Throughout the weekend, The Satellite Gallery, on Broadway in Downtown Asheville, hosted
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
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
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.