There are oodles of noodles in the jam scene. Any slackjawed session player with a goofball grin can nail a 40-minute solo to wildly animated applause. Eventually, eventually-eventually-the natty-haired doofus will reach that big climax and pause, eyes closed and head tilted to the sky for dramatic effect, as the entire band disappears up their own ass.
There are many of these sorts, tucked away in towns with a high drug trade and low expectations, and they're all too willing to travel. But there's only a few that can make such displays of virtuosity interesting.
This glut is exactly why Gov't Mule is so esteemed. Even in some of his most heavy-handed moments, Warren Haynes' stories feel like revelations.
"It doesn't matter if it's about a personal relationship or a political statement-you've got to have something to say if you want to be successful at music," Haynes says. "And I've never had a shortage of things to say."
The dark, psychological weight that marks Haynes' music-low-down lyrics, sad-eyed blues riffs-sneaks out when he talks. He can be a cheerful North Carolina boy with a plantation drawl and a laugh, but he can also relay some heady thoughts beyond guitar structures.
With the rollicking confidence of High & Mighty, released in August, Haynes is finding that those thoughts have turned to politics.
"When we started to write this album, I really felt like right now is the time to talk about what is going on in the world," he says. "It weighs on me. Politics should be weighing on all of us, regardless of what side you're on. These are trying times."
Haynes has seen some trying times of his own.
Industry pillars like Rolling Stone-which ranked him among the 25 greatest guitarists of all time-have been hailing his first coming since the '90s. When Haynes joined the Allman Brothers in 1989, he met bassist Allen Woody. The two hit it off with their affinity for psychedelic, visceral blues-rock, and with the help of drummer Matt Abts, Gov't Mule debuted a self-titled album in 1995.
The album's enthusiastic reception prompted Haynes and Woody to leave the Allman fold. But it wouldn't be long before Woody was found dead in a New York City hotel room.
"We had this chemistry that you couldn't explain," Haynes sighs. "You feel like you're never going to get that back, but you do. You work at it, but you find it eventually."
Gov't Mule found their chemistry again in 2004 with new bassist Andy Hess and keyboardist Danny Louis, striking back out on the road and recording tirelessly.
"When Allen died, we knew that we had to open a new chapter," Haynes says. "Unfortunately, I've known a lot of people in this kind of predicament, and most people acknowledge that you can't chase the chemistry that is gone. You just make your own. It deserves its own natural progression, and Andy and Danny bring that to the table."
For a band that is revered for its live show, that connection is essential. Mule recorded High & Mighty with a live set-up, trying to capture the energy that's made them famous on stage. Still, Haynes says, it's just not the same.
"In a studio, you get a second, third, fourth chance to do it again and the technology gives you options that you don't have live, in the moment. An audience gives you that energy that you can't get in the studio. On a magical night with a great audience, you're capable of things beyond yourself."
Gov't Mule plays with Donavan Frankenreiter
at SDSU's Open Air Theatre on Oct. 7. $27.
Doors open at 7:30 p.m. 619-220-8497.