Gov’t Mule singer-guitarist Warren Haynes might be as excited about the upcoming Peacemaker Music and Arts Festival as anyone.
Set to take place July 28-29 at Harry E. Kelley Park, 121 Riverfront Drive, the third-annual, all-ages festival will feature performances by Gov’t Mule, Jamey Johnson, Hayes Carll, North Mississippi Allstars, Andy Frasco & the U.N., Natalie Stovall, Greyounds and Split Lip Rayfield. Gov’t Mule will take the stage with a “surprising, wide-range set list” the evening of July 29 to appease fans and reel in future followers, Haynes said.
“I think it’s going to be a blast,” he said of the Peacemaker event during a recent telephone interview. “Usually at a festival, we try to give an audience everything, starting from our beginning up to our current (music). We are very much looking forward to it.
“And every set list that we do is different; we usually don’t know until the day before — sometimes it’s the day of the show — what we will play,” Haynes added. “The only thing I can say for sure is, we are playing some songs from the new record.”
Released June 9 on the Fantasy Records label, “Revolution Come ... Revolution Go” is Gov’t Mule’s 10th studio album, which Haynes calls “something of an achievement” for the group, which also includes drummer Matt Abts, bassist Jorgen Carlsson and keyboardist-guitarist Danny Louis. So far, Gov’t Mule has performed six of the new album’s 12 songs during recent concerts.
“I like all of the new songs for different reasons,” Haynes said. “The new songs we play the most are ‘Stone Cold Rage,’ ′ Sarah, Surrender’ and ‘Revolution Come, Revolution Go.’ Eventually, we will play everything from the new record.”
For all of the members of Gov’t Mule, musical improvisation on the stage is a must for every gig, he said. Leaving enough room to ad lib during some musical passages makes it intriguing for both the band and fans, Haynes said.
“Improv is the lifeblood of our music,” said Haynes, who has performed previously as a solo artist and with various groups in Fort Smith over the years. “Even the songs that are a bit more structured rely on improv on our end. No one is really sticking to a part to play, because the playing is more like a conversation. It’s a jazz approach to rock music. That’s what our sound is based on, really.”
Gov’t Mule’s refusal to adhere to strict musical arrangements will be among the highlights at the Peacemaker Music and Arts Festival, said Jeff Gosey, president and director for the festival.
“Ticket sales are brisk, and we couldn’t be happier to have quality acts like Gov’t Mule and Jamey Johnson coming to Fort Smith to play the Peacemaker Festival,” he said. “Mule is one of the top Southern-rock acts touring today, and Warren Haynes is just a beast of a guitarist.”
Prior to forming Gov’t Mule with Abts and original bassist Allen Woody in 1994, Haynes performed as a member of the Allman Brothers Band. The recent deaths of Allman Brothers Band members Gregg Allman and Butch Trucks still are emotionally painful for Haynes and his Gov’t Mule compatriots.
“The last five or six months have been hard; it’s been a tough time,” Haynes said before a long pause. “These guys are people I went around the world with and shared life with.
“There’s quite a bond that happens when you tour together for years and years; I was in the Allman Brothers for 25 years, and it’s hard to imagine that my tenure lasted that long,” he added. “More importantly, the music world has lost a lot of great voices and artists recently. That is tough on all of us.”
Unfortunately, the members of Gov’t Mule are no strangers to death. Woody died at age 44 on Aug. 26, 2000, in New York. To honor Woody’s legacy and life, Gov’t Mule recorded “The Deep End Volume 1” and “The Deep End Volume 2″ albums with guests bassists such as Flea, Jack Bruce, Larry Graham, Tony Levin, Jack Casady, Bootsy Collins, Deep Purple’s Roger Glover, The Who’s John Entwistle and Grateful Dead’s Phil Lesh.
Taking place in 2001, these recording sessions were documented in Mike Gordon’s acclaimed film “Rising Low.” Making the film and the two “Deep End” albums was the only way Gov’t Mule could pay proper respect to Woody, who also played for eight years in the Allman Brothers Band, and not “rush into” finding a replacement bassist, Haynes said.
“At that time, we weren’t sure we could move forward and move on,” he said. “It took a lot of time and a lot of encouragement from (the bassists) involved in the ‘Rising Low’ film to help us continue.
“Walking into the studio every day and having a different legendary bass player standing where Woody once stood was extremely bittersweet,” Haynes added. “On one level, it was hard for us to muster up the courage to carry on, but then again, we were able to play with Woody’s musical heroes. It was a pretty blurry time period, but we were surprisingly focused on the music, and a lot of wonderful music was made.”
Following Woody’s death, Gordon, Andy Hess, Dave Schools, George Porter Jr. and Les Claypool all took turns subbing on bass in Gov’t Mule. Carlsson joined Gov’t Mule in 2008 and became the group’s permanent bassist, adding to Gov’t Mule’s ability to write and perform complex music.
“I’d say the most technically difficult song for me is ‘Kind of Bird,’ an instrumental song me and Dickey Betts wrote for the Allman Brothers,” Haynes said. “It was a tribute to Charlie Parker, and it was a pretty complex piece of music.”
Haynes then laughed.
“At one point, the Allman Brothers stopped playing it, because some of the members had forgotten the song and wondered if it would be worth it to re-learn and remember the song,” he said before laughing again.
When asked what he wants Gov’t Mule to be remembered for in 200 years, Haynes immediately responded.
“I’d like for us to be remembered for making music that was hard to categorize — a group that combined jazz, blues, folk music, psychedelic music and rock music,” he said. “I’d like for us to be remembered for being a unique rock and roll band that made music that was hard to categorize.”
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