Gov't Mule and Powder in Vail, Colorado
April 10, 2008
Not many rock bands sing about antipsychotic drugs, but Gov't Mule closed their show Thursday night with the Thorazine Shuffle. It seemed appropriate, too, because it had been snowing most of the day in Vail, had continued snowing through the evening and was expected to snow all night which was leading the skiers in the crowd (since it was Vail, there might have been one or two besides the Mollusk and me) to start to go a little crazy with powder anticipation. The catchy, driving bass line was enough to inspire some non-stop ski runs of a couple thousand vertical feet the next day.
When it became apparent several weeks ago that the Mule's only Colorado show for the foreseeable future was going to be Vail on a Thursday night during ski season, a pretty obvious plan exploded inside my brain: Ski/Mule (i.e. drive to Vail the afternoon of the show, dig the concert, stay overnight, dig the powder). The major winter storm on Thursday and Friday was the powder bonus.
The concert was in Vail's ice arena with standing room on the floor and a few bench seats on the side which gave the whole scene a real party atmosphere. Warren Haynes and his sidekicks once again played two 75 minute sets filled with interesting Mule originals mixed in with their own interpretations of blues and rock standards. The skiing was similar with the Mollusk and I spending a fair bit of the day in the relatively new Blue Sky Basin for run after run of unbroken or lightly-tracked knee deep powder. We mixed in a couple of old favorites on the front side with the highlight there being the last run of the day down Prima with steep powdery bumps followed by a long stretch of lower angle, barely tracked powder that had fallen during the day.
Highlights of the Mule covers included a great version of the blues standard "Feel Like Breakin' Up Somebody's Home." They threw in Robert Johnson's "32-20 Blues" and the Dead's "Sugaree." Another surprise included some instrumental quotes from Gershwin's "It Ain't Necessarily So" with keyboard player Danny Louis playing trumpet.
Our accommodations were midway between the arena and the Vista Bahn Chairlift making for easy access to the mountain on Friday morning. Two quick lift rides put us at the summit and with a short traverse we were floating down the Sun Up Bowl in knee deep powder on our way to Tea Cup Bowl, then Blue Sky Basin.
Gov't Mule continues to put together one unique show after another. At one point I had to wonder how many songs Warren Haynes knows. The Mollusk's guess: "All of them." I think that's pretty close to the right answer. Thursday night they started with the reggae/political tune "Unring the Bell" and ended that set with the driving "I'm a Ram." (For CSU fans? Probably not.) About a third of the second set came from the 2006 album Mr. High and Mighty (the title tune plus "Brand New Angel," "Streamline Woman" and "Brighter Days"). All these featured Haynes' blistering guitar licks, leaving no doubt that this is serious rock and roll. The encore, "Slackjaw Jezebel" had yet another searing guitar run that continued to burn in my brain long after leaving the concert. The lyrics describe a recurring theme from Haynes' songs: the woman that he falls for is just no good for him. (Hear, also, "Brand New Angel" and "Beautifully Broken.") Fortunately, this powder skiing stuff is just nothing but good, good, good (except maybe for the expense; and the hassle to get to the area in a snowstorm; and the time off work; and the time away from the family. Hey, wait a minute....