Gov’t Mule’s Dark Side of the Mule tour hits Kemba Live (outdoors) on Wednesday, July 26. Doors open at 6:30pm. Seating in the general admission pit is sold out but general admission lawn tickets are still available.
What started off as just a fun thing to do for a Halloween show has turned into something that Gov’t Mule is now known for. The Warren Haynes-led band does a killer set of Pink Floyd covers that, while remaining true to the original source material, infuses a Southern Rock spirit into the timeless classic rock songs. With a decent catalog of original material in their arsenal, including 2021’s Heavy Load Blues and 2023’s Peace … Like a River, Gov’t Mule has decided to put Dark Side of the Mule to rest with a final run of dates this summer. As Haynes told me during a recent conversation, this doesn’t mean you’ll never hear the band covering Pink Floyd again, but the songs will be dropped into sets rather than the focus.
The following is an excerpt from my interview with Haynes. If you want to watch the entire thing, which discusses way more than Pink Floyd, scroll to the bottom of this feature.
Did I read correctly that this summer run of Dark Side of the Mule dates will be the last time you specifically do a set of Pink Floyd songs as part of your show?
WARREN: Yes. We had kind of decided that we weren’t going to do it anymore. And then somebody reminded us that this is the 50th anniversary of Dark Side of the Moon. And we thought, “Okay, let’s do it one final time.” It’s a blast. We love doing it, but it never was intended to be something that we did a lot. It started out as something to do on Halloween in 2008 because every Halloween we do a special thematic show where we give ourselves permission to do another band or artist material.
We’ve done albums like Who’s Next?, Led Zeppelin, Houses of the Holy. We’ve done 90 minutes of Hendrix. We’ve done 2 hours of Neil Young. We’ve done Black Sabbath Paranoid. We’ve done all sorts of stuff.
We decided in 2008 to do a Pink Floyd show. And the audience really latched onto it and kind of demanded for us to do it more. So we released the recording, which we weren’t intending to do, and it just kind of turned into a thing organically, which is probably the best way.
It’s so interesting to me how well your style of music works playing that music. It sounds so natural and good and almost like you wrote it.
WARREN: Well, for us, we’re kind of finding a balance between interpreting it our way and paying homage to the original versions. So on a song by song basis, we kind of reanalyze that concept. Some of them we take a little further toward the way we would do it, and some of them we kind of leave alone. But we have so much reverence for that music that we don’t want to take it too far away.
There are absolutely days where I will proclaim that “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” is the best song ever written.
WARREN: If I had to choose, it would definitely be a contender. It’s a fantastic song.
Jason Bonham is doing a lot of these dates with you and doing his Led Zeppelin Evening (NOTE: Bonham is NOT on the Columbus bill). That’s going to be a great night of music for those who get to see it.
WARREN: It’s fantastic. He has a really great band. And then we do a set of Gov’t Mule songs that kind of transitions into Dark Side. For people that don’t know, Dark Side of the Mule is not just Dark Side of the Moon, it’s other Pink Floyd stuff, too. And we don’t play every song from Dark Side. We play stuff from Wish You Were Here and Animals and even some of the early stuff sometimes.
How difficult is it for you to tour these days due to the cost of everything going up?
WARREN: When people complain and bitch about inflation, the music business got hit really hard. Hotels are more expensive. Buses are more expensive, fuel is more expensive. And sometimes we’ll travel eight or 10 hours after the show. We have two buses and two semi trucks. That’s a lot of fuel for the cost to be doubled as a major expense. And we try to not pass that expense along to the ticket buyer. So it is a challenge, but there are ways of dealing with it. But it is a complaint for sure.
Would you say you’re road dogs more than a studio band?
WARREN: Well, I really enjoy making studio records. If I had to choose, I would choose live performance, but thankfully, I don’t have to choose. What we’re trying to capture in the studio is what we know we can do on stage. And it’s thankfully due to having an audience that not only gives you this amazing energy, but encourages us to kind of go off the cliff a little bit. Our crowd loves it when we experiment, when we improvise, when we don’t know where we’re going to wind up. We’re fortunate to have an audience that loves that, and we’re not scared of making mistakes because our audience kind of embraces that. So it’s a wonderful thing.
You professionally record all your live shows and make them available for fans to purchase almost right after the show is done.
WARREN: From the very beginning, 1994, when we started Gov’t Mule, we allowed tapers to come in and record the shows as long as they didn’t make any money off of them. We encourage them to tape and trade the tapes. And I guess around 2004 we started a thing called Mule Tracks, which is our recording of the shows, which are very high quality and we make them available to the public. So even our worst nights are available along with our best nights. But we’re kind of used to that after all these years.
And that’s got to be a decent source of income for you.
WARREN: Yeah, the downloads and the streaming are quite a source of income for us. We’re into millions of downloads through the years, and the only reason it’s successful is because we do a different show every night. If it was the same show night after night after night, nobody would have any reason to want it. We take a lot of time and effort to make sure that they sound really good.