Photos by Dino Perrucci

Phil Lesh joined Gov’t Mule onstage during Christmas Jam’s closing set last night. The all-star benefit show, which took place at Asheville, NC’s Civic Center, once again stretched late into the night. Lesh and saxophonist Bill Evans emerged partway through Mule’s set for a cover of Traffic’s “Low Spark Of High-Heeled Boys.” Widespread Panic guitarist Jimmy Herring then joined Gov’t Mule for a take on The Beatles classic “Dear Prudence.”
Though Gov’t Mule made an appearance at Warren Haynes’ annual Pre-Jam a night earlier, last night’s show was billed as Gov’t Mule’s official return after a year-long hiatus.

After Christmas Jam sold out in record time thanks in part to appearances by the reactivated Mule and the first Phil Lesh & Friends lineup since 2008, the event’s organizers booked less bands and let those acts play longer. Haynes opened the show with a solo take on Van Morrison’s “And It Stoned Me,” before Drivin’ N Cryin’s Kevn Kinney emerged with The Christmas Jam Family Band for a short set of covers that climaxed with a run from Pink Floyd’s “Breathe” into Elton John’s “Rocket Man” and The Beatles’ “I’ve Got a Feeling.” In addition to Kinney, the house band for this set included Christmas Jam regulars like former Black Crowes guitarist Audley Freed, guitarist Mike Barnes and Lynyrd Skynyrd bassist Robert Kearns along with Ryan Adams & the Cardinals drummer Brad Pemberton and Jackie Greene on keys.

As they did at Pre-Jam, banjoist Bela Fleck and drummer Jeff Sipe led a special ensemble featuring saxophonist Bill Evans, bassist Taylor Lee and touring Flecktones fiddler Casey Driessen. But this time Sipe’s old Aquarium Rescue Unit guitarist Jimmy Herring also played throughout the set. The brief performance closed with a powerful version of “Soulgrass,” a song that also seemed to describe the set’s style and feel. Los Lobos, the evening’s first big draw, played next and invited Haynes out at the end of their set for a of cover “Bertha.”

Phil Lesh & Friends then took the stage for an extended set. Besides Friday’s brief Pre-Jam performance, last night’s set was the first Phil & Friends show since 2008. Lesh’s latest ensemble brings together former Phil & Friends members Haynes and Greene on guitar and the bassist’s current Furthur collaborators Jeff Chimenti and Joe Russo on keyboards and drums, respectively. The group opened their performance with “Shakedown Street” and offered a seamless, flowing set. Herring also emerged for a run from “Dark Star” into “She Said, She Said,” “Dark Star,” “Wharf Rat,” “The Other One” and “Sugaree.” Herring, who last played with Lesh in 2005, was a member of the classic Phil & Friends Quintet that last performed in 2003. Haynes was also a member of the esteemed ensemble.
Despite not closing the show, Phil Lesh & Friends were awarded an encore and returned for “Angel Band.”

Gov’t Mule’s extended single-set performance brought the night to a close.

Here’s a look at last night’s setlist via

Warren Haynes
And It Stoned Me

Kevn Kinney & The Christmas Family Band
Never Gonna Change
Ain’t Waiting on Tomorrow
Breathe >
Rocket Man >
I’ve Got A Feeling

Bela Fleck/Jeff Sipe (with Jimmy Herring, Bill Evans, Taylor Lee & Casey Driessen)
Solo Improv >
Jed Clampett
Monkey See
Spanish Point
Scapegoat Blues

Los Lobos
Don’t Worry Baby
Venganza de Los Pelados
Chuco’s Cumbia
I Walk Alone
Bertha with Warren Haynes

Phil Lesh & Friends (Warren Haynes, Jackie Greene, Jeff Chimenti & Joe Russo)
Shakedown Street >
Deal >
Viola Lee Blues >
Caution (Do Not Stop On Tracks) >
Viola Lee Blues >
China Cat Sunflower >
I Know You Rider
Dark Star > with Jimmy Herring
She Said, She Said > with Jimmy Herring
Dark Star > with Jimmy Herring
Wharf Rat > with Jimmy Herring
The Other One > with Jimmy Herring
Sugaree with Jimmy Herring

Angel Band

Gov’t Mule
Railroad Boy
Beautifully Broken
Thorazine Shuffle
Banks Of The Deep End
Low Spark Of High-Heeled Boys with Bill Evans & Phil Lesh
Dear Prudence with Jimmy Herring
Inside Outside Woman Blues
When The Music’s Over