Gov't Mule brought their Halloween Extravaganza from the East Coast to the East Bay last week and played our newly re-opened and fabulous Fox Theater in downtown Oakland. It was the Mule debut for my friend Wayne and he brought with him the guitarist from local rockers The Real Nasty. We knew we were in for something special (3 yearsago they covered Led Zep's "Houses of the Holy" record, then a Pink Floyd spectacular in 2008 and a bunch of Rolling Stones last year.) Who would it be this year?

Sonic Pleasures 2007

I'm not trying to be a hep music journalist here but since I do have friends that like to keep up vicariously with my music adventures, here are some the things I listened to this year... in no particular order:

Queens of the Stone Age - Era Vulgaris

Era Vulgaris is far and away my favorite record this year and I consider it to be at a level of genius on par with the Flaming Lips' Pink Robots album. Some might snark, especially old school Queens fans. My old friends who have gone a little soft are horrified. And even Joshe Homme, the Queens mastermind, would squirm at any hint of pretention.

So nothing kicks like the Mule. But they are too generous... sure we like getting treated to special guests like Phil Lesh and Greg Allman but for once, please give us an SF show w/out a Dead Set in the middle??

Thank you Warren and thank you Mr. Abst! And you other lads too. We are glad to see that you are a true band again. And we sure like some of those new songs... "About To Rage" hits the spot. "Devil Likes It Slow" was another smasher, but the tonite's keeper is "I'm So Tired" from the Beatles' White Album. I think we'll have to hear it again to believe it, but best I can recollect it was on the money.

The show was November 10, 2004 at the Fillmore in San Francisco. I downloaded a sanctioned soundboard souvenir from MuleTracks and should report that the soundboard quality is stupendous. I think I'll buy the download for the following night too!

It's Friday night at the Warfield in SF and we have the tip. Expect something Deadish to happen. Please not! Tonite is exactly Gov't Mule Gig #1000. I really NEED my Mule and I'm looking forward to checking out the newly decided Mule 3.0. And that's what we get for the first set. They wasted no time... the opening Blind Man really showed us how Danny Louis can play with Warren. Matt Abst was his usual brilliant self. Andy Hess can certainly play with these guys too but he's far less in front than lost muler Allen Woody and some of the 2.0 revolving cast, such as Les Claypool.

Anyway, we take in a solid 70-minute set from the second downstairs tier. Intermission and we charge up front. Very front. Very smart. Who emerges, back to the audience, to twiddle w/ a bass rig on stage left for 20 minutes? Mister Phil Lesh, of course. A second drumset is assembled. Bob Weir is racing around backstage. Duh.

Now let me be clear... I love my Dead (w/ Jerry, that is) but as mentioned prior I NEED my Mule and I want it straight. Not too grudgingly we settle in up there and enjoy the ensuing 82-minute debut set of [upcoming summer 2004] The Dead. Minus Jimmy Herring. So Billy and Mickey and Phil and Bob and Warren and I suppose it was Chimenti. (tough angle!)

The drummers' coffee didn't kick in immediately but Phil dropped bombs and Weir really let Warren Haynes take command. It was his show after all. I should mention the "Sugaree" really smoked. Lesh was like a little kid... Warren kept trying to shake off "The Other One" but Phil kept insisting. Lesh got his way after an embarrassingly bad "Cryptical". Good god. "Viola Lee Blues" had it's moments, klunked a little too. "Lovelight" closed the set convincingly.

Hope everybody has a good time on Dead tour this summer but this was the only set I will require. Back to Mule. They played on for another hour with some hard bop and hard blues.

Here's the setlist:

1st Set: Drums > Drums/Bass > Drums/Bass/Keys > Blind Man In The Dark > Game Face > Birth Of The Mule ^> Slow Happy Boys, Fool's Moon, Bad Little Doggie > How Many More Years > Higher Ground > How Many More Years, One, Sco-Mule, When Doves Cry > Beautifully Broken > When Doves Cry > Beautifully Broken > Thorazine Shuffle

2nd Set(Dead Set): jam (1)> Lay Of The Sunflower (1)> Cryptical Envelopment (2)> The Other One (2)> Wang Dang Doodle (2)> The Other One (2)> Sugaree (2), Viola Lee Blues (2)(3)> Turn On Your Lovelight (2)(3)

3rd Set (back to Mule): John The Revelator (4)*> 32-20 Blues (4)> Drums (4)> jam (4)> 32-20 Blues (4)> Fiyo On The Bayou (4)+> 32-20 Blues (4), Keyboard intro > Fallen Down (4), Mule > Third Stone jam > MuleEncore: Keyboard intro > SoulshineSetlist

Notes: ^ contains Eleanor Rigby tease; (1) Phil Lesh on bass, no Andy; (2) Phil Lesh on bass, Bob Weir on guitar, Jeff Chementi on keyboards, Bill Kreutzman and Mickey Hart on drums, no Andy, Danny or Matt; (3) Matt & Danny return to the stage; * Danny on trumpet; (4) Zigaboo Modeliste on drums; + first time played