Review & Photos | Warren Haynes Christmas Jam | Asheville

Throughout the weekend, The Satellite Gallery, on Broadway in Downtown Asheville, hosted Xmas Jam’s accompanying art show, featuring the work of concert photographers and printmakers such as Jay Blakesberg, Dino Perrucci and Robbi Cohn. As complimentary beers flowed, patrons and concert goers mixed with the artists in the crowd. Gregg Allman even stopped in to admire the work. The show was beautifully arranged, especially the vibrant poster psychedelia of John Warner and the photography of Robbi Cohn. An off the cuff moment captured in Telluride by photographer Robbi Cohn, featured Jerry Garcia as he mentioned something lighthearted to a laughing Bob Weir. The photo somehow seemed to encapsulate the spirit of the weekend.

The lineup for Saturday night meant a far more mellow affair as O.A.R and Michael Franti gobbled up the prime-time spots, abutting exciting reunions of Aquarium Rescue Unit and Sco-Mule. O.A.R’s spirited, horn-heavy set was a perfect counterpoint to Michael Franti’s reggae-fied roots rock. Franti and his gang of Christmas Jam guests were exceptionally tight. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals fiery set, including a cover of “Gimme Some Lovin’,” set up the final performance of the entire weekend, Gov’t Mule starting with the Sco-Mule reunion. Perhaps the musical highlight of the whole weekend was Sco-Mule’s take on John Scofield’s trusty tune, “Hottentot.” Joined by Dr. Dan Matrazzo from Aquarium Rescue Unit, Haynes and Scofield invigorated the crowd with an almost 12-minute take on the song, exchanging tell-tale solos and looks of approval upon one another. Potter would bring some of her undeniable star power to Mule’s set as she joined them for Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman,” the weekend closing performance.

Across the hundreds of songs and collaborations, sit-ins and other spontaneous musical moments, the ones that websites and tweets and blog posts can’t predict or capture, there was one recurring theme: Home.

We always seem to return to it, these musicians seemed to be saying. In their own words and in their various styles, this was the message. No matter how far we travel in order to eek out a living doing what we love: Bringing music, dance, warmth and passion to fellow travelers, we always want for home. The last stop on the train, the first glimpse of a town as one crests the mountains, back down the valley. Asheville is home. It is Warren’s home town and for 25 years he’s been leaving his door wide open for the musicians he loves to come inside, who answer his call to join him and others onstage for a celebration during the holidays, the time to give back.

We should never forget that Warren’s contributions to Habitat for Humanity are the driving impetus of the Christmas Jam. And that from his dutiful work, he’s had the opportunity to hand over keys to a new home to someone in need. I saw some of those homes on my way into Asheville, on a tour provided me by locals. “Warren built those homes right there,” they said. Nothing fancy, nothing big, but more than enough, a row of homes nonetheless, for in communities like this, as small and tightly-connected, with as much innovation underway, in constant dialogue with its noble past, with prosperity looming but with a proud struggle still very much a fact. The community has found other ways to nourish itself, to sustain and regulate itself. The city is bursting at the seams with fresh ideas, new people. Technology, local food, craft drink, artisanal wares, artists, painters, poets, chefs. They are all here. Alongside the musicians. Looking to contribute their own forms of kindling to Asheville’s campfire.

If that isn’t the purest form of Holiday Spirit then I don’t know what is. Music is the fire that heats the hearth, and every year that goes by, this community grows stronger, grows warmer. Warren Haynes has much to be proud of. Asheville is certainly proud of him.

[Published on: 12/18/13]

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