Go, Traveling Tune, Forsaken Savoir, Unring the Bell, Endless Parade, Blind Man in the Dark
Encore: Goin’ Out West (Tom Waits cover)