The Fun Uncles Come to Town: Warren Haynes Presents Christmas Jam 31
Words by Erika Rasmussen
Photos by Jerry Friend
It wasn't a two-night Christmas Jam like back in 2018 or other years past. It didn't blizzard like a snow globe as we all walked out like in it did in 2017. But when Warren Haynes Presents the 31st Annual Christmas Jam came to Harrah's Cherokee Center in Asheville, NC, on December 10, everyone involved came to seriously get down. The setlists and the sit-ins were epic stuff that we'll all be talking about for years to come, as jam band fans do. The Jam and all of its pre-event activities had visitors frequenting spots all over town. Whether they were taking in a show at venues like the Orange Peel or checking out the merchandise at Records in the RAD, fans brought holiday cheer and much-appreciated sales to Buncombe County.
The warm sounds of Scott Metzger, Katie Jacoby, and Simon Kafka opened the show with an acoustic set around 7pm. As concertgoers milled around and stretched their legs, Dinosaur Jr. played a raucous set that reminded the eager crowd they can still rock the energy of the very best alternative rock. Mike "MC" Taylor ("the scaled down version of Hiss Golden Messenger") is from Durham, like me, and treated us to a melodious set including the beautiful "Biloxi". Many of the folks wearing hunting-branded trucker hats around me were clearly there to see the next act, The Brothers Osborne. Their rich, thick version of country has earned a loyal following that only grew during the Jam. I especially enjoyed their version of "Whiskey River" at the end of their set.
Once again, the acoustic trio of Metzger, Jacoby, & Kafka kept the crowd in harmony right before Gov't Mule took the stage. Their distinct sound is as strong as ever and re-established them as the ultimate southern rock jam band. The Mule set featured multiple sit-ins, including Audley Freed, Rob Barraco, Mike Barnes, George Porter, Jr, Jeff Sipe, and an UNBELIEVABLE "Blue Sky" with John Osborne. That left everyone in a high mood and pumped to see Tyler Childers, who's returned on the scene recently to great acclaim. Tyler presented piercing covers of the greats such as Charley Crockett, Kenny Rogers, and he even covered Charlie Daniels' "Trudy" while Warren Haynes accompanied him on stage. Next, the smooth sounds of Tyler Ramsey (formerly of alternative rock band "Band of Horses") soothed us while waiting for Phil Lesh & Friends to take the stage. The bright light that is Phil blew way past the original end time and he jammed until well after 2am. His set included covers of Wilson Pickett, the Beatles, and Miles Davis, but was mostly comprised of Dead tunes. The collaborating in Phil's set involved Warren Haynes and John Scofield. As I predicted earlier in the evening, Phil closed the night with his classic "Box of Rain".
Now that we're adults, we don't have long or impressive wish lists for the holidays. Most of us would just like to get a good night's rest and see a familiar face every now and then. But if we DID make up a wish list, it would look much like Saturday's extensive setlist. And for that, we can all thank the artists of the Christmas Jam, the tireless weekend crew, and most especially we can thank Warren Haynes, the hardest workin' man in the jam band business.