Twenty-five years…. By the time you see and hear the performances from these two shows, Gov’t Mule will have celebrated 25 years as a band -- something we never could have imagined. It’s no easy task keeping a band together for 25 years. You don’t get to do that without having built, nurtured, depended on, tested, damaged, and rebuilt important relationships. In fact, with any band that’s stayed around that long, it’s all about relationships. When we made the decision to document where the band is currently (musically speaking), it immediately occurred to us that this would be, among other things, a celebration of a lot of those relationships -- starting with the one between the four of us.
The title, Bring On The Music, is obviously taken from the song of the same name that deals not only with loss and the passing of time, but also with our relationship with our audience as well. The same applies to “Traveling Tune,” which opens and closes the main program of the film. Without our audience, there would be no chance or reason for us to be around 25 years later.
It was also obvious that we wanted to film and record at the Capitol Theatre in Port Chester, New York, which is one of our favorite venues. Since its re-opening in 2012, myself and Gov’t Mule (together and separately) have played there many times and have had many magical shows there. To quote Jerry Garcia, “There’s only two theaters, man…. The Fillmore and the Capitol Theatre.”
Bringing in Danny Clinch to direct the film was a somewhat obvious choice as well. Having watched each other’s careers grow in ways that included twists and turns neither of us could have predicted, our relationship pre-dates the formation of Gov’t Mule. On his path toward becoming the “go to” photographer and film director for so many artists in the world of music, Danny would shoot the photos for many Gov’t Mule records throughout our career, going back to our debut album, for which he shot all the photos including the front and back covers. The band shot we chose for the back cover was the “Polaroid” of the first picture he ever took of the original trio, at Bearsville Studios in Woodstock. It was literally the very first photo taken in what turned out to be an 8-hour shoot. As I imagine most of you reading this know, the front cover of Gov’t Mule features the image of a mule draped in an American flag surrounded by trees. Most people I’ve talked with about it assume it was some sort of collage or illustration. No. Danny Clinch rented a mule and dragged it into Central Park in the heart of New York City to get that iconic shot. When we showed all the photos to Gregg Allman, he pointed at that one and said, “There’s your cover.”
Relationships…. It’s also important to point out the people that helped keep Gov’t Mule alive; people like Chuck Leavell, Oteil Burbridge, Dave Schools, Rob Barraco, Mike Gordon, Les Claypool, Jason Newsted, George Porter Jr., Greg Rzab, Audley Freed, Karl Denson and Andy Hess -- all who came on the road with us at a time when we weren’t sure if we could continue. Andy, of course, went on to join the band from 2003 to 2008, bringing his own personality to the music.
Music…. The thing that’s helped us, individually and collectively, get through the inevitable hard times. The thing that’s driven every decision we’ve made as a band since our inception in 1994. The thing that’s ever-elusive but worth chasing for 25 years (and beyond), and that we’re all lucky to have as such a big part of our lives. The thing that’s connected all of us, everyone aforementioned, including the audience, and continues to grow like -- and along with -- the “circle" that’s been here since long before any of us and will be here long after we’re gone that will hopefully inspire and influence musicians, bands, and artists for the future the way we were all inspired and influenced by what came before.
So, bring it on! Everything’s gonna be all right.
Keller Williams released his first album in 1994, FREEK, and has since given each of his albums a single syllable title: BUZZ, SPUN, BREATHE, LOOP, LAUGH, HOME, DANCE, STAGE, GRASS, DREAM, TWELVE, LIVE, ODD, THIEF, KIDS, BASS, PICK, FUNK, VAPE, SYNC and RAW, , those who have followed his career will know this. Each title serves as a concise summation of the concept guiding each project. GRASS, for example, is a bluegrass recording cut with the husband-wife duo The Keels. STAGE is a live album and DREAM is the realization of Keller’s wish to collaborate with some of his musical heroes. THIEF is a set of unexpected cover songs, KIDS offers Keller’s first children’s record, PICK presents Keller’s collaboration with royal bluegrass family The Travelin’ McCoury’s, and RAW is a solo acoustic album. Each album showcases Keller’s comprehensive and diverse musical endeavors and functions to provide another piece of the jigsaw puzzle that is Keller Williams. Keller’s collaborative and solo albums reflect his pursuit to create music that sounds like nothing else. Unbeholden to conventionalism, he seamlessly crosses genre boundaries. The end-product is astounding and novel music that encompasses rock, jazz, funk, and bluegrass, and always keeps the audience on their feet.
People's Blues of Richmond
People's Blues of Richmond (or PBR as they are affectionately referred to by their fans) is one of those rare three-pieces that somehow conjures the sonic power and visual intensity of a thunderstorm. Think Jimi Hendrix Experience meets MC5. They take psychedelic blues rock to a different level with a lyrical element seldom found in the genre. Think Bob Dylan writing lyrics for Black Sabbath songs. It's hard to imagine until it's right in your face. Then it's hard to forget.
