The 22nd Annual Warren Haynes Christmas Jam began as an opportunity for local Asheville area bands to jam. Originally, the money raised would go to various charities. As the event grew in size Warren settled on Habitat for Humanity because he could see where the money was going.
This year’s event was an eight hour music marathon! I’m completing my review in bullet point fashion to cover the highlights. I'll try and get them down in chronological order. It's a special event and anyone that participates, including the musicians that are invited to perform, feel honored to be there. It's a charitable event, so everyone there contributed in their own way; but no one contributed as much as Warren, himself. He should be crowned the King of Asheville and have streets and parks named after him. In 2002 he was given the key to the city, and in 2003 December 18th was proclaimed Warren Haynes Day.
- The show started promptly at 7:00pm, with Warren introducing the first act, Missing Cats. They played Smiling Assassin, The Slaughter, Step On Over Me, Highwire and Over Lubbock. Missing Cats is the side project of Widespread Panic’s keyboard player, JoJo Hermann.
- Drive By Truckers were scheduled to perform at the Christmas Jam this year, but due to some health issues, they had to cancel their appearance here, as well as some upcoming European concerts.
- Next up was Umphrey's McGee. They were on just 40 minutes but really got the crowd going. They played Conduit and 1348. Then, they invited John Bell, of Widespread Panic, to come on stage and they played Ain't No Sunshine. They finished their set with Miss Tinkle's Overture and a 14 minute version of All in Time.
- Umphrey's McGee's lighting genius, Jefferson Waful, put on a spectacular light show for most of the evening. As usual, he did a super job and added another dimension to the event.
- At 8:50pm, Stef Scamardo, Warren's wife and Manager, came out and presented Warren and his new band: Ivan Neville on keys, Ron Johnson on bass, Terrence Higgins on drums, Ron Holloway on sax and Ruthie Foster on vocals
- The Warren Haynes Band played Man in Motion and River's Gonna Rise with Andy Farag of Umphrey's on percussion. Then they were joined by the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and played Everyday Is a Holiday and Lovin' You Too Long. Next came the Robert Palmer song, Sneakin' Sally Through the Alley and they finished the set with Sick of My Shadow, again with the help of Andy Farag on percussion.
- The Steve Miller Band came on just after 10pm. Warren introduced him and explained that he and Steve had become friends for life years ago when The Steve Miller Band and Gov't Mule toured together. He'd been trying to get Steve to participate in the Christmas Jam for a few years, and this year it finally came together.
- Steve opened the set with Jet Airliner, Take the Money and Run and Mercury Blues. Then he invited Warren on stage and they played a Jimmie Vaughn song, Don'tcha Know, then Further on Up the Road and JustGot Back from Texas. Warren left the stage, and they did Ooo Poo Pah Do and Shubada.
- Next, Steve Miller dedicated the song Nature Boy to Les Paul, Allen Woody from The Allman Brothers and his friend Norton Buffalo. He explained that when Les Paul was dying, he asked Steve to sing this song at his funeral. He sang it with just Carlos Reyes playing the harp (not the harmonica, but the real harp, with strings).
- The extended set continued with Wild Mountain Honey, Dance, Dance, Dance, The Stake, and Abracadabra. He then played Livin' in the USA and dedicated it to the men and women in the Armed Forces. He closed t out with a long Fly Like and Eagle, dedicated to Warren, who came out on stage and played with him.
- The evening entertainment was progressing along nicely. Next, John Bell came back out at 12:10am, this time solo on dobro, and played a Christmas medley of Silent Night and Milk & Cookies. He then switched to an acoustic guitar and played Papa's Home and May Your Glass Be Filled. The set lasted about 20 minutes.
- After Bell’s short acoustic set, things got kicked up a notch. At 1:00am Warren Haynes brought his old mate, Gregg Allman out along with a band that included Black Crowes guitarist Audley Freed, the Wallflowers drummer Fred Eltringham, and Ivan Neville on vocals. They opened the set with Midnight Rider. Next was a tune from Allman’s upcoming solo record, Low Country Blues, called Just Another Rider. They played a couple Allman Brothers’ tunes, Dreams and Melissa, with Gregg on the acoustic guitar. Then they invited John Bell back up on the stage where they performed Bob Dylan’s, Just Like a Woman and Dr. John’s Walk on Guilded Splinters. Warren advised the crowd not to leave just yet. This was going to be a late night, with the Dirty Dozen Brass band coming up next for a New Orleans style party. Warren and Allman finished up the set at 2:00am with Lost Highway with the help of Steve Miller who came back up to play guitar.
- The final set was, as promised, a New Orleans party, or as Warren described it a Winter Mardi Gras. The Dirty Dozen Brass Band performed Ain’t Nothin’ but a Party into Papa was a Rolling Stone. Next was That’s What Love Will Make You Do. Warren came back out along with Artimis Pyle and they performed Little Feat’s Spanish Moon. Then John Bell, Ron Halloway and JoJo Hermann came back out and they did Stevie Wonder’s Superstition. The event finished up with Warren, John Bell, Ron Halloway and Mike Barnes on guitar and played Use Me.
After eight hours of music the 22nd Annual Warren Haynes Christmas Jam came to an end. Everyone was exhausted, not just because it was 3:00am, but because of the level of adrenaline that had been coursing through their veins all night. These were great performances we were treated to, once in a lifetime groupings, like Warren and Steve Miller, or Umphrey’s and John Bell, and Gregg Allman, John Bell and Warren Haynes. Songs that we’ve been listening to our whole lives, like Melissa, Ain’t No Sunshine and Fly Like an Eagle, that were given new meaning and fresh memories that will last a long time. I know now why this institution called the Christmas Jam has gone on for 22 years. This was my first time, but it has become an instant tradition for me. See you next year, Warren.