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Gov’t Mule shines through the rain

Neither cold weather nor rain could keep the crowd of nearly 1,000 away from Jannus Landing Wednesday night. The elements didn’t impede the performance of the night’s headliner, Gov’t Mule either. Warren Haynes (lead guitar, lead vocals) and company easily lived up to their reputation as one of the loudest – when you stood in the port-o-pot it felt like someone was trying to tip it over – and most inspired acts touring these days.

Haynes, who is also a member of the Allman Brothers Band, refused to let the wet climate sour his performance.

“The fact that the crowd was into it pulls us into it,” said Haynes, while lounging after the concert in his tour bus. “I was really psyched that everybody stayed. Seeing the audience out in the rain enjoying themselves really makes us feel good about what we’re doing.”

Haynes rewarded the Gov’t Mule faithful with a blistering two-hour set of searing blues licks, crunching rock chords, jazz interludes (complete with standup bass) and a country ballad titled “Lay of the Sunflower,” that featured opening act Steve Kimock on guitar and lap steel.

Like the band’s elder cousins, the Allman Brothers, Gov’t Mule knows how to work a crowd into a frenzy with stop-and-go bursts of sonic booms, interspersed with perhaps a gentle keyboard solo, then a full-on six-string assault courtesy of Haynes before easing back into a deep, steady groove. Their music ebbs and flows like the tide of a rough northern sea, with buzzsaw riffs and driving back-beats that pull a crowd in like a dangerously strong undertow.

After leading his band through an electrifying set, Haynes then stood for 30-minutes plus in front of his tour bus in the drizzling rain to sign autographs.

“That’s the nicest man alive … I wouldn’t have the patience,” said David Schools, Mule’s bassist and also a member of Widespread Panic. Schools is the replacement for the recently deceased Allen Woody (who was also a member of the Allman Brothers).

“When Woody died, Matt (Abts, drummer) and I were convinced that was the end of Gov’t Mule,” said Haynes. “But then people from the Allman Brothers, Blues Traveler, Grateful Dead and Metallica – all groups who’ve lost band members – told us we needed to move forward. One day it dawned on me that if it wasn’t for the Allman Brothers carrying on (after the deaths of Duane Allman and Barry Oakley), Woody and I would have never gotten our opportunity to play with them.”

Haynes hails from Asheville, N.C., the place where he built his reputation as roots-rock guitarist and soul singer. His stirring performances caught the attention of country legend David Allan Coe -the outlaw/biker crowd hero with whom Haynes would play guitar beside during much of the 1980s.

“I could write 14 books about touring with (Coe) … it was the craziest, most colorful adventure in my life,” said Haynes with a chuckle. “That gig definitely prepared me for a lot of different things.”

Haynes’ wild apprenticeship with Coe landed him a gig with Dickey Betts’ solo outfit, and then with the Allman Brothers, a band that Haynes grew up idolizing. Along with playing some mean slide and lead guitar for the Brothers, Haynes also contributes to the songwriting process with cuts such as “Soulshine,” a highlight of the Allman’s critically acclaimed, live 2nd Set disc from 1992.

“I was honored to hear Gregg sing it … I grew up such a huge fan,” said Haynes. David Allan Coe, with whom the ubiquitous Haynes still plays and records with occasionally also performs “Soulshine” regularly.

“I love to hear it interpreted differently by different people,” said Haynes.

As the rain rolled off the tarp above the stage and soaked those not blessed to be under its protection, Haynes and his three loyal band mates stepped back on stage to perform the classic piece of advice Haynes’ father told the aspiring musician:”When those candle lights of home / Burn so very far away / Well you got to let your soul shine,” cried Haynes. “He used to say soul shine / It’s better than sunshine / It’s better than moonshine / Damn sure better than rain.”

Drops of water soaked the elated crowd of aging hippies, preps, bikers, longhairs and students as they swayed, danced and cheered in unison.

The Legendary Red Dog (Joseph Campbell), 30 year roadie for the Allman Brothers and a man who has watched everyone from Jimi Hendrix to the Grateful Dead perform from backstage, offered a wide, hound-dog grin as Haynes took his final bow.

“Warren played his a- off tonight,” said Red Dog. “He was smoking.”