Article by Emory Widener
It was cold and windy and finally starting to feel like winter in the small city I have just recently become accustomed to labeling “home.” I was waiting downtown for the arrival of friends from Florida and South Carolina, traveling up for Warren’s event. Aside from being home to “forward-thinking people,” and avid performing artists, Asheville, North Carolina houses excellent organic cuisine and coffee, with which I bided my time, awaiting the start of this year’s Christmas Jam.
Asheville is home to many accomplished promoters, and has over the years developed into a performing arts Mecca, ushering in a migration of many talented artists to showcase their talents for fans to enjoy. Among these musicians, is a man whose love for humanity and passion for bridling musical chaos, never fails to leave audiences raving for more. For 21 years, Warren Haynes (our native Santa Claus, if you will) has been delivering a gift to Asheville’s music scene, which is locally unparalleled. The event, which began in 1989, was originally titled “The Christmas Jam: Musician’s X-Mas Reunion,” and was held in a small club downtown.
Having worked with the likes of Dave Matthews, Widespread Panic, moe., David Allan Coe, Jason Newstead, Kid Rock, Garth Brooks, Coheed and Cambria, John Madeski, and the Funky Meters, (just to name a few) Warren Haynes is a working member of Gov’t Mule, The Dead, Phil Lesh & Friends, and the Allman Brothers Band.
At 7:02 PM EST DJ Logic’s (Project Logic) half-hour set came to a close cueing to the stage Warren Haynes, Jackie Greene (Phil Lesh & Friends), and multi-talented Jeff Austin (Yonder Mountain String Band) who covered a very heart felt Rolling Stones’ “Wild Horses” with Warren singing the first and third verses, and Jackie taking the second.
Collective Soul’s Ed Roland made special appearance singing acoustic versions of “Shine” and “The World I Know” stopping only long enough to humorously relay to the audience with a comedic grin that “Really, there’s nothing wrong with it…but I feel like a schoolgirl.”
The Christmas Jam Band consisting of Fred Eltringham (The Wallflowers), Audley Freed (Cry of Love, The Black Crowes), Robert Kearns (Lynyrd Skynard), and Kevin Kinney (Drivin’ n’ Cryin’) took the stage next to perform an 8 song set beginning with “I Ain’t Waitin’ on Tomorrow,” then adding Brad Whitford (Aerosmith) and Danny Louis (Gov’t Mule) for “Underground Umbrella.” Thirdly, Edwin McCain and Ron Holloway (Susan Tedeschi) joined for an energetic “Last Child,” co-written by Brad Whitford on Aerosmith’s 1976 album Rocks. McCain and Holloway remained for “I’ve Seen A Love,” then added legendary guitarist Col. Bruce Hampton (Aquarium Rescue Unit, The Codetalkers, Quark Alliance), drummer Duane Trucks (Eric Steckel Band), Jimmie Herring (Jazz is Dead, Widespread Panic, Aquarium Rescue Unit), bassist George Portman, Jr. (The New Orleans Social Club, The [Funky] Meters), Asheville’s own Mike Barnes (The Carribbean Cowboys) and Mr. Warren Haynes for a blanketing cover of Willie Dixon’s blues standard “Spoonful.” Greene and Louis remained for the familiar melody of Greene’s “Like a Ball and Chain” and “Animal,” then finalized the Christmas Jam Band’s thundering set with an accurate cover of Bob Dylan’s “Isis.”
The next segment of the evening was incredible. It involved a super soul quartet; The Christmas Jam Ensemble” who brought “the funk” consisting of Royal Family Recording artists, and Brooklyn-based band Chapter 2 members Eric Crasno on guitar, vocalist Nigel Hall, and on-fire ’94 Berklee School of Music graduate drummer Adam Deitch (Average White Band) alongside George Porter, Jr. They opened with “Leave Me Alone,” then were joined onstage by Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews (Orleans Avenue), Craig Sorrels on trumpet and Ron Hollaway to belt away “Fire on the Bayou” with a very excited Jimmy Herring. They were then joined by Audley Freed and Stax-Volt innovator William Bell to perform his timeless classics of “Hard to Handle,” “Everyday is a Holiday” with Warren Haynes, “You Don’t Miss the Water (Till Your Well Runs Dry),” “Everybody Loves a Winner,” then finishing the set with a lengthy “Born Under a Bad Sign” with Brad Whitford, and Warren Haynes joining to sing the final verse.
Ani DiFranco then came out for her set and wielded her various Alvarez acoustics fiercely through varied tonations in her songs “Anticipate,” “Untouchable Face,” “Manhole,” “As Is,” “Present/Infant” and “Fuel” with Nigel Hall. Then Warren Haynes and Jeff Austin joined in for “Which Side Are You On?” She ended her set with a lengthy jam of “Overlap” with Adam Deitch, George Porter Jr., Jeff Austin, Nigel Hall, Warren Haynes, Eric Krasno, Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews, Craig Sorrels and Ron Hollaway.
During most of the intervals between acts, DJ Logic kept the music going with a wide array of music, he even played through moe.’s “Captain America” with the band. Rob Derhak thanked him just before his exit upstage left. They continued into “Tailspin,” “Together at Christmas,” which they admittedly don’t get the chance to play very often,“Zed Naught Z,” then a jammed-out “Happy Hour Hero” with Jimmy Herring. They closed with “George.” Set highlight was most definitely “Happy Hour Hero.”
Counting Crows played a set full of popular favorites from years past including a nice opening “Round Here.” The next series of songs were recorded at Abbey Road Studios in exchange for studio time; theirs is 3rd in a twelve-part documentary series Live From Abbey Road. They decided to cover the final three selections of “The Medley,” from The Beatles’ Abbey Road: “Golden Slumbers” > “Carry That Weight” > “The End,” which was executed beautifully. They played “Miami”, “Good Night LA,” “1492,” “Washington Square,” then into a seasonally appropriate “Long December.”
They then added Warren Haynes for “Rain King” > “With A Little Help From My Friends” > “Rain King” with Jeff Austin. Their set ended with an unexpected rendition of Woody Guthrie’s 1940 famous folk song “This Land is Your Land.”
Gov’t Mule came on next and played “Broke Down on the Brazos,” “Steppin’ Lightly,” “Railroad Boy,” and “Frozen Fear,” then added Jimmy Herring and Ron Holloway for “Devil Lies it Slow. Next, Fred Eltringham appeared for “Patchwork Quilt,” then on “Sugaree” with Jimmy Herring and Jackie Greene, who played through “Don’t Let Me Down” with Fred Eltringham. Brad Whitford and Ron Holloway then joined the stage for “Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody’s Home.” Next was “Train Kept A Rolling” with Brad Whitford and Fred Eltringham. To end the Christmas Jam came Bob Dylan’s 1967 “I Shall Be Released” with the entire Christmas Jam Ensemble.
Even after eight hours of jamming on bar after bar of an amalgamation of different musical genres and styles, stopping only long enough to strike and re-situate the occasional drum kit, performers of the 21st Annual Christmas Jam had the crowd cheering for more well up into the wee hours of the following morning (3:30 AM!).
Thanks Warren, see you next year!