Photos by Dino Perrucci

Warren Haynes’ 24th annual Christmas Jam at Asheville, NC’s Civic Center came to a close after 2 a.m. The show ended with a Warren Haynes Band-led all-star jam based around John Lennon’s “Imagine.” A number of special guests joined Warren Haynes Band for the extended encore, including regular Christmas Jam guitarist Mike Barnes and the members of New Orleans’ The Revivalists, who were in town for a Christmas Jam By Day event. Unannounced guests like Derek Trucks Band percussionist Count M’Butu, onetime Aquarium Rescue Unit keyboardist Dr. Dan Matrazzo and classic Lynyrd Skynyrd drummer Artimus Pyle also sat in for the song, which moved into a bit of “I’ll Take You There.” Before launching into “Imagine,” Haynes apologized for ending on a somber note but dedicated the number to the victims of Friday’s Connecticut shooting. He also mentioned that Newtown, CT is located not far from his Westchester County, NY home.

Almost eight hours earlier, Haynes officially kicked off his annual charity jam with a performance alongside The Blind Boys of Alabama. Haynes—who collaborated with The Blind Boys at The Peach Music Festival in August—joined the band for soul-influenced classics like “People Get Ready,” a mash-up of “Amazing Grace” and “House of the Rising Sun” and “John The Revelator” as well as his own “Soulshine.” Warren Haynes Band keyboardist Nigel Hall joined in for the first part of their set while Karl Denson, Warren Haynes Band saxophonist Ron Holloway and Trombone Shorty sat in for the set’s climax. As the latter group of musicians took the stage, Haynes remarked that three areas of the South were represented onstage as The Blind Boys of Alabama and the “spirit” of New Orleans came to North Carolina. First-time Christmas Jam band Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue played next. Near the end of their performance, The Blind Boys of Alabama returned to the stage for “Down by the Riverside,” while Haynes added guitar to “Do To Me.”

Shifting styles a bit, after Trombone Shorty, The Avett Brothers took the stage for one of the evening’s marquee performances. Though Christmas Jam officially announced the North Carolina-bred band on Friday, they were still a surprise for a good portion of the crowd. The Avetts focused mostly on material from their new album The Carpenter and performed one of that album’s tracks “Life” for the first time live (the band described the crowd as “forgiving” when they played the song). The group closed their 45-minute set with the seasonal “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”

The evening’s next performer, Sheryl Crow, also favored songs overextended jams. Though something of the odd man out on a bill filled with jambands and festival-favorites, Crow has been friends with Haynes ever since she toured with The Allman Brothers Band on H.O.R.D.E. in the mid ‘90s. Her current touring band is also filled with Christmas Jam regulars like former Lynard Skynard bassist Robert Kearns, former Black Crowes guitarists Audley Freed and former Dixie Chicks/Wallflowers drummer Fred Eltringham. She got into the collaborative spirit during her performance, inviting Haynes, Trombone Shorty and Warren Haynes Band drummer Terrence Higgins for a cover of Blind Faith’s “Can’t Find My Way Home.” Haynes and The String Cheese Incident percussionist played Jason Hann on her hit “If It Makes You Happy,” and the evening’s host returned for Chuck Berry’s Christmas favorite “Run Run Rudolph.” The rest of her set was stacked with some of her most popular radio songs.
The String Cheese Incident’s two-hour set felt more like a full show than a truncated benefit set. The band spotlighted newer songs like “Colorado Bluebird Sky,” “Rosie,” “Song in My Head” and “Can’t Wait Another Day.” New Orleans guitarist Anders Osborne made his way to the stage for “Joyful Sound” and the band’s first cover of the blues standard “Junco Partner.” Meanwhile, Count M’Butu—who was in Asheville for a show of his own on Friday—sat in on “Can’t Wait Another Day,” while Haynes joined String Cheese for “Outside & Inside.” At the end of the ensemble’s set, all of String Cheese’s guests returned with Denson and Hall for Bob Dylan’s classic “Quinn The Eskimo (Mighty Quinn).” Haynes also reminisced from the stage about the late ‘90s Summer Sessions tour that Gov’t Mule played with String Cheese.

Warren Haynes Band closed the night with a set stacked with material from last year’s Man In Motion album. The show was a homecoming of sorts for the band, who made their official debut at Christmas Jam in 2010. As expected, several guests sat in throughout their set: Count M’Butu appeared on “River’s Gonna Rise” while Denson and Count M’Butu joined for both “On a Real Lonely Night” and “Spanish Castle Magic.” At the end of Haynes’ set, Denson and The Revivalists woodwind player Rob Ingraham formed a horn section for “I Wish,” and Ingraham helped the group close things out with Steely Dan’s “Pretzel Logic.”

Here’s a look at last night’s setlists

Saturday, December 15, Asheville Civic Center, Asheville, NC

Warren Haynes & The Blind Boys Of Alabama:
People Get Ready W/ Nigel Hall
Soulshine W/ Nigel Hall
Amazing Grace
John The Revelator W/ Karl Denson, Ron Holloway & Trombone Shorty

Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue:
Slippery lips
The Craziest Things
Hurricane Season
Down By The Riverside W/ The Blind Boys Of Alabama
Do To Me W/ Warren Haynes

The Avett Brothers:
Paranoia In B-Flat Major
Laundry Room
Old Joe Clark
Distraction #74
At The Beach
I Killed Sally’s Lover
I’ll Be Home For Christmas
Go To Sleep

Sheryl Crow:
Steve McQueen
All I Wanna Do
Can’t Cry Anymore
A Change (Will Do You Good)
My Favorite Mistake
Can’t Find My Way Home W/ Warren Haynes, Terrence Higgins & Trombone Shorty
If It Makes You Happy W/ Warren Haynes
Everyday Is A Winding Road
Run Run Rudolph W/ Warren Haynes

The String Cheese Incident:
Colorado Bluebird Sky
Joyful Sound > W/ Anders Osborne
Junco Partner W/ Anders Osborne
Can’t Wait Another Day W/ Count M’Butu
Rivertrance >
Song In My Head >
Desert Dawn
Rosie W/ Karl Denson
Outside & Inside W/ Warren Haynes
Quinn the Eskimo (Mighty Quinn) W/ Warren Haynes, Anders Osborne, Count M’Butu, Karl Denson & Nigel Hall

Warren Haynes Band:
WHB Intro >
Tear Me Down
River’s Gonna Rise W/ Count M’Butu
On A Real Lonely Night W/ Count M’Butu & Karl Denson
A Change Is Gonna Come
Spanish Castle Magic W/ Count M’Butu & Karl Denson
I Wish W/ Karl Denson & Rob Ingraham
Pretzel Logic W/ Rob Ingraham

E: Imagine > W/ David Shaw, Ed Williams, Zack Feinberg, Rob Ingraham, Dr. Dan Matrazzo, Mike Barnes, Artimus Pyle & Count M’Butu
I’ll Take You There > W/ David Shaw, Ed Williams, Zack Feinberg, Rob Ingraham, Dr. Dan Matrazzo, Mike Barns, Artimus Pyle & Count M’Butu
Imagine W/ David Shaw, Ed Williams, Zack Feinberg, Rob Ingraham, Dr. Dan Matrazzo, Mike Barns, Artimus Pyle & Count M’Butu