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Gov’t Mule, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Cleveland, OH- 6/20

Those who stepped into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's Fourth Floor Theater received a surprise. Billed as a discussion and performance plus an autograph signing with Warren Haynes, it turned out that he'd have some company in Cleveland, his bandmates in Gov't Mule.

Armed with a two-inch stack of index cards scrawled with questions from the nearly 180 people attendance who filled up the small theater, Warren Zanes, the Rock Hall's Vice President of Education, mixed lighthearted and serious queries over the next 35 minutes.

At this early point of the evening, the democratic nature of who answered the questions gave the laidback and intimate atmosphere an added layer of quality. Haynes was, understandably, the focus but the spreading around of answers to Matt Abts, Danny Louis and Andy Hess offered not only further insight to their background but a sense of the camaraderie of the Mule that's shown during a performance. No one was left out; all worked together.

During this time we learned that one of the strangest items the band's ever received was a pair of wooden clogs from a fan in Holland. Abts ended up with the short straw and wore them. Later, at the autograph session that scenario was topped by someone who removed his artificial leg in order to have the four members sign it.

Later, the subject of gifts among band members came up.

"It's funny 'cause when holidays come up and we buy each other gifts we try to out guess what the other guy might not have and try to expose the other guy to something that we might know that they don't know," said Louis. "More often than not it's, 'Oh I got that.' But, every once in a while…"

Hess added, "It's pretty daunting getting a gift for Warren, a CD. He has so many records. I actually got you that one Wes Montgomery."

"Yeah, I didn't have that," said Haynes, who months later still sounded a little amazed.

"I felt really super great," said Hess.

Directing their attention to what music of the past has created the players of today, Louis acknowledged some of his favorite players on the B3 organ(Steve Winwood, Greg Rolie, Jon Lord) and Wurlitzer (Donny Hathaway and Marvin Gaye).

Haynes elaborated on how he developed his instrumental approach. "All my favorite guitar players either are also singers or sound like they're singing through their instruments. I think any instrumentalist can only benefit from being a singer even if you don't sing in front of an audience or at the very least from listening to singers because a lot of the greatest phrasing that any instrumentalist can utilize is phrasing that we hear people utilizing with the human voice. The human voice is the greatest instrument of all. Most other instruments are trying to in some way emulate that.

"When you take it all the way back, it was drums and vocal. That's where things started out. All my favorite musicians have a singing like quality. Example being B.B. King or Carlos Santana, he has a great singing like quality. John Coltrane. Anybody you can cite as being a good soloist for the most part, they're kind of singing through their instrument so, musicians benefit from listening to instruments other than their own.

"I listen to a lot of horn players. I also listen to a lot of singers. But I don't listen to a lot of guitar players. I did when I first started. But whenever you listen to other instruments, you're bound to learn something that changes your playing for the better."

Haynes admitted that he was too shy to jam with King. The opportunity came up shortly after he joined the Allman Brothers. Following ABB's set the blues legend motioned towards the side of the stage where he and Gregg Allman were standing to come up and play. He thought King would have wondered "who's that guy coming up here." It's something he still regrets and won't pass if given the chance again.

In the case of Hess, he seems to be finding a comfortable spot in filling in the role of the late Allen Woody. He's been studying Woody's contribution to the music while attempting to put his own personal stamp on the proceedings.

It turns out that Hess occasionally acts as DJ on the tour bus. Although it's not surprising to find out that blues acts receive a lot of spins on the Muletrain traveling across North America, the other three overrule him when it comes to their affection for Jethro Tull.

When the topic of favorite song came up only Haynes jumped at the chance. "The End' by the Beatles," he quickly stated.

With Bonnaroo happening a week earlier than the Rock Hall event, its memory was fresh on people's minds. Haynes's answer about its presence in the music world linked it to the High Sierra and Wakarusa festivals and the positives for bands and fans.

"Pretty much anybody that comes to those festivals is the type of music fan that's going to seek out good music as opposed to people that just turn on MTV or whatever on the radio. It's a fan that's more about taking music seriously and doing what they have to to discover it. All these bands play that type of music and these festivals cater to that. It's a win/win situation for everybody."

Enough talk. It was time for what the Mule do best. With Warren on acoustic guitar, a very toned down 40-minute set gave us "Wine & Blood," "Fallen," "Beautifully Broken," "Into the Mystic" and "Soulshine."

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