Warren Haynes’ 22nd Annual Christmas Jam, 12.11.10

REPOST: Jambands Warren Haynes Presents the 22nd Annual Christmas Jam, Asheville Civic Center, NC”, published 12/24/10: http://bit.ly/ePFY2B

Before we made it to the Asheville Civic Center, we caught a few bands during the Christmas Jam by Day. We stopped at the Emerald Lounge for a great set by a Nashville group named The Last Straw, and also saw Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Artemis Pyle play a few songs as well. It was a grand ole time in typical southern fashion, and afterwards we strolled up the hill for the Xmas Jam.

Umphrey’s McGee was on stage when we walked into the area marked off for VIPs giving us plenty of breathing, standing and dancing room. Their light show, as always, is amazing, the bass line was low with a heavy drum beat during the second song “1348,” and then John Bell (Widespread Panic) showed up to play “Ain’t No Sunshine”, one of my favorite Bill Withers’ song. Bell sounded incredible and the song was brilliantly funky.

photo by: Allison Murphy

The electricity in the air was palpable as we anticipated the debut of The Warren Haynes Band. Ruthie Foster welcomed us and introduced “A Special Little Taste of the Warren Haynes Band.” She also said something about welcoming friends and family and it sure felt like family around me, even though this was my first Christmas Jam ever.

The Warren Haynes Band then came on with all cylinders firing. The first song, “Man in Motion,” featured Warren’s unmistakable twang on the guitar and some extra depth from the DDBB horns. The crowd was psyched and intent on discovering what Warren’s new style would be and how his band would sound. It turned out to be full of soul, dance, funk, blues: a southern rock mesh of beautiful sounds. With the second song I was able to start to see the personalities of the group take form with Warren’s singing, Ruthie’s beautiful voice, Ivan Neville on keys sparkling, accenting where needed, (oh yeah and Warren shredding). “Sneakin’ Sally” was killer and Ron Holloway and his sax made it all that dirtier with Ivan’s keys hitting the right spots along with the relentless drum and bass beat by Terrence Higgins and Ron Johnson, respectively. Beautiful.

photo by: Allison Murphy

There was a part of this set where I watched Ruthie and Warren sing/play together. Ruthie was singing her part, and Warren responded by wailing on his guitar. Ruthie would scat with her voice, backing Warren in crescendo. If you’ve ever been to an Allman Brothers show and watched Warren Haynes and Derek Trucks banter together on their guitars, it felt like I was watching Ruthie play Derek’s guitar part by singing, and Warren responded back with his guitar. It was fascinating, and wonderful to see and hear. This preview of The Warren Haynes Band was a tease. I wanted more. I wanted to hear a lot more. I hear there is a CD coming out. I’ll be first on line.

photo by Allison Murphy

After set break, we all get settled in for The Steve Miller Band. Steve’s voice dropped a few octaves from what I remember, but it was still incredibly strong and clear, and technically perfect. His band is tight, his newest member, singer Sonny Charles, is amazingly soulful with a great stage presence. Miller dedicated a song to Les Paul, “Nature Boy” with Carlos Reyes on harp. The Civic Center went silent, with just Miller’s voice and a beautiful harp filling the room. Then Warren came out for a few songs and it was a full on Jam.

The house lights stayed on for John Bell’s short set, completely acoustic, and pulled at my heartstrings. There is something about this man’s voice, something about him on his guitar, just made this part of the night so special for me. It was the “quiet down moment” of the evening.

Gregg Allman and Friends came next, and Gregg’s friends were: Warren, JoJo Herman, Audley Freed, Ivan Neville, Cody Dickinson plus a few others, on the stage for the first song, “Midnight Rider.” After this, Gregg plugged his new album and the date released is January 21. Check it!

“Dreams” with Ron Holloway on the sax brought this Allmans’ staple to another sexy, sultry level. Audley Freed played his solo, Ron wailed on the sax, and then Warren played slide guitar to round out the ballad. For me, the equation was: Sax + ABB + Ron Holloway = Bliss.

photo by: Allison Murphy

John Bell and Gregg Allman sang “Just like a Woman” and the slowness of the song was romantic – I looked around the arena to see couples arm in arm, swaying – the whole place was swaying. It was late now, after 1am. The place had cleared, a bit, but not much.

Gregg on acoustic guitar for “Melissa” was tender and beautiful before the set ended with “Key to the Highway.” Steve Miller and Warren exchanged solos, while Gregg soulfully sang it, and tossed the vocals to Warren, who then tossed to Steve. This was the warm up to the Dirty Dozen Brass Band All Star crazy Jam that was about to go down.

By this time, I figure it was about 2/2:30 am, the schedule was blown and I was floating, in musical overload heaven and my buddies were getting tired. Granted, we were there at 6 pm, had been standing since 3:30 pm over at the Emerald. We are not teeny boppers anymore – yes my legs were hurting as well, but I heeded it no mind as the adrenaline coursed through my body – music rush overtaking the bodily pain.

photo by: Allison Murphy

The Dirty Dozen Brass Band closed the Jam, as they opened the Pre Jam the night before, bookending what was another successful Warren Haynes’ Christmas Jam. There were a dozen people on the stage before the Dirty Dozen even showed up and I couldn’t count them all. I dropped my buddies off in some seats to enjoy the last set but I couldn’t stay seated – there was no way I could chair dance while this NOLA Brass, guitar craziness was going down.

The night was peppered with many men screaming “Who Dat?” in and out of the arena, in line for the beer, and up and down the ramp to go to the smoking area. From covering Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” to Bill Withers’ “Use Me.” the evening ended in a musical explosion, fireworks, with countless guests coming on the stage. By 3:30 am, the stage had cleared, all gazillion musicians had finished playing, the Civic Center was quiet and I sat down, finally, looking down at the cleared out hall. The snow was falling in huge snowflakes as we left the Civic Center, and I heard someone say “It ain’t Christmas Jam if it ain’t snowing, man.”

Next year I’ll bring warmer clothes, better snow boots and will prepare for the Jam with plenty of sleep before I get to Asheville. Now I know, there is no sleep for the Christmas Jam.

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