Friday night, June 20, Government Mule and Ratdog kicked off their Mighty High Summer Tour at the Cuthbert Amphitheater in Eugene, Oregon. I was there, sitting or dancing in the grass close to the bleachers, directly in front of center stage. On one side my brother peered through his high-class binoculars, on the other my niece and nephew texted each other, thumbs flying, while watching the band. Some of Sam's other friends and family sat on either side. As the sound flowed through me, I smiled so much my cheeks started aching.
I love music. I love rock 'n' roll. And these guys rocked.
Now, I've been a Grateful Dead fan for a very long time. I've spent countless hours listening to Jerry's sweet guitar licks and the Dead's endless jams that end too soon. I've crossed at least six state lines listening to just "Goin' Down the Road," not to mention all the other great songs. I think Bob Weir is great. My ticket says only that "Bob Weir & Ratdog will be playing – doesn't even mention Government Mule. And Ratdog did some great jams late in the show.
But… the Mule kicked their ass with a steady stream of electrifying, straight up rock 'n' roll.
With the late solstice-eve sun blazing in their faces, and the heat of the day still strong, sweat soaking their clothing, and clouds of marijuana smoke blowing over the crowd, the Mule played their heart out. I couldn't keep my feet still. I didn't try. I loved watching the drummer and guitarist playing off each other. I just let the long week's work bleed away and lived in the moment, completely absorbed in the music.
I didn't get down in the mosh pit in front of the band, but my brother's friend and his son did. It paid off. Thirteen-year-old Odin caught one of Warren Hayes' guitar picks. And Terry caught both of Matt Abts' battered drumsticks, one of them signed, and snagged one of the band's playlists for the show.