Massachusetts Daily Collegian

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A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

New look Mules jam out the Hippodrome

Gov’t Mule



Feb. 20

SPRINGFIELD – Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. Gov’t Mule visited Springfield for the first time, took the stage at the Hippodrome for the first time, and played like they had well-worn footprints on the nightclub stage.

The old, Warren Haynes and Matt Abts, are the tireless and persistent musicians who have propelled a band beyond the tragic death in August 2000 of founding bassist Allen Woody.

The new, Andy Hess, stuck his foot in the revolving door that cycled through dozens of guest bass guitarists and was anointed this past fall to hold the permanent spot.

The borrowed, “Wild Horses,” an encore that closed out three hours of intensity with a spot of poignancy. And something blue seemed somewhere far beyond the venue. Three and one half years after losing Woody, Mule is not a band obsessed in the grief that loss brought. Instead, they are a band elating in the music he inspired and created.

With Allen Woody’s widow and daughter pressed close against the stage, packed in with the rest of the Mule aficionados and diehards, Warren Haynes put his heart on his strings and even broke one or two.

“Andy’s with us and he’s not going away,” keyboardist Danny Louis said a week before the concert.

Chosen in large part because of his ability to mesh with the three Mules (Louis, Abts, Haynes) who were searching for a fourth, Andy Hess had that “band thing,” Louis said.

And Friday was a testament to that, as Hess’ bass playing wandered in and out of Louis’ organs and keys, Abts skins and Haynes’ riffs. With time to get more and more comfortable with much what Mule has been playing, Hess appears more comfortable to extend on his own. Just over a year ago, the same bassist on tour was still finding his footing, but now has made the stage his own.

Mule had it all together on Friday as each member added his own facet to the show. Matt Abts continued in his way, drumming with fervor, propelling the band as a whole and providing an intensity that resonated throughout.

As has become his custom, Abts soloed towards the end of the second set, stealing the limelight from Haynes, who has made his name as one of the greatest guitarist still working.

But the strength of Gov’t Mule doesn’t lie in individuals except to the extent they work together. In knowing and telling glances, Haynes, Abts, Louis and Hess bounce off each other musically as they work around each other on stage.

Louis is showing his musical prowess more and more with Mule as well.

Either by intention or natural progression, the keyboards have become a more present force in the relentless tours. Straying from the typical and expected keys and organ, Louis distorts his sounds as much as any guitarist with an array of pedals. His ability resounds and stands out as a welcome addition to the band.

But one of the most compelling powers on stage was Hess, and to some of the audience he was the newest. Wrapped around the block during the cold pre-concert wait the chatter revolved around this newest mule and his ability. For those who had not seen him yet, Hess needed to prove that he deserved his spot on stage. The impossibility of replacing Allen Woody not withstanding,

Hess had to show that he could play with Haynes, Abts, Louis and the audience’s ears.

From “Thorazine Shuffle” to “Soulshine,” Hess rid Springfield of all those doubts. Still playing Woody’s songs, he has adapted his style to the rest of the band. More importantly, he flows seamlessly with the old trio.

Labeled “a night with Gov’t Mule,” The Hippodrome show was the first following an opening stint for Kid Rock.

And to further drive home that Gov’t Mule is moving forward – united and renewed – and not stopping, a new batik backdrop featuring a four-headed mule adorned the stage. The Mule has been reborn.

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