Over the years, I have been blessed to be a part of numerous once-in-a-lifetime musical experiences, moments that remain with me to this day. Tales of these experiences could easily fill an entire book, yet some stand out above others:
- The afternoon I answered the phone and heard Dave Schools on the other end saying, “We’re playing in an abandoned copper mine in the mountains tonight, Fred, and I’m pretty sure you want to be there.” Later that evening, on the banks of river in North Georgia, I stood in awe of Widespread Panic’s historic debut in “The Cave.”
- The incredible feeling watching the Allman Brothers Band, during the best show I’ve ever seen them perform, lead the crowd through the “Tomahawk Chop” in October 1991, as the Braves were in the midst of Atlanta’s first-ever World Series.
- The evening at The Point in Atlanta when Follow For Now performed, dressed in drag, as The Black Hos, opening and closing the show with a pair of Black Crowes’ covers.
- Closing out 2002 on both coasts, first standing front row center for Gov’t Mule in New York on December 30, followed by Hot Tuna and The Dead, from the comforts of a luxury suite, on December 31 in Oakland. The trip was capped off by a quick stop in New Orleans to watch the Georgia Bulldogs pummel FSU in the Sugar Bowl.
- Spending my 35th birthday sitting on my couch as Bloodkin’s Danny Hutchins and Eric Carter performed in my living room.
- And, most recently, ending my honeymoon with a private party at Smith’s Olde Bar, joined by a mere handful of friends, as Tishamingo performed, much to the surprise of my lovely bride. Can it really get much better than your favorite band asking you to write down the songs you want them to play for you?
While these were moments I never expected, I’ve come to learn that there is one day each year, at a special event known as Christmas Jam, when you can always count on witnessing a once-in-a-lifetime event.
This year, with no advance notice, the Jam’s magical moment came early in the evening, as Warren Haynes introduced Jorma Kaukonen and Friends. The lineup included some of my favorites, Dave Schools, Matt Abts, Todd Nance, and Yonrico Scott, as well as a pair of seasoned veterans I’d never had the opportunity to see – Barry Mitterhoff and Charlie Musselwhite. The rest of the evening was filled with stellar performances, but this set was one to tell your grandchildren about.
So, once again, I pass my sincere thanks to Warren, Hard Head Management, and everyone involved in putting together this wonderful event. While the performers come on an invitation-only basis (those who ask to play are given a polite “no thanks”), Christmas Jam stands as one place and one time that anyone is welcome to join in my series of once-in-a-lifetime experiences.