Warren Haynes, former guitarist with the Allman Brothers and currently with Gov’t Mule, has been hosting the Christmas Jam in Asheville for 27 years now. The Jam is a benefit concert that raises money for Habitat for Humanity and Warren invites a slew of artists to participate in the marathon event. I’ve been attending this show every year since moving to Asheville, so if my fuzzy math serves me well, that makes 13 years that I have been going to the Jam.
This year’s show sold out fast, boasting a solid lineup. Unfortunately, one of the performers who I was REALLY looking forward to seeing—Joe Bonamassa—had to cancel. In spite of that, it was a great show.
I went with my wife and we met a group of friends (Perry, Philip, Devorah, Mike, and Bob) and we secured a row for ourselves on the left side of the stage, which afforded us a great view.
The show began promptly at 6:45 with Love Canon, a fun bluegrass act who plays bluegrass versions of 80’s pop hits. They played between acts while the crew was setting up and breaking down equipment. After a few songs, Warren came out and played a great acoustic version of George Harrison’s “Give Me Love.”
After Warren, we had an electric set from Hot Tuna, one of my favorite bands. Hot Tuna was formed by Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady, the guitarist and bass player from the Jefferson Airplane. They were great, but too short, playing a mere five songs if memory serves me well.
After Hot Tuna, Bruce Hornsby played an acoustic set. It was good, but strange. I had seen Hornsby several times and this was the first time I had seen him that he did not play any piano, playing dulcimer for the entire set. It was not what I expected, but I feel like I got to see something that most people will never have the opportunity to experience.
Next up was the Tedeschi Trucks Band, who were the highlight of the evening in my opinion. They were incredible! The energy was so high and the musicianship was so impressive, I was kind of dumbstruck. If you have never seen this band and have the opportunity, do not pass it up.
Following TTB was Dawes. I was not too familiar with them, but I knew they were somewhat popular. They were OK in my opinion, but not great. They also seemed less interesting following such an outstanding performance. They did a nice version of Pink Floyd’s “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” to close their set, which was fun.
The next act to perform was Blackberry Smoke. Personally, I was not impressed with this band, at all. I know they are very popular, but they were not my thing and their sound was wretched, which did not make things any better. My friend Bill texted me during their performance and called them Black Pickup Exhaust, which caused a chuckle.
It was now getting late in the evening, and the Doobie Brothers took the stage. They opened with “Jesus is Just Alright” and played one hit after another. I loved their show! You knew every song and the crowd was singing along. It was fun and brought back lots of memories for me. The Doobies were huge when I was growing up, and I listened to “Black Water” over and over as a kid. They were a close second to Tedeschi Trucks, in my humble opinion.
The Doobies finished about 1:30 am. Warren’s band was still scheduled to play, but by this time I was tired. Since I have seen Warren more times than I can count, I decided to skip the last set and get some much-needed sleep. I heard it was good, but looking at the set list, I could tell I didn’t miss anything special.
Just to give you all a taste of the Christmas Jam, here is a video that my good friend Robert made: Tedeschi Trucks Band with Warren Haynes joining them on guitar. Enjoy!