Their 2016 12-song release "Quit or Die" showcased a travel-hardened band at a crossroads. With drugs taking their inevitable toll on three young men on an endless search for a good time, this trio had a choice to make and "Quit or Die" is a declaration of their purpose as artists above all else. They received praise from Relix, Paste, Guitar World, AfroPunk, and many others as 3/4 of the album was released as critically acclaimed singles and the tour schedule filled up quickly.
In the two years since, they've found themselves opening for Gregg Allman, ZZ Top, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, The Revivalists, and Papadosio and playing venues like Red Rocks, 3 sets at Electric Forest, 2 appearances at Lockn, The Brooklyn Bowl, The National, and The Norva.
Before "Quit or Die", PBR had a cult following built around their album "Good Time Suicide". It was a big, dark, manic sounding album full of in-your-face riffs and gut-wrenching song writing. It was followed shortly thereafter by the trio heading to Valdosta, GA to meet and record with Mark Neill (who recorded one of their favorite albums, 'Brothers' by The Black Keys). They did two songs with Mark and learned a lot about recording that they put to use when they returned home to Richmond to record 'Quit or Die'.
They are currently working on their next album release and touring constantly so keep an eye and an ear out for when the storm rolls through and don't miss the wildest show on wheels when it comes to your town!
Seth Stainback & Roosterfoot
From East Texas, to Carolina, to coastal Virginia Seth Stainback has carved out a niche for himself as a not so typical southern songwriter. With a strong blend of blues, country, folk, old gospel and rock n roll, Stainback has laid the foundation needed to pursue his sound with his group Roosterfoot. In their short time together they have played FloydFest, Mustang Music Festival, Rooster Walk, and Virginia Beach’s American Music Fest and Neptune Festival. They have been direct support for the likes of Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Hank Williams Jr., ZZ Top, B.B. King, Anders Osborne, Robert Earl Keen, Big Head Todd & the Monsters, Rusted Root, Delta Rae, & Kip Moore to name a few. In 2014 Roosterfoot released “Fire and Steel” produced by Anders Osborne to rave reviews and won numerous awards for the effort.
Jesse Chong Band
Jesse Chong is called the hardest working musician in Hampton Roads and has played thousands of shows over the past 15 years. Based in Virginia Beach, he is an established leader in the local music community and continues to perform regularly.
Jesse is a solo artist as well as leader of the eclectic group known as “The Chong Band”. They have recently released a 2 part album available on CD Baby, Spotify, and Apple Music.
His reggae inflected jam-rock is often compared to Dave Matthews, Jack Johnson, and Sublime. He has shared the stage with many diverse acts including the Wailers, Maroon 5, and Snoop Dogg.
Anthony Rosano & the Conqueroos
Anthony Rosano and the Conqueroos blend old school blues with a modern rock sound. Formed in 2012, the band has been recording and performing all over the southeast and beyond. Formed by guitarist and vocalist Anthony Rosano, the current line up features the rhythm section of Paul Warren on bass, and Scott Smith on drums. The trio is often augmented by Jeremy "J.B." Bustillos on harmonica and sax. Anthony Rosano and the Conqueroos have received numerous accolades including "Best Blues" for 4 years (2015/2016/2017/2018), along with "Best Live Performer" (2017/2018) and an "Album of the Year" (2018) in the VEER Music Awards. The two time "International Blues Challenge" Semi Finalists released a LIVE record "ROO'D Awakening" in the spring of 2016 which along with the previous effort "Get ROO'd", received international radio airplay as well as spins on Sirius XMBluesville.
In October of 2016 Anthony and The Conqueroos made the trip to New Orleans and NOLA Studios. With producer Mike Zito , Grammy winning engineer David Farrell, and the help of Anders Osbourne and Johnny Sansone, they recorded their newest album which was released in April 2017. The record has quickly gained international radio airplay and debuted at #1 on the ITunes chart and #9 on the Billboard Blues chart. Reviewers of the album have drawn comparisons to Bruce Springsteen and Led Zeppelin as well as being anchored in the traditional blues genre. The band has played Numerous Festival dates and opened for artists as diverse as ZZ TOP, Marcus King Band, Robert Randolph, Samantha Fish, G.Love, Mike Zito, Tab Benoit, TRAIN, Eric Lindell, and The Gin Blossoms.
If your taste in contemporary blues is filled with funky rhythms and explosive guitar work anchored by old school soul and lively vocals, this is your new favorite band.
Bennett Wales & the Relief
Bennett Wales & The Relief are a 5 piece rock n’ roll band from Virginia Beach, VA. Focusing heavily on making rock n’ roll dangerous again, this energetic quintet introduces the new while carrying the torch of the old. BWTR released their freshman album, “Flood Without Water” in the fall of 2017. The band has shared the stage with a variety of notable acts including: Goo-Goo Dolls, All-American Rejects, Marcus King Band, Tim Reynolds, and Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds, among others. From playing the Blind of Back Bay Brewing in their hometown, to festival plays such as Sweetwater420 Festival, Summercamp, and Mountain Music Festival, BWTR has worked to spread their gospel of rock n’ roll across the nation. The band is currently in the midst of planning a tour in support of their new album due to be released this fall.