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Belying their name 

At home in the digital age, Gov't Mule reproduce like crazy

click to enlarge Govt Mule: Pick up a bootleg today.
  • Govt Mule: Pick up a bootleg today.

There are plenty of contemporary bands one would associate with being technologically advanced. Perhaps the electronic gadgetry of Radiohead or the progressive sounds of U2 come to mind. But Gov't Mule?

The blues-rock-based, Southern-rock-influenced band is following in the footsteps of a few other acts most notably Pearl Jam by posting live concert recordings on their Web site (muletracks.com) for fans to purchase literally hours after the house lights come on.

"We're shooting for, I think, 72 hours," says singer/guitarist/songwriter Warren Haynes, calling from his home in New York City. "They are extremely high-quality and, in most cases, almost on par with a live album. It's a little scary from the band standpoint, because your great nights are up there along with your bad nights. But we're a band that's OK with that."

For groups with loyal and large followings, the lucrative financial decision also affords the band control over its bootleg concert market. Haynes who also is a member of the Allman Brothers Band says that while Gov't Mule still allows fans to tape and trade concerts, there's no beating the soundboard recording from each show.

Naturally, the venture requires a financial commitment from the band, including start-up costs and payment of a full-time engineer to clean up the recordings. But to date, fans have downloaded more than 35,000 shows at $9.95 each. (Imagine if the Grateful Dead could have employed this technique during their heyday.)

Such a notion begets the question of why other bands or acts don't offer their fans the same opportunity.

"If your sole mission as a live band is to recreate your records, then there's not really a point in putting yourself out there," Haynes says. "But [for] bands that improvise and play a different set list all the time, it makes sense."

Still, even Gov't Mule has found a downside to the Internet. In the past, the band would road-test material for months or even years before putting it on an album. But with the Allmans' Hittin' the Note album in 2003, Haynes witnessed fans being too familiar from Web downloads with previously unreleased songs. With that in mind, Gov't Mule kept the songs from 2004's Deja Voodoo and the brand-new High & Mighty on the down-low until the albums' releases.

"I think not only does that keep you from having the proper amount of impact that the album should have on its release, but also, people kind of get used to a version before the studio record comes out," Haynes says. "Once you're used to a certain version, that becomes your favorite version, so you're not really giving the studio version a chance."

On High & Mighty, the band further explores its rock, soul, blues, jazz and folk foundations with standout tracks "Brand New Angel" and "Child of the Earth."

Twelve years after Gov't Mule began, and six years after the death of co-founder Allen Woody, they thrive under the mainstream radar. Haynes, despite being busy with two bands, says he can't complain.

"It's a cool situation," Haynes says. "It's a lot of work, but it's what I love to do."


capsule

Gov't Mule, with Yonder Mountain String Band and Jackie Green

Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 18300 W. Alameda Pkwy., Morrison

Saturday, Sept. 2, 5 p.m.

Tickets: $40-$45; call 520-9090 or visit ticketmaster.com.

  • At home in the digital age, Gov't Mule reproduce like crazy

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