Govt. Mule or moe.?

By Andrew Gilhooley / 411

When two top rock bands go on tour together, how do they decide who takes the prestigious headline slot?  For moe. and Gov’t Mule, currently embarking on a West Coast tour, the solution is simple – they trade places each night.  In fact, the whole tour came about as the result of needing to decide who would headline a show at Red Rocks in July.  The bands decided that it would be a good publicity stunt to decide the running order by tossing a coin on a live radio show. Given the two bands’ history of collaboration, a joint tour seemed like a natural progression.

The tour stops off at the Catalyst in Santa Cruz on Thursday, and if you go to the show you can expect to enjoy a double-bill of jam-band rock in the vein of Phish, Steely Dan and the Grateful Dead.  For those unfamiliar with moe. and Gov’t Mule, here’s a brief rundown of both bands:

moe. was formed in 1991 in Buffalo, NY, and takes its name from the Louis Jordan song “Five Guys Named Moe.”  During the past 14 years, the band has established a firm nationwide fan base with hardcore fans following the group around on its tours.  “It’s not like some other band took a vacation or its tour ended, so those fans say ‘Well, what do we do?  Let’s jump on the moe. tour!’” said guitarist Al Schnier.  “We have a very dedicated fan base that’s in it for the long haul, that’s in it for the music.”

Indeed, the fans seem to have a ravenous appetite for moe.’s material.  The band’s website lists no less than 20 recordings for sale, including numerous live albums showcasing the band’s improvisations.  The band also hosts several large scale live shows each year, including the moe.down festival on Labor Day weekend, and New Year’s Eve and Halloween shows.  For the latter, each year the band dresses up in themed costumes and plays a unique set.  Past shows have included Pink Floyd and Metallica tributes.

Gov’t Mule was formed in 1994 by Warren Haynes and Allen Woody, two members of the Allman Brothers Band.    Together with drummer Matt Abts, they formed a power trio in the vein of 60s supergroup Cream.  Initially a side project, the band took on a real life of its own following the 1995 release of its self-titled debut album, and Haynes and Woody soon quit the Allman Brothers Band to pursue Gov’t Mule full-time.  The band released two live albums and one studio album in the following five years and was about to begin recording another when bassist Woody unexpectedly died of a heart attack.  The band carried on with the recording project using guest bassists, but did not embark on a major tour for several years.  Now the band as a full-time bassist again in the shape of Andy Hess and has expanded to a quartet with keyboard player Danny Louis.

Gov’t Mule and moe. have worked together since 1999, when they were on the Summer Session Tour.  “We hit it off immediately, both personally and musically,” said Warren Haynes.  “I think that the West Coast is long overdue for a tour like this,” added moe.’s Rob Derhak.  “Audiences can expect to experience jamming rock-n-roll the like of which has never been seen or heard before.”

First published in "411", The Salinas Californian, October 20, 2005

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