Whether on covers or his own songs, Gov’t Mule’s Warren Haynes hit all the right notes at Red Rocks on Sunday. Photos and text by Candace Horgan.
I worship guitarists in general, and have ever since I fell in love with rock ‘n’ roll after hearing Led Zeppelin when I was 10. However, there are guitarists and there is Warren Haynes, one of the hardest working artists in rock. The night after Haynes played with the Allman Brothers, he was back at Red Rocks to play with his band Gov’t Mule.
Haynes is a master of tone, and I could listen to to him play scales all night. However, Sunday’s show at Red Rocks proved an unwitting lesson in the importance of tone as it relates to a band’s ability to connect with the audience.
Umphrey’s McGee, a.k.a Phish Lite, opened the show, and they fared poorly compared to Haynes. Throughout their 90-minute set, every song seemed structured the same, starting with some reggae-style riffs, moving into heavy rock, then opening into a long jam that had no purpose other than to show that they could jam.
Whereas a good jam band like Gov’t Mule or the Grateful Dead jams to explore something interesting they’ve written, Umphrey’s McGee’s meandering, noodling jams seemed to exist just to show the crowd they were a jam band, rather than the fact that they were excited about what they were playing — and wanted to explore it more. Besides, they lacked tone. Most of their rhythms and leads were choppy, lacking sustain or any semblance of emotion.
Occasionally, Umphrey’s did capture something, as during the dual solos between guitarists Brendan Bayliss and Jake Cinninger during “The Bottom Half.” However, for the most part, the band had trouble connecting with the crowd.